Text messaging is one of the greatest advances in communication since, well, the telephone and email. That said, it's still a fledgling medium and some people need to learn how to use it without being a total jackass.
Texts are great for two things. The first is short, essential information that doesn't merit a phone call, but is great to have on hand. "Where is the restaurant?" is a great text. It is a simple question with an easy, uncomplicated response. "597 9th Ave. See you at 8," is the correct response if it comes promptly. It relays the information without any flourish and closes off the communication with the next step—a face to face meeting at 8 (hopefully with some additional fun around 10:15). The other kind of text is harder to describe. It is the kind of communique that teens are so found of and of which "sexting"—a deplorable word for a sometimes pleasurable experience—is a subset: That sort of short, slow, and easy back-and-forth throughout the day by two parties trying to keep in touch without urgency or direction. These sorts of electronic repartees are much harder to regulate, but some of the basic rules apply.
Recently we learned that teens are scientifically addicted to texting and that it makes them total momma's babies. But adults like to text too, and some of them do it very badly. There are some behaviors, not only in the messages themselves but also in when and where they are sent, that are completely inexcusable and totally annoying.
So here they are, the text messaging monsters that we need to eradicate. If you're one of them, be the change you want to see in the world and just knock it the fuck off.
The Hello Dolly: There is nothing more annoying that someone whose initial message is just, "Hello." What this says is, "I want to talk to you, but I can't be bothered to think up a question nor is the conversation going to go in any direction. I am bored and want to talk." That is fine, but even if you want to engage in the second type of freewheeling text message conversation, why not start off with at least a simple, "How are you doing?" That is a question with an answer. How do you respond to "Hello"? Then the pressure is on the receiver to come up with a question of their own unless they just write back, "Hi." Now two messages in your monthly text message allotment was wasted on something completely meaningless because then the initial party has to follow up with something of substance to keep the conversation flowing. So just save your fucking "Hello." It's nice to be chatted with, but start it off right. Texting is about making life simpler, not wasting time and five characters.
The Bad Timer: Some people think "Oh, it's too late/early to call and they'll be asleep. I'll just text." Wrong! A phone that receives a text may still make a noise, and if you're anything like me that noise is on the bedside table and will still wake you up. The same thing goes for, "She's probably in a meeting/driving home from work/at a funeral so I'll just send her a text and she can respond when she gets a chance." No, silly, that is what email is for. If it's not urgent enough for a call or a text and you don't need a response right away, log onto your AOL account and send an email. We'll thank you in our sleep.
The Abbreviator: Yes, typing on a phone—especially one without a QWERTY keyboard or predictive text software—can be really annoying and time consuming. But there is no excuse for a message like "C U 4 drnks l8r. thnx!" Is that the phonetic equivalent of the bleeps and blurbs that R2D2 makes when trying to stop the empire with C-3PO? Yeah, sure, we get what it means, but it just says that the sender is too lazy to spell out a whole word. You can't put in vowels anymore? How is Pat Sajack going to earn his salary if people aren't paying $250 for an A, E, I, O, U and sometimes a Y? If it's important enough to say, it's important enough that you include all the letters. K, thnx, bi!
The Double Down: This is the worst physical sensation in the world. When a friend texts and asks "What are you doing tonight?" and as you're typing out a response, the phone tingles on your fingertips and you are interrupted with another message from the same person. What do to? Abandon your initial response to see what they added, or keep going and then read their second dispatch and then send another response and commit the same sin they just did? This conundrum is entirely the fault of the person who pressed "Send" way too fast. Texting is not instant messaging, okay? You have to say everything in one message at a time. If you think of an addendum, you must wait until after a response or else you are going to fuck up the puff-puff-give rotation of the text message roundelay. If this is a constant problem for you, stop and think about exactly what you want to say before you text, because if you keep making us send our message to drafts to never be revived because you totally changed the conversation with the second text, then we're just going to stop responding altogether.
The Uh Huh: This is less about actual text messages and more about when they are sent. If someone is having a conversation with you in a bar or at the office or even in your living room and they take out their phone and read and respond to a text message while saying "Uh huh, uh huh" to the speaker, then they are a jerk (myself included because I do this all the time and it always makes me feel like punching myself in the nuts after I do it). They just make themselves look like some manic bobble head with a phone in his hand and unsuccessfully trying to multitask. We must choose between verbal communication and electronic. Let the text sit in your pocket for a bit and be courteous to the person who is in front of you. They have the right of way, as it were, in this situation. Once they are done speaking, say "excuse me, one second," and then respond to the text. The person you are ignoring doesn't care that you need to send a text, then care that you're putting them off to talk to someone who isn't even in the room.
The Unresponder: The great thing about texting is that the responses are supposed to be short and immediate, especially for the first kind of communication that is informational and directed. Sure, sometimes the person on the receiving end isn't with their phone or is indisposed, but still, responses should come with relative promptness. Try to tell that to this type of monster who leaves questions dangling like a piece of food in a mustache. There is nothing to fill you with rage like sending a question and getting a text back either hours later or the next day like no time has passed. A little acknowledgment like, "Sorry, just got this" is all it takes to keep from being rude. The completely inexcusable thing is to not answer a question at all. It is the text message equivalent of being hung up on. The Unresponder is basically telling you that you aren't worth talking to or he can't be bothered with your questions. What should your response be? Never talking to him or her again.
The Cineplexer: It is never OK to text during a movie. Yes, it's silent, but we can all still see your glowing little screen reflecting against your face. You paid $12 for this goddamn movie, pay fucking attention and stop ruining our experience!
The One-Word Wonder: Yes, text messages are supposed to be short, but there is such a thing as too short. Let's say someone asks, "What are you doing tonight?" You respond, "Going bowling." And they respond "Cool." Well, what does that cool mean? Does it mean, "Cool. Have fun. Catch you later"? Does it mean, "Cool, I love bowling, invite me"? Does it mean "Cool. I'll never talk to you again, you Dude wannabe." Since the meaning isn't entirely clear, there is no proper way to respond which means the conversation is dead. The other annoying one-worder is more of a "Thanks" or—even worse—a smiley emoticon. Say your friend asks where the restaurant is and you tell them and they respond "Thanks." That is just a waste of everyone's time. The only occasion when this is appropriate is when someone sends an unsolicited text full of information of directives. "The show starts at 8. I'll meet you out front at 7:45," they say out of the blue. You need to give them an "OK" or some acknowledgment that you received the info. But if you asked for it, then save your thumbs, your text message budget, and the Verizon global network, and thank your friend in person later.
The Never Call: There are some people who love to text so much that the phone part of their cell phone has become completely obsolete. They're like Tobias Funke the never-nude from Arrested Development, except instead of refusing to take off the last bit of clothing for a completely irrational reason, they are scared of a wonderful and time-honored mode of communication. We'd much rather text most of the time too, but sometimes a call is necessary. The general rule should be if there are more than three questions or the problem can not be solved in three messages, then just pick up the phone and have a short conversation rather than waiting for the back and forth of texting. Also, if someone calls, don't respond with a text unless the text says, "Can't talk now. I'll call later." If one party thought the conversation was best had on the phone, just have it on the phone and save everyone a headache. After all, without phones there would be no texting, so do the old gods a favor and give them a sacrifice now and again.
[Top image via Zawezome's Flickr]