What I learned from my week without texting
Until about a month ago, I had a pretty strict, unspoken rule with almost everyone except my mother that if you’re not on fire or hanging out with Justin Timberlake, do not call me—just text me. This policy served me well, at first. My phone conversations often took too long, required small talk, and most times ended up in an intense game of phone tag that left me wondering if my friends were actually hanging out with JT and I missed it.
It wasn’t until my recent birthday that I realized how bad things had gotten. I received multiple birthday texts, Facebook shoutouts and tagged Instagram collages, but only one phone call. Even my grandmother texted, “You’re probably busy so happy birthday,” with a well-paired (and impressive for a 76-year-old lady) cake emoji. At the end of the day, I realized I was a pretty bummed out and a little shocked by the lack of calls. I knew if I wanted a change, I had to make the first move, and it had to be extreme. So I decided to force myself into giving up texting for a week. While I knew it would be a challenge, I was oddly excited about embarking on this new journey toward actual human contact. This was going to bring me closer to my friends and save some data on my phone bill — a win-win situation.
The next morning I woke up ready to take on my new challenge, but it turns out a no-texting policy is much harder than it sounds. For starters, everyone I called answered with a sense of panic, substituting the usual “Hey, what’s up?” with “Is everything OK?!” When I reassured them everything was fine and I was just giving up texting and wanted to talk, the reactions varied, but that didn’t go over so well. I thought I would be met with excitement and admiration, but I was actually met with disbelief and a bit of annoyance. I was so disappointed with the feedback I was getting that by the time Wednesday rolled around, I found myself almost cutting off communication completely. My plan had backfired, and I had become more isolated out of my fear of getting yet another not-so-enthusiastic reaction.
Another unwelcome aspect of my texting sabbatical that I failed to consider was the impact it would have on my work. My boss and coworkers frequently text for easy and quick communication, and my latest endeavor made work-related tasks almost impossible. In the middle of planning events and scheduling interviews, there was no time for even a five-minute call. After this realization, I was ready to throw in the towel. This pact that was supposed to be helping me was hurting me in almost every way, and I was done with it…until something beautiful happened.
Right in the middle of my very millennial “why-can’t-I-just-text-everyone” breakdown, I received yet another text from an old friend I worked with a few years ago. She mentioned a picture of us she had seen, and wanted to say hello. After reading her message, I took a deep breath and dialed her number. She greeted me with a warm hello, and we spent the better part of two hours catching up. When I hung up the phone, I couldn’t stop smiling and revelation hit me.
I realized that giving up texting was one of the worst decisions I’ve made in my adult life, but making more phone calls was not. By Friday I had a new resolution: I was going to bring texting back into my life, but make an effort to talk to at least three friends or colleagues in person or on the phone each week. When it comes to communicating about Friday night plans or work trips, convenience is king, which means texting is the way to go. But when it comes to forming and maintaining meaningful relationships, it’s just not intimate enough. So now if I want to catch up with a friend, I send a text warning, and then I give them call.
Kate Gremillion is the Founder of Mavenly + Co. — a website promoting alternative success narratives for young women and helping them create a lifestyle by their own design. She is passionate about creating authentic voices for women in media, loves a good TED talk and can usually be found on her MacBook with an iced coffee in hand. You can find her at @kategremllion and her work at mavenly.co.
[Image via Shutterstock]