Several months ago, I was out on an unpromising date with a guy who had a career in creating iPhone apps. Since the only thing we seemed to have in common was respiration, I tried to kill time by expressing interest in his profession. At one point I told him about an idea that I'm still obsessed with creating: an iPhone breathalyzer that blocks texting once the user has had too much to drink. Brilliant, right? I'm sure the majority of us could benefit greatly from this app after a long night out. He didn't like my idea, because he lacked vision and creativity (and personality); however, I still think my idea has a future. As I thought more about it, I started to ponder the whole texting communication process, and what it may be doing to us all energetically.
Think about it: how many times have you looked back at your phone and literally cringed at a sent message? How many times have you written something that has been completely misunderstood? Text has taken over the concept of face-to-face conversation...only it can be done with unlimited people all at once, and no one knows what is really going on while the conversation ensues. Imagine being in a room with ten people, having each person talk to you all at the same time, and then start yelling at you every time you pause for breath. Then imagine walking into the bathroom for a few minutes, and having everyone pound on the door while you try to enjoy a few minutes of privacy. It's utterly exhausting. Yet, we subject ourselves to this all the time, and think of it as a modern convenience.
I am the type of person who gets back to people very quickly. This isn't simple courtesy (although it plays a part), but rather a fear that I will drop the ball if I get distracted. I'd rather shoot someone a return email 45 seconds after I receive it and know that it is done and out of the way, than worry about forgetting to respond. I also don't like keeping people waiting, because I am a people-pleaser.
This quick-response tendency carries over into my text life, as well. I try to respond immediately, lest I get sidetracked. Unfortunately, this means that my friends and associates have become acclimated to this behavior, and any deviation incites questions, concerns, or perceived slights. Even a particularly long shower can be grounds for irritation from some of my more impatient acquaintances.
The problem with me, and I suspect that I am not the only one, is that I am a terrible escape artist. I get sucked into things, hard. I'm that person who will end up on the phone with a telemarketer for an hour. I have been held hostage in my office, at the grocery store, at weddings and funerals, more times than I can count. I have a friendly face, but I also just hate seeming abrupt, so I will let things go on...and on...and on...
And so goes my text life. I never want to be the one who ends the chain of conversation, but eventually, it does have to end. Because sometimes, I can feel all that conversation sucking me dry, eating away at my very soul. I crave respite, but there is none to be found...because everyone views the text as the "easiest" form of communication. It takes no effort. Just a few taps of the fingers, and there you go. No excuses. No escape.
With all this being said, I am beginning to slowly take breaks, to walk away and allow myself to let go of this stream of consciousness that is draining my energy. I've started to put my phone into a place where I can't see it, and only check it every hour or so. Lately I've been doing a lot of solitary hikes, and at one point I noticed that each hike was interrupted every mile or so by a phone check (usually followed by a Facebook update). So I started leaving my phone in the car, or at home. At first it felt akin to forgetting my pants, and I wondered at how incredibly dependent we are on technology to fill the silences and empty spaces within us. Then, it got easier. I use nature and silence to recharge, and it's impossible to clear your mind completely when you are constantly on the lookout for an unfinished thread of conversation.
How do you feel about this form of communication? Do you find yourself more drained by texting than by face-to-face conversation?