Today’s big idea we’re focusing on is the good and the bad of texting and emails when it comes to keeping relationships strong with the people we know and love.
Just to be clear, I’m not talking about dating, as that’s something I’ve been away from for so long I don’t think I really have a leg to stand on–although, I could certainly interview someone about it, so if that’s a topic you’d like to hear more about on this podcast, drop me a line using the contact Kate button at beabetterpersonpodcast.com and I will hook something up. I truly love hearing from listeners!
I AM talking about staying connected to friends and family members during the digital age.
Listen to the Podcast Here
In some scenarios, texts, emails, and social media are great at keeping relationships strong
I recently had the experience of a friend whom I haven’t seen probably since 1984 sending me a text out of the blue just to say hi and reconnect a bit. This friend recently lost her dad, a fact I discovered on Facebook. I went and left a message for the family at his digital obituary. My friend saw it and reached out to someone she knows who gave her my number and boom, we exchanged family photos, remembered some good times, and pledged to see each other once travel becomes a little less fraught. It was a great moment that would not have happened without the internet and smart phones.
Group texts can help you stay in touch with a bunch of people in one place, and even joke around as you share stuff that’s happening in your lives. I have group texts for my college roommates, my neighborhood friends, a couple of different groups of female friends, and my fellow public school parents. I value them for how easy it is to stay in touch with these folks.
On the other hand… it’s also very easy for real-life relationships to exist primarily online via texts and emails
I mean, hey, haven’t we all been guilty of this, particularly during the pandemic when getting together isn’t quite as carefree as it once was?
Pandemic or not, I know how tempting it is to text someone, even sometimes someone you’re in the same building with, or even sometimes the same room! My husband and I will text when I’m in my office and he’s in the basement. I’ve been over at friends’ houses when they’ve texted their teenaged kids to go to bed. I’m not villainizing these behaviors, they are part of modern life. BUT an insidious factor of the internet is that appears to make things easier, and there are some things where you don’t always want to take the easy route. For example, fostering day to day closeness to people you love.
So, what’s so wrong with digital communications?
When you’re talking to someone in real time–definitely face-to-face, but even over the phone or a video call–there is so much that’s conveyed through non-verbal communication. Tone of voice, eye contact, and body language are all HUGE ways that we talk to one another. In fact, we’ve evolved a very sensitive neural network in our faces that helps us both transmit and receive information via facial expression. It’s an important part of how we feel safe and create intimacy with other people.
And all that is lost when you’re only texting or emailing. Emojis help a little bit, but they’re a very blunt tool that replaces something exquisitely nuanced. Think about it. When you’re texting with someone, it’s very easy to sound chipper when really you’re exhausted, or not address something that irritates you, or frankly to be doing five other things when you’re in the conversation. None of these things are easy to do when you’re talking in real time, voice to voice or face to face with someone.
Just a couple days ago, I got a text from my friend Terri
She was just asking me something quick, but I was just sitting there, drinking my tea, procrastinating on starting my day, so I asked if she had time for a call. She said yes, I dialed her number, and we had a good old fashioned catch up for about 20 – 30 minutes where we learned that we had each experienced a similar, and similarly crazy thing recently that never ever ever would have come out in a text. We got to bond about and not feel like an outlier and I tell you, that conversation felt like a mini vacation. I wish the same for you.
I know how convenient it is to stay in touch via text, but we also have to prioritize getting together in person, picking up the phone, or adding another Zoom call to our day so that we keep our person-to-person connections strong.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment is to work on keeping your relationships strong by resisting the temptation to have one conversation tonight via text or email. And have it either on an actual phone call or video call or, best yet, face to face. In my case, I need to actually get my butt up and walk down in to the basement to ask my spouse that question. And know that when you do, you’re nourishing your neural networks as well your relationship.
Be sure and come back tomorrow, when we’re talking about online shopping.