...the ten commandments of text messaging
I would venture to believe text messaging is the most used form of communication between those who have a relatively close relationship these days. Much like there are manners expected of people in an everyday exchange of conversation, so also should be a set of guidelines in text messaging.
May I present to you, through pet peeves of mine as well as my own bad habits, my recommendations for the ten commandments of text messaging.
Thou shalT not:
I really enjoy emoticons. We've grown from the simple :) smiley to an array of little characters ranging from kissy faces to piles of excrement with cartoon eyes. Apparently, that's something deemed necessary in conversation, or perhaps, it speaks to the 8 year old in some who still enjoy a little low-brow humor. Nevertheless, I, myself, sometimes get carried away with emoticons.
Occasionally, I'll try to have an entire conversation with only emoticons leaving the person on the receiving end stuck trying to decipher my emoticon hieroglyphics. I think emoticons are fun, but abuse of them, like anything, may have the tendency to get annoying. Keep them to a minimum and it will make it more special when you do use them.
2. 'You there?'
Unless it's someone you speak to religiously on a daily basis, it's probably not a good idea, to "Are you there?" someone repeatedly. Our phones generally don't ring when we're in the shower with no indication of who called or messaged when we get out. Through the magic of cell phones, most numbers are identified. If your name is in someone's phone and you text them, as long as you don't get a messaging stating "delivery failed," give it some time. They could be doing any number of things, so have some patience. That, or face the ugly reality that you may not be a very high priority in that person's day or life and you may never hear back from them. Ever.
3. "Heyyy" after midnight
Some say, "Nothing good happens after midnight." I guess that depends on your idea of a good time. However, basic logic tells me a "Heyyy" text message after midnight has connotations of a not-so-innocent variety. They usually go hand in hand with the next commandment.
4. Drumdkn Teq?xt$!
Or drunk texting, for those of us who haven't hit the bottle yet today. It's a really bad idea. Whether it be to your best friend, your mom or your ex, please, when you are drunk, put two things down: your car keys and your phone. Believe me, you'll thank me later. No one wants to try to translate your Swahili the next day. Sure, it's sometimes good for a laugh, but don't set yourself up for ridicule. You can't take a text back, remember that.
5. Text short novels
If there is anything I'm guilty of, it is this. I can't seem to zip it when it comes to communicating with text. Whether it's this column growing at a rapid rate, a three-sentence-long status on Facebook or a wordy text message, I may need my own personal editor because I can't seem to edit myself.
It's the very reason I can't use Twitter.
I blame being a writer. It's in my nature to just let words flow through my fingers. However, next time I see smoke coming from my thumbs, I'll stop myself and consider the fact my text may be getting a bit too lengthy and someone may not have an hour to read it.
6. Rapid-fire text
This isn't such a big problem in my eyes, unless I'm multi-tasking and trying to keep up. If I'm doing 20 things at once, which is pretty often, I may lose my place in our conversation. Things may become confusing, I may misunderstand you, we may get in a fight, then, I'm afraid, it could escalate and our friendship may never be the same. OK, not that dramatic, but if you rapid-fire text, and I miss a word or two somewhere, we could be having two different conversations and that is difficult. Which brings me to my next texting beef.
7. Misconstrue sarcasm
Sarcasm is a tool I abuse on a daily basis. Sarcasm is also a tool that does not translate into text messaging whatsoever. If someone texts me and says, "Why don't you come make me dinner?" A likely reply from me would be, "OK, I'll be right over." Now, anyone who knows me, knows that "OK, I'll be right over" would be dripping with sarcasm unless I really, actually like someone enough to make them dinner, which is rare.
However, the person on the other end of the line may not know where they stand with my sarcastic self and may reply, "OK, can you pick up a 6-pack on the way." To which I would reply, "Um. I wasn't being serious." Letting all of the air out of the sarcasm balloon, thus, making me feel kind of mean for misleading someone. Be very careful with sarcasm. I've seen some sarcasm fonts in the works, but, to my knowledge, all are in the experimental phase and not approved for everyday use yet.
8. Be overly polite
Can one really be overly polite? Kind of. If you keep up with this column, you already know I'm an advocate of good manners. In the world of texting, though, good manners can lead to unnecessary one to two-word messages that can be a little overkill. Am I guilty of this? Sure I am, but it's hard when you've been raised as a polite person not to say, "Thank you!" when someone does something nice, or "You're welcome," when someone thanks you. The area in which it gets excessive is when it turns into this:
"OK, I'll talk to you later."
"Have a good night."
"OK, I'm heading to bed."
"I hope you get a good night's sleep."
"Thank you, you too!"
"OK, I'll talk to you tomorrow then."
"I work until about 5."
"OK, I get off at about 4."
"I'll text you then."
The only savior to end the madness is usually an emoticon of a thumbs up or a heart or a kissy face signalling the end of communication. If those didn't exist, I'm convinced a conversation like this could go on for eternity.
9. Text while angry
[Raises hand immediately] Yes. I have indeed flown off the texting handle. Many a times. Most of the time with men in my past. This process usually involves texting while angry and texting short novels, and sometimes even drunk texting, although I never like to dispute anything when I have even a little alcohol in me because I enjoy being right and in order to make my argument clear, I need to be clear-headed.
If there are any of these sins I'd like a free pass to take back, it would be any time I've texted while angry. I must have lost the spout that controls my emotions when I'm worked up because I've sent more angry messages than I care to admit - even two would be two more than I'd be proud to admit. One-hundred percent of the time I have texted someone while I was upset, after a few hours, sometimes a few days, I regretted it.
Some say the truth comes out when you're angry (or drunk, for that matter), but I have to disagree. I think sometimes you are so caught up in any kind of pain, anger and hurt you are feeling that you intentionally say things to retaliate in an attempt to hurt that person. That's never the answer. Man up. Move forward. Don't hurt anyone to make yourself feel better.
It's a big mistake. I promise.
If you have done this, apologize. Arguing over text messaging is a horrible idea. It's not nearly as bad as arguing on Facebook, but it's bad. Say you're sorry and vow to yourself never to do such a thing again. Trust me. I've been there. Bitterness does not make you better.
Seriously? "K." Is probably the worse thing anyone can text me. I don't know why it drives me, and apparently many others, crazy. It's a simple response to a question. It's almost OK, although, not quite OK. For me, it's like, if you're going to take the time to reply, give me more than one letter. Come on. I must mean more to you than one letter. It's just one of those things...
Oh, and as a runner up, I'd like to call out the ellipsis, too. It always leaves me to think the person has more they want to say, but they aren't saying it. Sometimes, that can be a good thing, but then again, sometimes, depending on the situation, it can keep your head spinning, thinking about what they aren't saying. Hopefully, you are close enough to outright ask. The clearer communication, the better.
In closing, as a cardinal rule I haven't included in this article, if you ever text me repeatedly in all caps, which I interpret as screaming at the top of your lungs, not only will you not get a response, I will likely remove your number from my contacts list and make a mental note that you are hostile and unstable.
(Jenna Wasakoski is an assistant editor at The News-Item.)