Voice via Medium: Textual Tension
Another Monday, another flame war you never meant to start.
You know the feeling.
What made this particular internet-time swallower so astounding compared to all the other worthless internet debates… was the subject matter. It wasn’t a matter of political differences, or subjective entertainment choices…
It was over the merits and limitations over communicating via text message.
Over the past year, I’ve gone on quite a few dates. It’s probably the first time in my life where I’ve really begun “dating”. I’m a socially active “dater”. I’ve met a lot of cool people, and I’ve had a lot of fun, but the hardest part about dating as a millennial is the way we communicate while in relationships. And it seems that most of my romantic hopefuls fall off the map primarily because of how we interact between dates. So it stands to reason that I don’t know how to text and date.
Here is a depressingly-accurate list/article on how modern dating is THE WORST.
^This is the same article I posted to my social media. Commence: debate.
I was, initially, met with several agreeable posts. Things akin to “oh man, so accurate.” and “I’ve been saying the same thing for a while now!”, etc. But then a good friend of mine (WHO HAS A TOTALLY AWESOME SHORT STORY ON AMAZON YOU SHOULD BUY RIGHT NAOW) brought up something in the article which I found very strange:
"I don’t understand people who say texting is inherently unemotional. It certainly can be, but for thousands of years texting was the only way of communicating [long] distance. They just called it writing letters. Just learn to write better and convey your meaning and emotions more effectively."
The article is essentially saying that modern dating relies too much on reading into the subtext behind texting. How often do they respond? When do they respond? How are they responding? And the answers to all of these questions are completely different from how an actual conversation would go, and the argument goes that traditional dating was more successful and fun before this technology existed. Texting has become a mind game in modern dating.
This got me thinking A LOT about the nature of communication. Why do some mediums communicate differently than others? What makes some mediums, such as a handwritten letter or an email, different from a text message?
As much respect as I have for this guy, I can’t unsee the inherent complications (and benefits) within a message’s medium. A text is different from a letter, no?
Need an example? Google search for “text with a period” and this is the first article you’ll encounter.
The nature of the text is based solely on it’s level of convenience. Example: Periods don’t get used in texts because they’re redundant. Just send a second message or add a line break for multiple sentences… Now if that little dot does get added, it suddenly means something, usually something mean. This is one example of thousands of ways that texting is detrimental when used as a means of personal communication, because it is redefining how communication happens based on convenience as opposed to the value and traditional intention of the words we use.
Which brings me to my next point: I’m not a text message nazi. I prefer texts to calls. This is mostly because… I hate talking on the phone. I need to plug in a headset every time because I don’t like holding my phone to my ear, and I feel as if I can never understand what my acquaintance is saying on the other end of the line. On top of that, texting takes less time… it is easier to shoot someone a text, feel confident that they received the information, and move forward.
Hey Dan, I’ll be 12 minutes late to trivia night
Save me a seat!
Sarah, can you water the plants?
I forgot 2 this morning
wanna go out this weekend?
Which of the above examples doesn’t belong? When you choose to communicate via a medium that requires the least amount of effort, time, and even thought… you remove all of the crucial microexpressions that exist in an important conversation. Even a handwritten letter holds more emotional resonance than a text message, because it necessitates time.
Here’s where the dialogue comes in… most handwritten letters are difficult to read, annoying to write, and actually cost money if they’re being delivered by a carrier. No wonder UPS is going bankrupt! Now I don’t know about you, but in spite of this I feel so elated every single time I receive a handwritten letter. It’s why people still write “thank you” notes and send out pressed wedding invitations… there’s something beyond the words that is happening, the medium is the spine of the message.
I’ve constructed a theory, the more difficult and vulnerable a conversational environment forces you to be… the more meaningful and impactful the result of the conversation… regardless of subject. It’s why I go over to my friend Jacob’s house to just rant about how awesome Star Wars is instead of just texting him.
yo remember how cool that one part in star wars was?
yea that was awesome
yo remember how uncool the prequels are?
yea that was not awesome
Likewise, if I were to write a screenplay, I would prefer to type it on my computer than a text message. It’s far easier to tap into your creative “zone” when you have fewer thresholds or barriers to cross… and the limitations of texting holds far too many barriers. However, if I can’t communicate a message effectively via texting… why would I text at all?
This is where it circles back around to texting/dating/and the debate I was involved with on my Facebook. It’s my opinion that my friend simply missed the subject of the article entirely, because texting ISN’T designed for personal communication, in the same way that email wasn’t designed for personal communication. Email has been adopted by our generation primarily into business transactional uses. It’s how our usernames are determined for most websites… and how we exchange important information amongst professionals. Texting is similar, but hasn’t been adopted properly by our culture yet. It’s not just being used for “fast pass” discussion or quippy-comments, it’s being used as a means of instantaneous gratification devoid of vulnerability within relationships. I can’t make a blanket statement that this is how all couples function, but I can admit to having been a pawn of this during the dating game. I’m just over it.
So it seems clear to me that texting simply isn’t designed for any level of relational communication. It may, with the right word-choice, communicate the message it intends… but only on surface level. The only thing it may be better than… is emails and facebook messaging. This is especially true since we DON’T live in an age where we are forced to rely on non-personal communication. Have a g/f in Canada? That’s cool - DON’T JUST TEXT HER. FACETIME HER. Talk TO her.
Imagine if every written document addressed to you was spoken to you instead. I keep a lot of my favorite letters, but sometimes I sincerely wish everything of worth, negative and positive, was told to my face, even if it means I can’t keep a record of it.
Texting isn’t bad. It’s super useful under the right context, but that’s all it is… useful. It’s a medium that requires you to walk in a straight line. “Yes, I’ll water the plants” “Sure lets go out”. It’s like going on a hike on an interstate instead of through a mountain. One is difficult, the other is unfulfilling.
Which brings us back to mediums and communication. All mediums serve a purpose, some serve multiple. Some mediums can only serve one purpose very well, and some mediums serve some purposes… very poorly.
What do you think? Is the “texty-relationship” the end of traditional dating? How does a medium affect a message?
And what did you think of that guy’s book? It’s good right??? Can’t believe it was only $1…