Usually these days if you hear conversation about texting, it’s all bad. You’ll hear how texting is impersonal and cold and how too many people are texting and have lost the ability to have conversations or even spell words correctly. You’ll hear horror stories about break ups that happened via text, stories about inappropriate texting going on between adolescents and in general how texting is making all of us a little bit dumber, a little more robotic.
My general perspective on texting is actually a little bit different than it used to be.
As the mother of a two-year-old and a five-year-old, there aren’t a whole lot of opportunities for me to have long heart-to-heart conversations on the phone. If I’m being honest, even if there were, I don’t particularly care for phone conversations anymore. I’d much rather meet up with a friend in person and talk over a glass (or three) of wine but that’s just not going to happen as often as I would like. Some of these friends are in different states and some are only a few towns away but what we have in common is that our plates are pretty full these days.
I don’t say that to bemoan how overwhelmed and “busy” I am. I actually feel incredibly lucky to have such a full plate– a thriving business doing what I love, a husband who works his tail off, and two healthy and happy kids who have activities they love and buckets of energy to run off each day. But no matter how much fun it usually is around here, little people take a lot of physical and mental energy and there is a whole lot of talking when you have two chatty little girls. I do want to reach out to my friends and I do want to know what’s going on but there are plenty of days when I am just all talked out and if you know me, that is saying a lot. For that reason alone, texting is a lifesaver. Never mind the fact that texting is obviously great to be able to send my husband if (okay, when) I am running late.
For me, texting is a running conversation with any number of girlfriends that we can pick up and put down anytime. I love being able to text my oldest and best friend because something just reminded me of our obsession with the show Beverly Hills, 90210. I love that she can text me inside jokes that we’ve had for 25 years and know that it will make me smile. I love getting a text from a friend who knows that I was sick last week and is just checking in to see if I’m better and I love being able to send a quick text to a friend on the day she is heading back to work after maternity leave just to say ‘I am thinking of you and I know that you’ve got this!’ As a parent of a school aged kid who now has a busier social life than I do, it’s also the perfect way to coordinate kids’ plans with the parents of their friends or quickly find out who is signing up for soccer this spring without squeezing in a bunch of phone calls.
Texting doesn’t replace real live time together but it fills in the gaps nicely. And while there are those that feel that more serious topics should only be addressed in live conversations only, I’d offer that sometimes a supportive text might be just what someone needs. When my husband was ill last spring and was hospitalized for a week while doctors tried to sort out what was going on, texts from friends and family members were like a lifeline. I wasn’t in any state to talk much to anyone but I was immensely grateful to get texts throughout the day just from friends letting me know that they were thinking of us or offering more specific help like watching the kids. Several years ago, we were evacuated from our Watertown condo in the middle of the night as the Boston bombing incidents were happening in our neighborhood. I still vividly remember waking up the morning of the lockdown and seeing a slew of text messages from friends and family near and far, all checking in and letting us know that they were thinking of us. Neither of us wanted to spend the day re-hashing the story of our evening or describing the SWAT teams stationed outside of our home that day so texts were perfect.
Teens absolutely need to learn the art of conversation, how to read real life social cues and how to write a proper letter, like we all had to do in our youth. I hope that in between all of their texting and tweeting and twerking, they learn that stuff because it really does matter. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to be grateful at this stage in life for the ability to keep the conversations going until the next time we can meet up for the real thing.