I’d like to think that if two people share a bond or connection that they each care about enough to act upon, it can survive differing ways in which they do so. But what if it doesn’t? In communication, as with anything else, we each have a right to our preferences. However, the good ol’ telephone has fallen out of favor with too many people for my taste. It’s not just young whippersnappers, but also people my age and older, who now avoid phone calls at all costs. I think that sometimes you just have to pick up the phone, and too many people these days simply won’t.
And with all of our options, why should they? I have fingers and thumbs of fury too, and I’m certainly in favor of texting much of the time. But, I still enjoy making and receiving phone calls, and I think they’re necessary in certain situations. The text I got last week informing me of a death? Yeah, that’s not gonna work.
While most will agree on the inappropriateness there, my personal preference is a factor as well. I do better in encounters that occur in real time and have a finite end. I may text like a teenager in terms of frequency, but I don’t like textversations. To me, a conversation with any content that is extremely emotional or serious or lengthy is not to be texted. Easy enough boundary; but life comes at you fast and emotions don’t follow orders, so sometimes a text exchange that began with an innocuous “Hey Boo, thinking of you :)” can go left, and quickly.
I get anxious with extended texting because if things get tense, I worry that I misunderstood something or was misunderstood myself. We humans have an infinite capacity to miscommunicate even when every element is on our side; when communication becomes voiceless, it’s that much more easily misconstrued. With spoken communication, I’m not waiting for a reply. Or if I am, it’s because you’ve paused in your speech, which communicates something in and of itself. With texts, a delayed reply could mean you got in a car and started driving, it just wasn’t that important to you, something distracted you, you’re at work and your break is over, you’re actually dumping me if we’re in a relationship, you’ve been attacked by a gorilla who mistook your phone for a banana … it could mean anything or nothing at all, which freaks me out.
I’m grown, so it’s not like I sit staring at my phone waiting for a returned text every time I send one. But if communication falls below the threshold of acceptable casualness in the context of something important, I start to wonder what’s the point?
Certain people in my past have painted me as needy or clingy for making/requesting a phone call at times when texting felt inappropriate, but it’s really not that deep. I don’t need your call (or a returned anything), I just prefer to clearly distinguish between intentional and accidental interaction–or lack thereof—so that I can flash the deuces and move on if that’s what’s called for. Sometimes someone is never going to call me back, and I’m fine with that. No answer is still an answer. But texting is so casual that someone can reply well after I’ve moved on and think that’s appropriate. LOL nah.
On the flipside, I find certain relationships in my life being strengthened, perhaps unfairly so, simply because their preferred communication model lines up with mine. The friend who replies right away or can keep up a lightning-speed text volley is not necessarily a better friend to me. Perhaps the person who is closer to my heart works a job where they have limited access to their phone. Waiting that time for a reply shouldn’t diminish my feelings, but unfortunately sometimes it does. So I may communicate with the Speedy Replier more, because getting a rapid reply is a pleasant communication experience for me, which can lead to more conversation overall and more time spent together and all of a sudden we’re seeming like better friends for reasons that have more to do with quantity than quality. Shared preferences do speak to compatibility, but having fast thumbs shouldn’t automatically prioritize someone’s place in my life.
Unless it’s truly time sensitive, the very nature of a text message is that it’s not immediate. Replies get delayed and communication falls off. And as much as I enjoy a prompt reply, I also gage others’ behavior and respond in kind, so I become slow to reply to a slow replier. Then there’s the simple fact that people don’t always agree on what even warrants a response. Sometimes I find myself phrasing my texts like the last line of a think piece, with a question included solely to elicit a response. We’ve become so casual about it overall that the ease with which we can text bites some people in the ass—it’s so easy that if you’re not texting me back, I’ll guess it’s because you don’t want to. Which leads to me prematurely keepin’ it pushin’ right past some well-intentioned folks with slow response times.
I’ve also found myself saddened by some people that are wonderful to speak with and awful to read texts from. There are many types of intelligence; a lovely person could also be terrible with the written word, and I’d never know if our communication remained oral. Yet, once I get that first incomprehensible text, it’s a wrap for you. I work hard enough to not give in to my intellectual snobbery without outside encouragement. If I want to get to know someone and they’ll only text me, I’m reduced to evaluating their potential place in my life solely by their texts. That’s tantamount to making them pass a written exam for entrance into my heart, which is hideous. A phone call sidesteps the minefield of possible grammatical errors. Of course errors can be made orally as well, but hearing a voice provides a LOT of slack.
I know I’m in the minority on this, but just because the preference of the non-callers is what’s popular these days doesn’t make my desire for an occasional phone call any less valid. If you’re not into that, I may not be that into you. And that’s OK. I’m sure someone out there will be happy to never get your call.
Pia Glenn is an actress, singer, dancer, and writer who has performed on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and National Tours. Favorite stage roles include Virilla (The Amazon) opposite Nathan Lane in The Frogs, as Condoleezza Rice opposite Will Ferrell in You’re Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush , (which was also telecast live on HBO), and as The Lady of The Lake under the direction of Mike Nichols, Casey Nicholaw, and Eric Idle in the 1st National Tour of Monty Python’s Spamalot. Episodic television appearances include Law & Order: SVU, Hannah Montana, Ally McBeal, Strong Medicine, Presidio Med, oh, and let’s not forget appearances in a bunch of music videos back in the day. Pia enjoys classic films and hip-hop and dark comedy and the good kind of jazz, and can often be found in the back of a yoga class trying not to feel fat. Oh, and she won a dance award once for crumping on Broadway. She just likes to mention that ‘cause, well...crumping.
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