We need to think about the unwritten rules of texting

Photo of a texting conversation
Celine Bellegarda/Senior Staff

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As someone with anxiety, I see texting as a godsend: I get to be super picky with every word I want to say, and I can spend however long I want to edit my message before I send it off. I also don’t have to make eye contact or weather soul-crushing awkward silence with the person I’m communicating with. I can respond to texts at my leisure if I’m too busy or need time to think of a response.

Unfortunately, as with most things if not everything — there’s a glaring list of cons that make me hate texting despite all the benefits it provides. To start with, I’ve found that it’s easy for your tone to be misread over texts. For example, people who use proper grammar and punctuation in their texts can come across as upset or serious, even if that’s not the case. Because texting is meant to be brief and convenient, it’s hard to have difficult or deep conversations over text. Because of this, frustration is the most pervasive feeling I have when I’m communicating over text with people I know and people I love.

Most of the time when I have to respond to or send a text, I feel an intense urge to rip my hair out, throw my phone out the window and go off the grid until the end of time. OK, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic here, but texting leaves so many unknowns that I don’t know how else to feel when the people I text make it a point to leave me on read.

I’m not sure if it’s because they don’t like me or because they have anxiety that causes them to have avoidance issues, but I’m always left on read by one person or another. Y’all don’t have to respond to the memes or random videos I send, but if it’s about something important that affects you as well, how about responding with a simple “Got it” or even an “OK” to let me know you saw my message? Not to mention that reactions on iMessage make it super easy to acknowledge texts without even having to type anything!

I don’t need a lengthy response. All I’m asking for is some simple manners. You wouldn’t simply not respond to someone if they asked you a question in a face-to-face conversation. It feels especially disrespectful to be repeatedly left on read when I’m checking in about the plans we made together for the weekend or telling you that I need to move out of the apartment we share so we need to find a new roommate.

You can’t hide behind the safety of your phone forever. The person behind the three bubbles on iMessage is a real person with real feelings, and they deserve some basic respect. If they ask a question, take five seconds out of your day to answer them. Don’t lie and say you didn’t see it when we all know everyone is on their phones or other devices all day. So while I love texting for all the ways it reduces the anxiety surrounding in-person interactions, this is only the case if we translate the basic manners we practice in our day-to-day lives to the virtual world. Who knows, I might revert back to the olden days and fill up people’s voicemail boxes if they don’t start responding to my simple texts!

Contact Özge Terzioğlu at [email protected].