This was one of those weeks filled with upsets, backpedaling and miscommunications.
Globally, it was one for the history books. It led to several text exchanges and emails. Some fell on deaf ears and others sensitive ones. I found myself having to choose my words carefully should the tone be misinterpreted. In the end, I wish I’d just picked up the phone.
Texts and tone are in the eye of the beholder. Smartphones can turn sassy in an instant. The time spent doing damage control or multiple clarifications via text messaging can be best illustrated by a face palm emoji. Exchanges are often brief with words abbreviated. And yet we read into them, dissecting their meaning and relying on technology as a source of human connection and validation.
Texting has a dark side when the tone is negative. And that’s why we often hide behind the screen when things go south. It is simply easier to type the things we don’t want to say face to face. Unfortunately, it gives us license to, perhaps, say things too harshly because we are physically removed from one another. And sadly, once it is sent, it can never be undone.
On one occasion, I texted a girlfriend sporadically for weeks and never heard back. I started wondering if I had said or done something wrong. I finally called, but the voicemail was not set up anymore. My mind got all worked up. We had always communicated via text, and now there was radio silence. When I finally ran into her, she told me she had retired her smartphone for a good old-fashioned flip phone. She had become so inundated with messages, from all sources, she could not keep up anymore.
One of my closest friends from grade school, who was my maid of honor and the godmother to one of my children, actually had to make an appointment with me for a phone date this week. We had spent the better part of the year texting regularly and it almost felt like the electronic version of her on my screen was a different person than the real her, and I needed to merge the two back together again.
Due to busy lives and COVID-19, a visit wasn’t in the cards, and thus another year went by without some real face time.
But what a difference a catch-up session over the phone makes when you hear the laughter, sincerity and authentic tone of those near and dear. I could imagine the expression on her face. There’s something about the phone that requires a focus on listening and enriches the content. I hung up feeling energized and comforted.
The past year and a half of working, living and existing remotely has allowed me to fall back on technology as a means of connecting while not feeling connected. My thumbs are tired and I bought blue light glasses to protect my tired eyes.
Avoid a communication breakdown when exchanges get too wordy, you’re starting to feel a pit in your stomach or you just need a proper catch-up session. That good old-fashioned telephone might just save a deal, a friendship and your sanity.