Welcome to another edition of our semi-frequent segment 5 Rules to Live By. Every once in a while, we come up with five simple rules to work with, regarding some sort of social instance or situation. If you have any suggestions for a ruling, let us know, and we'll probably use them. Generally we're going to base the rulings entirely on experience and common sense. Recently my Mom got a new cell phone, admitting that they're “not just for emergencies anymore”, and because “you know, to learn how to do the texting”. Uh oh. In honour of this effort, we're going to delve into the world of text messaging. As we as a society slowly forget how to speak to each other in person, and we're nearly completely incapable of a legitimate phone conversation, it seems like we're slowly devolving into a world of text-aholics. Sadly, I am included on this one. Despite the fact that you can't walk down the street without seeing someone text (or at least that's what people tell me, I'm too busy texting to know what other people are doing), we still haven't really figured HOW to do this as a reasonable facsimile to real-life conversation. So, we've got a few guidelines going forward so that nobody gets offended during your next text conversation.
1) TREAT IT LIKE A TENNIS MATCH: If we're trying to replace normal communication with texting we at least have to pretend that it's a real conversation. If we've never texted before, and you get my number, that's cool, but introduce yourself. It takes no time at all, we're starting this text relationship the same way we'd start any other relationship. You wouldn't call me, and just start talking would you? On the other end of the conversation, you wouldn't just hang up randomly. You'd sign off. Why isn't a goodbye a traditional thing in the text message world? I have a couple friends who do the signoff, one of which does it every single time. If we were on the phone I would expect you to cook dinner, and watch a TV show while you were talking to me. All you have to say, is “Anyway, doin’ some stuff, we'll chat later”. How hard is that?? You're telling me you're too busy for that?? Guess what, in that case, you're an asshole. It's called respect and manners, people. If you want people thanking you if you hold the door open, how about saying “Goodbye” once in a while. Get off your high horse. “Goodbye” is like “Please” or “You're welcome”. You don't have to say it, but people with class do.
2) DON'T LEAVE ME HANGING: During the exchange, you have to do your best to match a consistent pace. If someone writes you back within 20 seconds of writing you, you don't have to write back right away but you have to be consistent with your replies, and if you have things going on, speak up. If you write back quickly once, you kind of have to keep going at that pace. You can't check out for 20 minutes in mid-conversation. Even worse, if you text me something, and I reply in a relatively quick fashion, I'd expect you to do the same. My favourite phenomenon is the hanger. You know, when you get a text like, “you won't believe where I am!” or “you'll never guess who I'm with!”, or the gold medallist, “hey, I'm at _____ , you should come out!”. All of these require a response from me, and in turn at least one legitimate response from you. So if I reply, you bet your ass you better tell me where the fuck you are. If you're going to brag about doing tequila shots in a New York bar with Derek Jeter, you better be ready to quench my curiosity. I didn't text you, you texted me, Asshole.
3) RESPOND TO DIRECT QUESTIONS: These days people are attached to their phone. Yes, even people who say “I'm not attached to my phone”, ARE in fact, attached to their phone. I've seen it. We know you check your phone, if you read a text that is a question, you should probably answer it. Again, it all comes back to common courtesy. Specifically, I'm talking about mid-conversation. It's not like we're talking and maybe you missed what was asked, or it was part of a greater exchange. It's right there in black and white. How did you ever get through high school?? You couldn't have just skipped questions on exams. This rule also goes for vagueness in response. For one, we can all agree that vagueness in general is super annoying. In fact, vagueness in text messaging has probably ruined more relationships than any aspect of technology that doesn't start with the word 'Face' and end with the word 'Book'. If you're reading vague text messages from a love interest, even if they're unintentional, there's really no bigger red flag. Like most things in life, it comes back to a Seinfeld episode. In this case, the yadda yadda yadda episode. How great would a conversation between Jerry and George be about regarding this text: “Sorry, I didn't get back to you last night. Things got a little crazy at the party.”?
4) NO 'SHUMMING': This one's named after one of my good friends. We all live in different cities, so we have a 'Whatsapp' chat group for various group sports talk, so as not to have to text everyone individually about a certain sporting event. Now, this works out well, except for when you're not watching the game, BUT, even then it's OK, because you can semi-keep up with the goings-on in the game. Here's where it becomes unacceptable. When one group member sends a message that's an obvious direct question to another group member that has nothing to do with the rest of the group. For example, I can't tell you how many times I've looked down at my phone to see something along the lines of “Hey Rob, I've got a job listing for you”. We don't all need to be in this conversation. Moreover, we all don't WANT to be in it. Maybe when or if Rob gets the job, then we'll care. Until then, direct messages are to be sent directly. Any personal messages sent to a group chat, shall be forever known as 'Shumming'.
5) THE GOLDEN RULE: We've talked a little bit about most of this just coming down to common courtesy or manners. Well, there's no bigger example that speaks to that than the Golden Rule – Do onto others as you would have them do onto you. Treat others with respect, if you wouldn't say it to their face, don't put it in a text. That goes for nice things too. Don't tell someone you love them in a text if you wouldn't do it in person. Don't tell them they're full of shit, unless you'd say the same in a face to face private conversation. Think twice before you hit send. It's called a paper trail for a reason. One of the most interesting facets of the golden rule was the recent explanation that Greg Oden had for sending a picture of his deal to a lady friend. He said that she had sent him a hundred pictures of her, so what was he supposed to do? Was he not going to reciprocate? He couldn't just leave her hanging. Sure, she ended up being a nut who released the picture, but can you really blame him for feeling like he kind of had to do it? Oden's deal leads to our final element of the golden rule- big texts deserve big replies. If someone's writing you healthy-sized replies with good grammar, and definite mood cues, if you're a good person, you match their energy and effort. You don't need to write an essay, or use stupid emoticons. Like most things in life, a little effort goes a long way.
Then again maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm over-thinking this. It wouldn't be the first time. Hopefully, we can all get on the same page one day. If not, you can't say I didn't try. My advice? Just have a plan out there people, and for the love of God, be careful.
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