on texting and friendships

I think about my friends often. I’ve lived in several places and have friends who still live in these places, or friends who have moved to new places, and though I may not call them each week, I think about them often. We send emails, text messages, and occasionally chat on the phone. However, I’m not a fan of talking on the telephone, and I think this is for a few reasons. First, I don’t want to interrupt someone’s day with an unexpected phone call because they may be reading, or on the toilet, or meditating. Second, I’m very comfortable with long silent pauses in conversation, except when they happen over the phone. On the phone, I feel obligated to fill up any dead space that starts building. If we were together at a diner talking to each other and we both fell quiet—no problem. Silence is golden, I say. But on the phone, silence is awkward. Third, I use only a cellphone and the connection is not always clear, or it gets dropped, and I end up talking into silence until the phone starts ringing in my hand. This happens with me and my mom, who is the only person I talk to on the phone on a regular basis and for long periods of time. Even with my husband, if we are apart, we keep our calls to each other very short. If we talk for five minutes on the phone, that is a very long conversation.

I’m a big fan of texting. With texting, you can send a message to friend and not worry about whether it’s interfering with something they are doing; they can answer at their leisure. You can schedule a time to talk on the phone by sending a text and saying, Hey, can we talk tonight? I find it to be a simple way to reach out.

This brings me to an experience I had last week that reminded me of why I’m thankful for texting, but also reminded me of why it’s good to talk to friends directly, too. For the past month or so, I’ve been emailing with a very dear friend of mine about some health issues she was trying to straighten out. Nothing major, but she had test results that the doctor could not explain. We shared experiences with each other, and I gave her some suggestions. I knew she was going to get some more tests done. Fast forward to last week, when I got a text from her that said, in essence, “Hey, remember that situation we thought was nothing. Well, it’s something and I’m going to the hospital now.” Her text included the specifics, and it was the kind of health related news that made me feel as if ice water has been shot through my veins when I read it. What struck me as interesting was that she wrote, “Sorry to tell you this through a text.” I was just glad she thought to tell me at all! I mean, she’s in the process of dealing with this news and making arrangements to get to the hospital, and calling her parents. Text messaging seems like the most obvious way to keep a friend informed who can’t exactly rush to be by her side. If I were in the area, perhaps it would make more sense to call me, but this was a way of keeping me posted, while also maneuvering through the chaos of what was happening to her in the moment. We texted for the next few days as her parents arrived, and she found out more information. When she told me in a text that she was going home, I texted her and told her we should talk soon. She called later that day. And this is what reminded me how good it can be to hear someone’s voice.

During all the text messaging, I felt dreadful. My heart was heavy; I felt impotent to help; I felt sad that I wasn’t closer. It was imagining the worse, feeling bad, googling medical information without knowing a lot of details. I was envisioning tears, fears, anger. But when I talked with her, it was just her, dealing with things the way she always deals with things—she’s strong. That’s not to say she doesn’t have those feelings mentioned above. But before hearing her voice, they were pervasive in my imagination. After hearing her voice, I realized that it’s not that way all the time. She told me everything that had happened, and I responded to one piece of information in a way that made her laugh and laugh (which made me laugh). It lifted my heart to hear her laughing. That’s the important stuff you miss with texting.

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One thought on “on texting and friendships

  1. Actually, I find texts more obtrusive to my life. I feel compelled to read a text if I hear the little notifying tone. I do not feel compelled to answer a ringing phone regardless of what I’m doing. This is not to say you shouldn’t text me, the complusion isn’t really an issue and they are useful for situations when an entire conversation isn’t necessary.

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