How is texting affecting your relationships?
You’ve said it, we all say it. We never give it a second thought because to us, it’s normal.
In the modern age of social media and technology, virtual conversations are taking up more and more of the time we talk to other people. In 2013, US adults between the ages of 18 and 34 (millennials) were responsible for over 200 texts per day, and over 6,000 texts per month. That’s a significant number, since the next three age brackets, 35-44, 45-54, and 55+ didn’t even approach half that number.
Texting allows you to have a conversation with someone without having to talk face-to-face. It takes away the messy nuances of an in-person conversation. It allows people to say what they want and mean without worrying or thinking about the perceived body language and other secondary communications. It allows you to disengage at a whim, so there is no fear of being trapped and forced to reconcile or explain yourself.
In relationships, texting can have mixed results. A 2013 study by Schade et al. found that women who texted more frequently in a relationship tended to feel happier, as did their partner. On the other hand, men who texted often in a relationship were less happy, and their partner was too.
Psychology Today found that millennials navigating the dating game use texting is a socially acceptable way to “flirt, check-in, ask questions, gossip, make plans, or otherwise connect with potential or current romantic partners.” Not as surprisingly, and not based on age, people in new(ish) relationships or ones less than a year-long tend to text more often than those that are in more established relationships (Coyne et al., 2011).
Texting opened the doors for couples to have difficult conversations without dealing with the repercussions of being in person. More and more often, the “difficult topics” are broached, discussed, and resolved via text message. This means that when couples are actually together, they don’t have the truly defining conversations in person (the ones that will make their relationship stronger) since they already had them virtually.
Despite the negative effects, according to Psychology Today, “texting not only helps the nervous and socially-awkward, it can benefit the status-uncertain. Testing the waters (Does she like me? Is he interested?) is easier in an electronic medium; the casual approach helps shield individuals from rejection. It can be a safe way to figure out if someone is interested.”
The moral of the story, there are positives and negatives to texting within relationships in the modern age, although the consensus points to put your phone down, look your partner in the eye, and talking to them (with a bit of finesse, but you get the idea).
Make it a point to connect with each other. Authentic communication is key in any relationship, and doing it in person makes it more meaningful. Set limits and rules for how texting will play a role in your relationship. Most importantly, save difficult conversations for in person. The hard conversations are most important for the growth of your relationship, and shouldn’t be trusted with something that lacks a sarcasm font, like texting.