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Text Aversion and Social Distancing: Being a Bad ‘Texter’​ During the Pandemic

I’m great at texting. I love reaching out to see how someone’s day is going, sending an article that made me think of them, asking about something that’s happening in their lives. I even remember dates and reach out for anniversaries, birthdays, and times that matter to the ones I love. I also struggle with this as I have people in my life who don’t reciprocate this level of virtual attention.

I think of a “bad texter” as someone who’s not glued to their phone like I am. They’ll often read a message and get busy before they get a chance to respond, they’ll choose a phone conversation over a long back-and-forward via text, or they’ll simply wait until they know they’ll see you to catch up. There are people like this in my life who I can meet up with and pick up right where we left off, and others where our relationships have fizzled out as I waited for my last “how’s it going?” to be answered. This is the screen-focused reality we live in, and we’ve all learned to accept it in a way that works for us.

But what happens when a layer of complexity is added, and these forms of communication that have worked well in the past are challenged due to a global pandemic? What happens to “bad texters” during quarantine, when iMessage, Whatsapp, or your preferred messaging app is the main way to stay social? Here are the things I want my readers, texters or not, to remember.

Communication happens in many ways

I’d rather text for hours than jump on a five minute call. The Millennial in me gets horrible anxiety when a call I wasn’t prepared for comes through. This should come as no surprise as studies have proven that 75% of Millennials prefer texting over talking.

Knowing this about myself, however, I have also learned that others also have preferred methods of communicating. My boyfriend and I can talk for hours when we’re together, but he hates FaceTiming when we’re apart. My former boss and I send each other a long email every few months, and that’s all we need to stay in touch. My mom and I jump on a quick phone call every day, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. We’ve determined cadence and channels through trial and error, and not once have I wondered why they didn’t text me instead of doing what works for us.

During this pandemic, everyone’s situation is different, and the way you communicate with those in your circle might not be what it was before. It’s okay to have this conversation, and understand what works for you and those you care about.

It’s okay to take your time

Coronavirus has taken a huge toll on mental health. People are worried, anxious, and depressed … I know I have felt this way at times. So why add stress to our days by feeling the need to always be available for others? I often need to remind myself that it is okay to wait. It is okay to not text back immediately, it is okay to take a social media break, it is okay to take a day off work and it is okay to decline a phone call. Your phone will be there when you’re ready to talk. The world will not collapse.

I’ve lived my entire life putting mental health second, and even third. This has lead to valleys that wouldn’t have happened if I had understood that being there for myself is sometimes more important than being there for others. This also means giving others time to be there for themselves.

Those who matter will understand

I have been guilty of shaming friends who don’t text me back. I say guilty because at the moment I made things about myself, instead of understanding that they were going through a hardship that had absolutely nothing to do with me. Here’s the thing I should have known: a true friend will understand.

During the current pandemic we are all going through something. Physically, financially, emotionally … it doesn’t matter. An unanswered text should not be the beginning of a fight, but an opportunity to show someone kindness and support in any way they need it.

Not texting and not caring are not congruent

A lengthy response time doesn’t always represent how someone feels about you. I struggle with this feeling daily and it’s taken me a long time to understand that people have busy lives, families, jobs, and priorities that need tending before my text. I need to remind myself that people care about me, and that not texting me back doesn’t mean they’re purposely ignoring me.

The current pandemic has been hard on all of us, so don’t let the social pressure of being connected 24/7 bring unnecessary stress into your life. Instead, communicate with others in ways that are healthy and beneficial for you. It doesn’t matter how many unanswered texts you have on your phone.

How are you communicating with others during social distancing? Is texting something that adds stress to your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

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