Receiving a text message in 2018 is nothing like it was in 2008 and I miss 2008.
You’d catch me back then on my Motorola flip phone, with a Kylie Minogue hit as my ringtone, four carefully selected songs transferred via bluetooth from a reliable friend with access to their parents’ computer and a finite number of text messages permitted per month.
When I first got a phone in 2007 my contract allowed 100 texts and 20 minutes of call time, data wasn’t really a thing then. I argued and argued for more, (text messages were the original Twitter if you remember correctly – you were only allowed a certain amount of characters in one text – any more than that and you were at risk of wasting your second message on too many ‘ily xxxxxxxxx’s) alas, my parents decided that 100 was more than enough.
Not only did I have to be careful about who I texted, but I had to think long and hard about what I was going to say, and how I was going to say it. Texting was precious and it was exciting. There was nothing I loved more than the little chirp my phone would give to signify that I was in fact, pretty popular.
These days, there is nothing that excites me less than that chirp.
(YAY for jeans that don’t rip when you squat like this – they’re from Vera Moda – get ’em here).
I currently have 47 unread text messages. I have 126 unread emails, 37 unread WhatsApp messages and 99+ unread messages on Facebook Messenger (they assume, I suspect, that if you’ve got to 100 you’ve stopped counting – they’re right, I don’t use Facebook Messenger, of all of them, I hate this means of communication the most).
And this makes me sound like an arsehole, I totally appreciate that. It makes me feel like an arsehole too. All things considered, I am really lucky to still have friends – hardly feels like I deserve them to be honest.
So what happened? How did I go from Little Miss ‘texting is the most exciting thing in the whole wide world and I’m 100% here for the validation it brings me’ to a person who can genuinely and truthfully go a few days without even thinking to check their texts?
After months of consideration I have concluded that there is not just one reason. I did not just wake up one morning and decide that texting wasn’t for me.
No, my current mindset is the product of a few things: my anxiety, my apathy, and my laziness being the obvious ones. Then there’s my job (which requires me to be on the phone so much of the day for work that the idea of using it for fun is just weird) and of course the fact that when you grow up at the same time and speed as technology, you’re bound to find yourself worn out from time to time.
People assume that I see their texts come in and make a conscious decision to ignore them. This is NOT the case.
(I spy the muddy boots of a dog owner – they look good when they’re clean and they’re from ASOS – get ’em here)
I can make excuses – I can tell you that I don’t use my phone when I’m writing and put it on silent and hide it (this is true). I can tell you that with most messages I want to reply properly and promise myself that I’ll do it later (also true). I can tell you that I’d much much rather speak on the phone and so will normally reply to a text message with a phone call (truthful and something my friends can vouch for). I have excuses coming out of my ears to be honest, but even I can’t be bothered to listen to them.
The fact of the matter is that I don’t reply because the minute I do, someone else will and then before I know it I’m trapped in a perpetual cycle of replying and I can’t even begin to handle that.
In the olden days (the Motorola days), there was a whole host of reasons why you might not reply to a text message straight away. You didn’t have credit. You didn’t have your phone on you. Your phone was dead. Your phone had been confiscated. You weren’t in the country. You were having a family dinner. You didn’t use your phone that much. Your phone was not an extension of your hand – it was just a thing that you sometimes used. In 2007 it was entirely plausible that you just might not get or see a message. Reply when you can. No biggie.
Basically, an ‘ignored’ text message in 2007 was not code for: Well Em clearly fucking hates me, I wonder what I did to upset her. Queue a moustache twist, an elaborate bout of Facebook stalking and a quick scan to work out how your last conversation ended.
Those were the BRB days. The days of MSN. The days when communicating via any means other than face-to-face was almost a novelty. We didn’t know the rules so we couldn’t get it wrong. The idea of a ‘social media detox’ was as ridiculous a notion as barbecuing your Christmas dinner. There was nothing to be tired of or overwhelmed by because it was a time of wanting more.
We wanted more and more and more and we got got got it.
Don’t just have one means of messaging, HAVE TEN. Chat on every platform. Send what you want for FREE. They’re not replying? Nudge them. They’ve been online today, WhatsApp shows you that. So does Facebook. Oh look, iMessage tells you what time they read your message at. It’s a group thing now. We can all talk together. What are you wearing tomorrow night?? Ping. Ping. Ping.
Our parents, the people once telling us not to talk on the phone for too long in case they made us grow a second head are now the ones that we’re talking to for an hour a day. We’re in group chats with our colleagues. Instagram with our grandparents. Facebook with a half uncle who lives in the Caribbean now. iMessaging a best mate. SnapChatting a sister. FaceTiming a brother. Tweeting dad. Facebook messaging your dinner guests about tonight. Emailing a friend regarding this weekend’s travel arrangements.
If you want to get a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g done in this day and age, you do so using your mobile in some capacity.
We don’t GET a ‘be right back’ option anymore. We are stuck here. Everything happens online. We don’t get to leave because there is nowhere else to go.
I used to text my friends to find out how they were. Without Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat stories the only way I could find out was by using one of my 100 texts. Nowadays I know where everybody is, how long they’ve been there, when they’re getting back and what they wore EVERY DAMN DAY.
If I fancied a boy I’d use the art of text as the most powerful tool in my arsenal. If he likes me, he’ll reply to my message. I ain’t gotta do that shit anymore, if he likes you, he’ll LIKE you, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – he’ll be all over it.
I used to text people because I was bored. I had a phone and I had nothing to do on it beyond that. There WAS no Facebook to scroll through. No Insta. No Twitter. No Mail Online. No Vero (a new app – I’ve just downloaded it so come find me). A busy phone was exciting and gratifying and necessary and it wasn’t busy on it’s own so I had to make it be.
Texting was fun because it wasn’t necessary.
It’s like smoking really – I enjoyed it until I became addicted to it and then I just became really aware of it and annoyed by it and overwhelmed by it. Too expensive, seemingly sociable because loads of your other friends do it but actually a pain in the arse because you’re always leaving the table to feed the habit, and both things are banned on airplanes.
Now I text because I have to. I do it out of obligation.
I won’t learn anything groundbreaking via text. If a friend has something ACTUALLY important to tell me they will ring me. I won’t have my heartbroken via text, that happens face to face. I won’t have a serious conversation via text, something else that will happen face to face. I won’t declare my love via text – unless I’m really drunk of course.
I will however use it to remind Alex to get some more poo bags if he’s doing an Amazon order. Or ask my mum to look for my trainers. Or the hairdressers to confirm an appointment.
I don’t want to text anymore – that’s the crux of it. It’s a chore now. And I don’t want my friends and my family to be a chore.
Perhaps I’m a victim of my generation. Perhaps it’s something to do with my job and the fact that I spend more time attached to my phone than the rest. Perhaps I’m just a lazy bitch.
I’m not proud of it; of the reputation, the implications. I hate being ‘that friend’, I hate it when people do it to me. I hate myself every time I am forced to embark on the stream of grovelling apologies to my favourite people once a month when I realise, once again, I’ve neglected to message them back.
And I’m trying to do better.
But it’s OK to be tired. It’s OK to want to have a catch up with your mates IRL. It’s OK to call people. It’s OK to hate your fucking phone. And please, trust me when I tell you, it really is OK to BRB.
So friends. I’m sorry, But know this – it is not you – this is alllllllll about me.
Jumper – AllSaints (I can’t find it on the site I’m sorrrryyyyyy!)