The other day I received a message from a friend asking for advice. The issue? Well, her friend had left her “on read”. My immediate thoughts revolved around whether or not this friend was being immature by not responding back. Too often, I’ve heard the same words from many different people but I wonder, why have we become so comfortable and okay with leaving people “on read” instead of being able to properly finish the conversation, no matter how delicate it may be?
Text messaging is one of the most useful tools in our modern means of communication. You can send a quick reminder to a friend or let your parents know you’ll be running late without having to call and risk possibly disrupting them while they are doing some important kind of work. When you’re in an unforeseen predicament and need some helpful information fast, you can just shoot a text to your friend and bam, there you have your answer! Currently living in Ethiopia, I can’t deny that I take advantage of my phone plan that has free international texts!
However, I have a huge complaint: text messaging has made adults regress into adolescence. Adolescence in itself speaks of one’s growing into manhood or womanhood. According to Dictionary.com, this word refers to, “the process or state of growing to maturity”. Text messaging can have daunting effects, especially in our emotional/affective life as adults.
What do I mean? --Have you ever found yourself ready to send an angry text message to your boyfriend instead of waiting to speak with him in person? Or have you noticed that you can talk about your feelings plainly through text messages and the use of emojis and yet do not have the same freedom to express yourself when you are face to face with someone? Most importantly, maybe you have found that instead of confronting a friend or loved one about a situation, you simply leave him or her “on read” in order to “make a statement” without having to say too much? Does any of this sound like a mature adult?
Recently, I was listening to a talk show on the radio. A girl called in to talk about a date she went on that totally bombed. This date was with a guy she had gotten to know via text message. When they finally met in person, he was completely different than the confident, charming guy he had made himself out to be through texts. She was utterly disappointed and stupefied. She refused to go out with him again. Can you blame her?
Many times, we hide behind our gadgets in order to mask our true selves for fear of rejection. We are afraid to be vulnerable so we prefer to share our feelings through the safety of the Iphone screen (or whatever phone you own). This also seems to be our game plan when it comes to confrontation. We address our problems with people, our discomfort with particular situations, or our feelings, only through this seemingly convenient outlet.
We’ve grown up in this generation of instant messaging and we’ve all been affected by it. Texting has led us to act and react more as adolescents, that is teens moving towards maturity, than the adults that we are. We’re no longer in middle school, where having a fight about why someone didn’t come to our birthday party took place through notes passed back and forth in the middle of Sr. Anne Marie’s 3rd period class. By now, we should be able to approach people and situations, no matter how difficult, with straightforwardness and clarity. We should be “adult-ing”. It’s a funny term but you get the point. “Adult-ing” is difficult but we need to become what we are.
Being able to communicate with others and build relationships without the medium of a screen and keyboard is essential to our growing into womanhood. After some evaluation, if you see these tendencies in yourself as well, it’s best to address them. If you catch yourself using text messages as a form of avoiding face to face conversations, wake up! Change your habits and the way that you deal with life. Put the phone down, take the walk over to your friend’s house and actually speak to her. It will make all the difference.
Rocio Perez is currently a missionary in Ethiopia where she spends most of her days taking kids to the potty and teaching them to count to 5. She has lived in a discernment house called Casa Guadalupe and served in the chastity ministry, Corazon Puro, as well as other groups within the Catholic Church. Rocio considers herself indebted to John Paul II and hopes to spend the rest of her life sharing the Good News of the Theology of the Body. She enjoys good chocolate and bold sunsets.