Dear D: Texting Tantrums–To Send or Not to Send?
Photos by Anh Dao Kolbe
Have you ever had your finger hovering over the send button and wondered, “How will this person react to my text? Should I really press send?” From ruining relationships with friends to spreading nasty secrets, texting can unleash fires in a girl’s life. Handling relationships and information via text message may be the most difficult task in today’s world.
A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that the typical teen sends more than 100 texts per day. That’s 3,000 texts a month! While texting makes it easier for teens to keep in contact with each other, this constant communication can cause serious problems too. We asked teen girls to share their texting challenges with us. For advice, we went to Amanda Lenhart, the lead researcher of the Pew texting study, as well as Alison Streit, a communication specialist for the Public Conversations Project, an organization that helps prevent and transform conflict through dialogue.
One day, my best friend asked me what I wanted for my birthday, so I sent her a text message saying I really wanted a diamond necklace. I meant it as a joke, seeing as those are super expensive, but she suddenly exploded, saying she couldn't buy such things and that I was acting like a jerk. I thought she was my best friend, but misunderstandings got the better of us, and in the end we didn't talk for half a year. We reconciled later, but things just haven't been the same. We go weeks without talking to each other, and even when we are together, I feel like I can’t act the way we used to. What should I do?
While you guys were texting, your friend couldn’t hear the emotion in your voice or see the expression on your face, and that led to miscommunication. Trying to resolve this situation via text would probably be a bad idea. We think that you should have a sit-down conversation with your friend. Try inviting her into a conversation where you can talk calmly with her about the way you’ve been feeling.
Alison Streit says these kinds of difficult conversations can cause stress because “we’re wired as human beings to perceive threat and react to it.” That’s why it’s important to stay as calm as possible and not let your emotions take over. Instead of looking at it as a confrontation, try to make your friend an ally by assuming she wants to get your friendship back to normal too. In conversations like these, Alison Streit suggests you try asking each other questions. Ask your friend why she feels the way she feels, what she went through to make her feel that way, or what was really on her mind when she got angry via text. Streit says, “It becomes a way to get to know each other, but it only works if everyone agrees that the purpose is trying to understand each other and not arguing.”
Hopefully, your friend will open up and let you know what’s on her mind. It won’t be an easy road but let her know that she is important enough for you to try.
I was texting my friend’s (a boy’s) girlfriend to try to get to know her better. I kept bringing up my friend to try to make a connection with her, but she took it the wrong way. She felt as though I was interested in him. She started getting mad and texting me rude things. The conversation got so heated that we were almost at the brink of fighting each other. Now it’s even hard to look at my friend in the face without it being awkward. What’s the best thing to do? Should I try to talk it out in person or should I keep trying to text her?
In a confusing situation like this, we advise you to step away from the phone! Alison Streit told us, “There’s no tone of voice in texting, so the best rule might be if you are at all in doubt about what [someone is] saying, then ask them about it.” Try to invite your friend and his girlfriend into a neutral conversation in which you try to solve the problem together. Tell them exactly what you were originally trying to accomplish via text, and then explain that things got out of hand because there was a miscommunication between the two of you. You can even explain that the miscommunication was understandable. After all, it can be hard to read between the lines in a text. Explain that you don’t want to lose either of them as friends, and that you were just trying to get to know the girlfriend better because your friend is very important to you.
I have anger issues, so sometimes I have difficulty controlling myself. There is this girl that smiles in my face and then talks to my friends about me behind my back. I texted her and asked her about it, but she acted completely different through the screen. I asked her to meet me and talk it out in person, but she never showed up. I am afraid of coming off as mean or harsh sounding, but I feel like until I talk to her and fix the problem, I won’t feel better. How can I address the situation if she never shows up in person and I don’t want to sound threatening over the phone or through a text message?
Texting can be helpful in some situations, especially if you are afraid that a face-to-face conversation might spark your anger issues—or if your friend won’t even speak with you in person. Many of the teens Amanda Lenhart spoke with in her texting study said they prefer texting sometimes because it can give you “more time to choose [your] words carefully and think about what [you are] saying.”
We suggest that you write a careful text, explaining your concern and inviting this girl to have an in-person conversation when she’s ready. Tell her you don’t want to fight, you just want to understand what’s going on. Before you hit send, take a deep breath and think, “Is there anything here that could be taken the wrong way?” With a careful and clear text, you can still let her know how you feel without running the risk of letting your anger get the better of you.
Our advice to every reader: Before you send a text, ask yourself if it will cause unnecessary drama. If the answer is “yes,” then pause and reconsider. Is there any way your words could be misinterpreted? Would an in-person conversation be better in this situation? Remember, it’s always a good idea to take a breath and think before you hit send. With some care and common sense, texting could become your bff
Be Smart About Smileys: Emoticon Etiquette
Sometimes, the difference between clear communication and a misunderstanding is as small as an emoticon. A single message could be interpreted many different ways, depending on the smiley you choose.
What are you up to? vs. What are you up to?
The emoticon adds a sexual undertone that isn’t present in the first.
I hate you! vs. I hate you =p
The first text implies that the sender actually has negative feelings towards the recipient, while the second makes it obvious that the sender is joking.
You’re wicked cool! vs. You’re wicked cool -.-
The -.- face makes an otherwise kind statement sarcastic.
You’re mad funny! vs. You’re mad funny
The second text could be considered more flirtatious because of the smiley face.
Did U Kno?
Two-thirds of teens text daily to communicate with people in their lives.
The average teen girl receives and sends about 80-100 messages per day, while teen boys send and receive about 30-50 texts a day.
Since its conception in 2007, three out of the five winners of the LG National Texting Championship have been teen girls! Those are some quick fingers!
The first text sent in the United States read “Burp” (June 1993), while the first text in Europe read “Merry Christmas” (December 1992).
Tips for Difficult Conversations by Alison Streit
Sometimes a face-to-face conversation is the best way to go. It can be tough to do, though, so here are a few tips for turning a stressful conversation into a successful one. Think. Before sitting down with the other person, think about why you want to have the conversation. What has happened that has made you want to enter into this conversation?
Set a goal. Ask yourself, what you want to accomplish by having this conversation? What problems do you want to solve? What do you want to prevent from happening? Think about these goals, then try to find ways to accomplish them.
Talk. Carefully phrase what you want to say so that you get your message across without making the other person angry. Presenting your information in a calm manner that promotes problem solving rather than fighting can help you accomplish your goals.
Listen. In order to have a conversation, you want to hear what the other person really thinks too. There’s lots of ways to have a conversation to make sure that everyone has an equal voice.
“Hppy Bthday Texts.” 2002. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2538083.stm
“LG Texter- Resume.” 2007. http://www.facebook.com/lgtexterus/info
“Teens, Smartphones and Texting.” 2012. http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Teens-and-smartphones.aspx?src=prc-headlinehttp://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Teens-and-smartphones.aspx?src=prc-headline
“Wireless Week: A Page from the History Book: SMS Turns 18.” 2011 http://wirelessweek.com/News/2011/06/Technology-HistorySMS-Turns-18-Mobile-Messaging/
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