On the Proper Etiquette of Text Messages

Photo by DaveLawley, via Flickr

I am the weirdo in the room who doesn’t use a mobile phone. The sound quality is reason enough—I don’t like having to work so hard to understand what people say. And I find it cumbersome to have to punch in every letter—plus extra for capitals and punctuation—one-fingered.

I am not a complete Luddite. I blog (obviously). I use Facebook. I shop on iTunes and Amazon and all my files are online. I know how to use a smart phone–my husband has one, and I certainly recognize the value of the technology. I just don’t want one. I have a prepaid “dumb” phone whose number I don’t give out unless my kids are in your care. It’s a conscious choice to approach life from a different perspective, where the default is, “If I’m away from home, it’s for a reason; you can wait to talk to me later, because right now I’m focused on living. And I can wait to talk to you later, for the same reason.”

What I’m trying to avoid. Image by d26b73, via Flickr

I want to be able to go out to the Pinnacles and be totally off the grid, away from the possibility of online distraction, so that I can focus my mental and spiritual energy on simply being. And I don’t want to become one of those people who bury themselves in their phones instead of engaging with the world.

So I have a unique—dare I say objective?—perspective on the way this technology is used: familiar, but on the outside. And because the smart phone in our house is primarily a work phone, I feel I have a particularly good grasp on the way people outside a work setting USE THEM WRONG.

I therefore present:

Kate’s Rules For Proper Use Of Text Messaging

1. If it’s after 9:30 p.m.: DO NOT TEXT. Not unless you know for sure that everyone you’re sending to is a night owl. Morning people know better than to call/text people before a certain hour. Night owls need to show the same courtesy. Just because you are allowed to turn your phone off when you go to bed doesn’t mean everyone is. Sometimes it’s, y’know, a work phone. The kind where you have to be available if the campus police have an incident at one in the morning.

2. If it’s longer than two short sentences: DO NOT TEXT. That is an email, not a text message.

3. If you don’t need an answer this instant, DO NOT TEXT. Send an email. A text message compels people to answer right now, even if they’re in the middle of something more important. They can’t ignore it, because it will keep beeping at them until they respond. And if they choose to open the message and not respond immediately, they’re likely to forget to respond at all. An email, on the other hand, would be in their inbox unread until it’s a good time to reply. See how much more courteous that is?

4. If you’re trying to work out meeting up with someone, DO NOT TEXT. Put the phone to your ear and have a conversation. With, you know, words coming out of your mouth. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and energy to go back and forth 10 times by text when a phone conversation will work out things so much more efficiently.

Lesson concluded. Any questions?