A Woman's View: Deep in the heart of texting

Published: Sunday, June 3 2012 8:55 p.m. MDT

Has anyone ever told you, “Don’t leave me a voice mail. I won’t listen to it. I’ll see you called, and I’ll call you back when I get a second”?

(That person probably didn’t stop to consider that we might have been hoping for voice mail, and we will not be picking up when you call us back. Not that I’ve ever felt that way personally, but I’ve heard ….)

If you’ve been given the admonition not to leave a message, by a teenager or a co-worker lacking in social graces, you are not alone. All my guests on “A Woman’s View” could relate to this one. It makes me want to call someone right now, and if I get their voice mail, just say, “Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah blah BLAH BLAH!!!!!” Then, if they don’t call me back and ask me if I’m losing my mind (more than usual), I’ll know they regularly don’t listen to my voice mail. Ah hah!

“I hate it when people text me and they say they don’t have time to call, and I say I don’t have time to text!” communications director for Sen. Orrin Hatch, Heather Barney, explained on “A Woman’s View.”

This is the question — which takes more time, texting or calling?

“I think texting takes more time,” author and speaker DeAnne Flynn shared. “Plus, I want to talk to a live person. I want to hear the words.”

“It’s all about perception,” Claire Mellenthin, clinical director for Wasatch Family Therapy, explained. “Kids think, ‘Mom, if you call me, that’s going to take all my time. Just text me.’ When in reality, it’s about the same.”

“My teenagers used to say, ‘The phone just doesn’t ring down in the basement, Mom,’ ” Barney joked. “Isn’t it funny how they always got their texts? I just had to get on board. But I have friends my age who are that way, so it’s not just kids. I have one friend who will not call me but will have full on conversations by text.”

I used to believe it was a generational distinction, that anyone under 35 favored texting and anyone over 35 favored calling, until I realized … I’m one of those who prefers texting. I’m just like Barney’s friend (and I’m way north of 35).

So, what’s the matter with me?

“It may be dehumanizing our relationships,” Mellenthin opined. “It puts distance in our relationships. People break up. They get together. They do it all on text and on Facebook."

Distance is the key word here. Texting lets me have some distance, some privacy, even as I’m having a conversation. I can continue the conversation if I like; end it if I like. I feel less intruded upon during a text conversation than I do during a speaking conversation. If I’m speaking to someone, I know that I’m committed to keep talking until the person on the other end is satisfied. That’s why I don’t return phone calls unless I know I have enough energy to give the person what he or she needs. But a text? I can text someone when I have far less energy. All I need to give them is a few words. I can do that. What’s a few words? “How are you?” Oh, I’m sorry. “How r u?”

Feel the distance? But also the friendship?

I’m not saying this is good. I have no judgment one way or the other. What it is is an option. I’m sure social scientists and psychologists and others far wiser than me will see effects on the younger generation as they communicate more and more with this tool. I hope these effects aren’t negative. As long as we stay close to each other, as long as we focus on our humanity, I‘m not worried. If the content is love, what does it matter how we communicate?

I suppose my take away is balance. Talkers, text once in a while. If my 83-year-old father can text, so can you. And texters, it won’t kill you to call now and again. You might even laugh, hear something unexpected. Vocal inflection can do that to you.

But no leaving voice mail. I mean, let’s not get carried away.

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