With technology today, communication is literally always at our fingertips. We can be contacted via phone, personal or work computer, and/or on our tablets. Most people have one of these items within arms length of them all day every day, which means we are"always" accessible. In recent years, text messaging has become the main communication medium. People definitely text more than they talk on the phone.
However, texting is a relatively new phenomenon. The 2010s have seen a rise in texting to the extent that it's become an acceptable part of many western cultures. People don't just send basic text messages, but they also message through social media. It has become the rule in communication and people nowadays feel awkward talking on the phone outside of a work environment. Given that texting is so new, text etiquette hasn't been fully established. Each person has different etiquette and expectations when it comes to text messaging. The lack of universal etiquette creates more problems due to overthinking and misinterpretation by either the sender or the recipient.
People have different beliefs on what is an acceptable response time for friends and romantic partners. A survey conducted by the HTC Team revealed that 39% of their sample believed 5 minutes to be an acceptable response time for romantic partners. That means the 61% believe a greater response time was more acceptable. In addition, none of the people sampled believed that it was acceptable to have any type of message left unanswered for more than 48 hours. Response times for friends vary greatly, but anything over 24 hours can be seen as deliberate ignoring and yet totally acceptable by others.
Amount of text and chat abbreviations are also subject to different expectations. Some believe that a two or three word reply is sufficient and that anything over is inappropriate. Others believe that chat abbreviations, not even full words, are best used. Still others feel that full, grammatically correct, sentences are the "right" way to text.
The tone of a text is also subject to interpretation. One person may think they're being fun and silly, but another may interpret the same text as weird or crossing the line. The use of emoji and emoticons is also up for debate. How many you use, who you use them with, and whether a man or woman uses them can be judged either positively or negatively.
Also subject to interpretation is when do you stop texting? How many attempts do you reach out to a person that is unresponsive? Is it okay to ghost and never respond? What about breaking up with someone over text? People have different rules for each of these.
Because people have such different rules and expectations, different meanings are assigned to other people's text behavior. Trying to read deeper into what the text message "means" is a recipe for disaster since everyone is different. Also, trying to devise a game plan for when and how to respond to a text message from a potential romantic partner is a waste of time.
Don't try to make others conform to your etiquette. Mange your own anxiety and feelings of insecurity. Don't try to figure our other people's textpectations...ask them. Remember, there is no right textiquette. There is only what is genuine and feels right to you. If someone doesn't like your textiquette or textpectations, that's not your problem.
By Delicia Mclean, Ph.D., MHA