By Johnathan Lim (23S03M)
Everyone’s texting. And chances are, you are too. I’m sure we can admit that it is easier to get your tone and message across in real life, but unfortunately, there is no escape from texting. Homework? Just text me the answer. Call? Can you just make it a text? Hang out? Text me the details.
And we eventually text our life away.
Since we are already knee-deep in this texting thing, why not examine some of the potholes of texting and its failure in conveying the message?
A lot of people treat texting like emails with emojis. Thankfully, many of the banes of emails have been phased out over the years, such as Auto Capitalisation and good grammar. Unfortunately, one email relic remains pervasive, and that is proper punctuation.
Imagine: your friend asks you for help with homework. So you get out of bed, rummage through your bag, and scour your files for that single worksheet before finally sending a picture of your homework over. And you’re met with this:
While using “!” is typically regarded as too casual in an essay, it comes across as rather formal over text. Scroll through your official class chat messages (e.g. VIA, Council Initiatives) or your school email, and you would find that most, if not all of them, have the infamous “!”.
Professional undertones of such punctuation are alienating and unfortunately often overlooked. Even ‘neutral’ punctuation marks (such as “.” and “,”) have not-so-neutral connotations, because their overtly functional purpose—to segment your sentences—makes your texts feel clinical and formal.
Of course, we cannot avoid punctuation altogether: other remedies that prevent our thoughts from looking like random streams of consciousness are few and far between. However, this also means that we sadly succumb to the grip of punctuation, which might often introduce connotations that erode what we actually mean.
So you had a rough day. You missed your bus, you forgot your homework again and your jokes didn’t land. Finally, you had enough and decided to tell someone about it. And this happens:
Maybe they weren’t a good friend to begin with, but emojis certainly do not help.
Not only are emojis a bad attempt at capturing human emotion, they also prompt cheap and lazy answers to people’s complex lives and issues. Because why put in extra effort to describe your reaction when you can send one emoji and stop thinking about it?
“Emojis make us put all our emotions into one simple figure, thus standardising them.”Gled, “4 Reasons to Stop Using Emojis Right Now”
Texting your Will
When you send a text message, we know it stays there. But the permanence of a text message is often not properly ingrained in our minds, given that a large majority of people spend less than a minute to send a text message.
This in effect, amplifies the tone of the text, because every time the receiving party checks the chat log, the message is there verbatim. Any emotion, thoughts or subtext, scarily enough, is retained, with your texts serving as a constant reminder of the things you said. Doesn’t sound very “casual” now, does it?
What’s worse, this unfortunately doesn’t work both ways: while your passive-aggressive texts linger in others’ minds, the nice moments are not retained to the same degree.
Realise how any fun, sweet, wholesome text conversations you had don’t feel as fun, sweet and wholesome when you’re re-reading them? You’re not alone. The truth of the matter is that those moments are past us: when we stare hollowly at the text pleasant messages in our chat logs, we are left merely with the painful reminder that we won’t quite relive that moment with the same intensity again.
“The truth is, most people reread old texts expecting to have the same flood of warm, fuzzy emotions that they had during the original conversations. What they aren’t prepared for is the fact that those feelings will never be the same as they were the first time around.”Chris Seiter, a relationship consultant at Elite Daily
Knock, Knock, you have 736952 unread messages!
”Ding!” But you resist the urge to snatch your phone and check because you have to finish this piece of work you’re doing. But I mean, you have to answer it eventually right? So you tell yourself you’ll do it later. As you continue doing your work, worry perches at the corner of your mind. What if I forget about it later? What if it is urgent? These worries fester and swell until it is all you can think about, and… you check your phone.
Between right red app badges and annoyingly chipper notifications, we are often stuck at the centre of a tug-of-war between social media platforms, each trying to get our attention. These “unread messages” constantly gnaw at us every second of the day.
Even if we do away with the annoyingly loud notifications and attention-grabbing app badges, we already check our phones up to 40 times a day, for the possibility of unread emails, the possibility of unopened messages and the possibility of missed calls. In the grand scheme of things, this means we waste our time on many empty possibilities.
Companion or Commitment?
So you finish CCA and begin to head home. It is 8pm. You have dinner with your family and shower. As you shower, you plan what you’re going to do before you go to sleep. Deciding to watch one lecture series before bed, you walk out of your shower feeling confident and empowered. You check your phone before you plan to start and you see this:
Clicking into messaging apps feels like playing Russian Roulette with professional and casual relationships. With everything in the melting pot of a messaging app, you are often forced to jump from dealing with “Good morning, could you please review this by Friday 1700?” to responding to “oi bro you want hangout?” within a drop of a hat.
In fact, the lines of “friend” and “work friend” begin to blur as replying to their messages start to seem like a chore (especially with “texting back” seeming like a social obligation).
So in summary, we need to be careful with punctuation, be careful with emojis, be careful with what we send, be careful with checking our phones too often, be careful with…
How about let’s just meet in person?