I am a rubbish friend when it comes to keeping in touch, especially at distance. As a result of this, I have been branded all manner of things over the years from “aloof” to the downright accurate, “bloody hopeless”. I haven’t always been so rubbish though; once a prolific texter and msn-er, I feel the need to offer something of an insight into the mind of the “ignorant bitch”!
“Didn’t you say that texting is the lowest form of communication on the pillar of chat?”
“No, the lowest — that would be Facebook, followed by Gchat, then texting, then email, then phone. Face to face is of course ideal but it’s not of this time.”
- Girls, Written by Lena Dunham
I pride myself on living ‘in the moment’. Of recent years I have conditioned myself not to have regrets, to put a positive spin on everything and not to plan too far in advance, for fear of a long term plan preventing me from noticing that shiny thing out the corner of my eye.
The very nature of messaging, (be that texting or instant) I feel, disregards those pillars on which I try to live my life. Messages can and in my experience have been read and reread to maliciously misconstrue, encouraging a dwelling in the past; are used to ‘check up on people’, with a non-immediate reply a ‘clear’ indication of something untoward or a constant barrage of texts used to ensure the perpetrator is the most important thing the message-ee is doing, both of which are wholeheartedly pessimistic and untrusting; and are used to make plans to a time constraint, inherently preventing life’s most beautiful element: surprise. In addition, when meeting someone in person, they are so often enrapt in their phone (messaging other people that couldn’t possibly wait) we are never truly engaged with those who have made the time and effort to see us. How many times may we have failed friends by letting their down days go unnoticed, because we solipsistically believe that our presence, irrespective of level of engagement, is enough?
Granted, I am aware I’m being somewhat over the top in a bid to justify my inability to conform to society’s expectations of cyber-connectivity, but the prolific use of texting and instant messaging is taxing to me and my mentality. I am also aware that most of my social planning and engagements are formed via messaging, and that messaging is incredibly useful to quickly get in touch (say, about a last minute change of plan) or to let someone know that you’re thinking of them without being too overbearing or a burden and are especially convenient when the person you are trying to contact isn’t local to you.
My greatest problem with texting and instant messaging, however, is that in some instances it seems to be seen as a replacement for face-to-face contact. This was absolutely fine when I was a pubescent teen:
I fondly recall feeling cheeky staying up half the night to receive overly gushy and flirty messages from whichever regular Lothario I was pursuing that month, but that was, in part, because I was so bloody gawky and uncomfortable talking to them in person! Then, messaging wasn’t secondary to face-to fact contact, it was first to nothing else!
Nowadays, I adore people. I find no greater pleasure than seeing the way the faces of your peers expressively contort when you share with them a joke, love, sadness, a witty quip. The beautifully musical inflections of the voice, which indicate as much as the chosen words themselves. The tactility and scent of another in a hug, which can comfort, impassion, show love. I will gladly see people in person and devote all of my love and attention to them. If you manage to tie ‘Barnes the aloof’ down, you can guarantee that you will be all I have to do and think about for the duration of our meeting.
For me, messaging is inefficient at best. As a dyslexic who is desperate to be ‘wordy’, it takes me a long time and multiple revisions to get a message ‘right’ – a level of effort which goes unnoticed when you receive your delayed reply; as a ‘people-person’ with a desire to engage, what is often a disparity between words and sentiment is confusing; and as a sarcastic bugger the struggle to convey sarcasm without breaking the unspoken rule of too many emoticons is troubling!
All things considered I am a grumpy redhead with a penchant for a slower pace of life and encouraging people to look around them and enjoy the beauty of the world and its people. Every message you receive from me, whether it says “Pub? XXXX” or something more obviously heartfelt and emotive, is essentially a big fat “I love you”; because, whether or not you feel frustrated by my belated reply, you still meant enough for me, intense, irrational opposer to messaging, to actually bother replying (even if it’s not straight away or every time…).