Posted by: robinsonwarner | November 3, 2009

The Space Between

Texting is an important part of everyday life for most people.  You can send a quick message to a friend or quickly and easily let a loved one know you are thinking of them.  Our generation has developed very dextrous thumbs from this combination of chatting online, video games and texting.  Moving our fingers rapidly over a keypad or keyboard is as much a part of our existence as brushing our teeth or clubbing a baby seal.  That’s why our parents so often struggle with the concept of texting or even using their thumbs for things that we wouldn’t even think about:  this stuff simply didn’t exist. 

As evidence, next time you’re watching television with your parents and they have the remote and change the channel.  They will nervously teeter the remote in the middle of their palm and use their index finger to change the channel; poking randomly at the remate like a chimp and an ant-filled log.  Part of this is because their thumbs aren’t as nimble as ours and the other part is that we spend a lot more time watching television than our parents because they ya know… have responsibilities.  They don’t have time to figure out what the “input” button is.


But thumbs aside, what I’m more interested in is that space in between text messages when you hit “send” and your screen says “sent”.  More specifically, when you’re texting with someone you like, texting becomes a peculiar point of anxiety.  Because let’s all be adults for a moment and put it out there:  unless you’re texting your friends or your parents, if you are having a text conversation with a girl or guy, you’re flirting.  And flirting is a fairly nerve-racking endeavor because we’re surreptitiously letting people know we think they’re pretty great.  You’re flirting which is w hy you immediately check your phone when you get a text to see if they’re returning the sentiment you so sneakily shared with them.

The most disappointing thing is when you’re expecting a text from that special someone and it’s your friend asking you what you want on your pizza.  And in that particular moment you hate your friend because you were expecting it to be the cute guy from Starbucks that you finally got the nerve to give your number to.  It’s not that you actually hate your friend, but it’s just that you wanted to flirt damn it and you really don’t need anymore drama queen moments from Cindy who can’t decide whether periwinkle is her color. 

 We like it because texting is a safer form of flirting where we get to keep ourselves hidden through our phones but still say intimate things to the people we care about.  It is a masked courtship that protects us from the forced intimacies of putting our own feelings on the line in person.  But what about when people stop texting.  It happens all the time.  You’ll be having some solid banter with the cute girl from the library when the messages just stop.  You were receiving fairly regular text messages every few minutes and the instant that frequency is broken your mind starts to wander.  Holy shit, what did I say wrong?  Should I have not made that joke about seals?  Is she part seal?  Was her uncle killed by a seal?  These are the kinds of absurdities your mind jumps to when that space and time between texts becomes irregular.

For guys, when the text frequency becomes irregular, they will generally assume there is another guy ruining things for them.  This will generally result in lots of grunting and maybe even throwing of objects, pets, cars, etc. 

In the same circumstance a girl will think it was something they said and will go over the transcript of their texts with their girlfriends to try to look for the Fibonacci sequence or anagrams in the text to try to actually decipher what the guy meant when he said, “Can’t hang tonight. the game is on.”  I bet he’s just really concerned about the situation in Pakistan or maybe he’s really getting into Romantic poetry.  But… if you rearrange the letters in “can’t hang tonight the game is on”, it spells “A Egomaniac Tenth Night Thongs”.  GASP!  I bet he’s seeing another woman.

When it comes to texting I think it’s important to have some ground rules to avoid this tension and discord.

1)  If you’re texting and decide to stop abruptly because you need to actually do things with your life, let people know you’re stopping the texting for the moment.  I think that should stop global warming or the Taliban.  I don’t recall which.

2)  If you stop to do something else, like keep your eyes on the road or answer the phone at your work, and the time between texts will become less frequent, then you should say so.  We can’t read your mind.  How can we know that you dropped your bowl of Frosted Flakes on your cat and now there’s a huge mess.  We start to worry!

3)  We will pick up on your texting style, but if you don’t want us to keep texting you or you actually want to have a phone conversation, let us know.

Now when these rules aren’t followed we get exceptionally anxious because we fear the worst, that our thinly veiled comments of flirtation were uncovered and, what is even worse, not well received.  I know people who have had meltdowns because So and So stopped texting them and they don’t know why.  It’s maddening to try to figure out because you keep sending text messages and then you text their friends.  It is beyond me why no one ever thinks to call.  Yep.  Just call someone on the phone.  It is quicker.  But I’m guilty of the same thing.  If I’m touching base with someone quickly about plans for the evening or whether or not I think the Yankees suck wastewater I will generally send a text.  Are we becoming more detached from human interaction or are we just revealing our own insecurities that allow ourselves to hold our true emotions at arm’s length.  Whatever the case, folks, let’s just remember to be more diligent about allaying the worries of those when we abruptly stop texting.

I personally am an advocate of texting but there are always problems that arise.  It’s important for us to be clear and concise with each other and our feelings… especially when we’re e-flirting.  And also to avoid talking about seals.  And using emoticons.  Those are ridiculous.



  1. Noted conservative, New York Times columnist, and sometimes-douchebag David Brooks had this to say on the topic:

    As for yours truly, I believe that as we develop more modes of communication (phone -> email -> IM -> TM -> BBM -> Twitter -> ad infinitum), the emotional efficacy of said modes devolves. It takes little/no effort to text, so it should represent things of little/no importance. For instance, I just texted Robinson to ask him to sign on to Xbox live in order to download the latest Borderlands patch. That way, the next time we spend six hours staring at a glowing rectangle in his living room, we’ll encounter fewer loading screens. I find texting to be useful in these cases. However, texting–the easiest and most effortless form of communication i engage in–has, in many ways supplanted real, human interaction (phone calls included), leaving many of us void of any sort of tangible connection. As Robin noted above, we have become slaves to texting. Is it any suprise? In this atmosphere of NSA hook-up culture, texting allows for a nice layer of e-security, albeit one that has robbed us of nuanced speech. To paraphrase Maddox, “Texting may very well ruin our chances of intelligent life–let’s hope the aliens can’t hack into our BBM servers.”

    When’s the last time any of you got a handwritten letter from a guy?

  2. Well put Jon.

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