Text-Mess: It’s “What?!?!” For Dinner

Text-Mess: It’s “What?!?!” For Dinner by Fabienne Swartz

{2:56 minutes to read} You’ve heard it before, and probably even said it: Today’s kids are not interacting with each other in the real world enough. They’ve replaced playing outside with their friends with playing on the computer, XBox, iPad, and who knows what else. When they communicate with each other, it’s through text messages. I feel like there’s a whole skill set of discerning other people’s moods that has atrophied in recent times. 

70% of communication is nonverbal, or body language. Body language is a broad area of study encompassing everything from tone of voice (which is considered a combination of spoken language and body language) to eye movement to personal space. 

Body language offers cues as to how a person feels about what you’re telling them. They may nod their head and say they agree, but a refusal to look you in the eye might be saying something else. Of course, all of that is lost if your conversation is occurring on a small screen, like in this example from real life: 

A friend told me that her boyfriend was being distant. I suggested she go over to his house to see what was going wrong. When she asked, he showed her the last text message she had sent: “Just forget it I’ll do it.” From my friend’s perspective, the text showed that she was doing her boyfriend a favor — but from his perspective, she came off as short and a little hostile. 

I think the root of the problem was that my friend’s tone of voice could never be conveyed via text message. Had they communicated face-to-face, she would have noticed right away that something was off — and her boyfriend might not have felt slighted in the first place. 

Another, more invisible consequence of doing everything through a screen is that people begin to lose the boundaries expected of them in the real world. The news has been full of examples of people saying things on social media that they would not say in real life. In fact, my own polite son always seems very rude to the people he meets on XBox Live! 

Let’s face it, screens aren’t going away, and there are a lot more issues surrounding them that I can tackle in this article. However, they make us more productive, entertain us, and literally guide us to whatever far-flung destinations we want. I think the key is a refrain that is very familiar, across all areas of life: everything in moderation

  • Text messages are great for many things, but conveying complex emotions is not one of them. Use the phone!
  • XBox Live is an amazing technology, but encourage your kids not to act like a character from Lord of the Flies when they use it.
  • Loading your boarding pass on your phone is convenient until your battery dies.
  • GPS is infinitely helpful, but not perfect. Sometimes asking for directions is the only way to get where you’re going. 

Do you have any examples of text messages gone horribly wrong? Why not share them? I’ll publish the most awkward ones!

Fabienne Swartz JD (Belgium) CDFATM
Certified Divorce Financial AnalystTM
500 Mamaroneck Av.
Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
(914) 798-6940

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