Texting…why haven’t you replied?

 

why havent you replied
I have been reflecting a little bit on some interactions I had with some people in the autumn and how a modern phenomenon, electronic communication, affected those.

I’m talking about texting (etc) and what it means when someone you like doesn’t text you back.

Nowadays everyone communicates instantly. Whether its Facebook, Twitter, email, text or some other App, communication is fast and often furious.

I like electronic communication. I much prefer it to talking on the phone, only because the extra thinking time it gives me – even if just half a minute or so – allows me to respond in a more considered way.

Usually, anyway.

In fact the feature I use least on my smartphone is the phone itself. Everything else gets hammered.

But I’m also well aware of the drawbacks of electronic communication and often fall victim to them too. Look at my tweets. Look at this blog. People react to them all but sometimes in the wrong way. Its because you can’t get the tone of voice or body language from them, and they make up around 90% of communication signals that humans give out each day.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who have replied angrily to a tweet of mine that I’d intended, like most things I tweet, tongue-in-cheek. Or told me how I come across to them, usually as a cocky, arrogant, conceited “bad person” (insert your own swear word here) and it dawns on me that they have been taking everything I say on Twitter literally and therefore taking me seriously.

It exposes the limitations of the written word I guess, and a flaw in modern communications media. These people are not wrong, if anything I’m wrong for not adding “lol” to things I intend as a joke.

My problem is that my Twitter account is a mixture of real life stuff and stuff that you’d normally see on a parody account like @Old_Scouse_Bird and people have trouble distinguishing one from another. That’s not their fault – hell, even I have trouble sometimes as it just depends what mood I’m in as to which “hat” I wear when I tweet.

Anyway, how’s this rambling discussion of any relevance?

Well I’m pointing out how limited electronic communication can be, no matter how many emoticons you use. There are gaps, and one’s mind fills those gaps with imagined tones of voice and body language.The nature of electronic communication also means that’s its a virtual game of ping pong, messages flying back and forth, and not flowing like an actual conversation would.

Here some examples to illustrate my point:

1. I dated a woman in the early autumn maybe 4/5 times. We got on well and I liked her. Our communication, outside of the dates obviously, was 95% electronic. I couldn’t pick up from these messages whether she liked me or not and kept imagining that she would soon text to say she didn’t want to see me any more. Mentally, in my own head at least, the cold nature of electronic communication had shown me a void, and I’d filled it, imagining tones of voices and body language that matched what I was thinking. The words weren’t enough.

So when she texted to cancel a planned date as she wasn’t well, this for me was the proof I needed. I figured that I’d reply to say ok, wish her well, and then leave it up to her to contact me again. If she did, it would mean (in my head) that she wanted to see me again. If she didn’t, it would mean (in my head) that she didn’t want to see me again.

I didn’t hear from her for 10 days or so after that, and by that point I had convinced myself that she really didn’t want to date me again, and the neutral, infrequent nature of subsequent messages just reinforced this.

Now you’re shouting why didn’t I get in touch or explain myself? And why did I assume things that weren’t there? Because I’m daft, and stubborn, and high maintenance, and a man, that’s why. Having spoken to her since, it appears I was wrong in my assumptions and she may well have wanted to carry on dating but thought she had upset me and thought I didn’t want to see her again.

Life moved on for both of us but the lesson here is that we both filled in gaps created by electronic communication, and read things into things that just weren’t there. Basically, I was stupid. But it shows how important it is to compensate for gaps created by electronic communication by actually telling someone how you feel.

2. I dated a woman twice at the end of November and that went well. I liked her enough to think about a third date but again wasn’t sure what she thought about me. Our communication, outside the dates, was entirely electronic and it was like a game of ping pong with texts going back and forth.

On the day after our second date we had been texting normally and I was building up to mentioning a third date in the near future. She had asked me what I was up to that night and I’d said I’d just got the kids in bed and was catching up on work emails. That was the last time I heard from her. She didn’t reply to that text and never contacted me in any other way either.

I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that she was not interested in me and didn’t want a third date. And because I’d sent the “last” text, I figured it was her turn to send the next one. When that never came, I filled in the gaps myself again.

I can hear you screaming from here. I know.

Lesson here is that if you want to see someone again, tell them, don’t wait for them to contact you. The worst they can say is no.

—————-

In these examples I know I was the one in the wrong, and I’d like to think I’ve learned my lesson. I was relying too much on electronic communication and could have resolved either situation by just picking up the phone and calling them.

Or by just being less stubborn and saying what I felt in an electronic message, or in being less stubborn in refusing to contact them just because I felt it was “their turn”.

So if you have a man and he’s like me, maybe this will help you to understand him a little bit.

Sometimes, we are a little bit mixed up. Or at least I am.

This has also made me think a bit about the amount of communication methods open to people nowadays and whether that’s a good thing.

In the olden days (I’m 37, so my olden days were 20 years ago in the early to mid 1990s) of dating there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no BBM or whatsapp, and even texting was in its early days. Most people didn’t even have a mobile so if you wanted someone, it was their landline. Gradually mobiles came in to most people’s lives and faster and more electronic communication came along.

Now that we have such a multitude of communication methods, should we use them and does it help?

At one extreme we have a friend of mine, dating someone she quite liked, and she had his mobile number in her phone but mobile to mobile was the only contact they had. Then she drops her phone in the toilet, and has to get a new one, with all her contacts gone. She’s no way of contacting this guy any more and whilst there’s a faint hope he might contact her, realistically after a period of enforced no contact he will be thinking she doesn’t like him.

If they’d had other ways of contacting each other this could have been avoided. But at the other extreme you had me with Welsh Woman last year. I will do a quick list of the various means of contact we had with each other:

Landline; work mobile; personal mobile; work email; personal email; whatsapp; texts; Facebook; BBM; Facetime; Skype; iMessage; Twitter; Match.com That’s a ridiculous amount of contact methods and whilst we would never have lost contact in the way my friend has with her man, WW and I never knew which method to use. Not that it would have made any difference really.

I’ve also been reminded, by a good friend who previewed this post for me, of the potential pitfalls of Auto Correct. Sometimes, even the most innocuous of statements can be turned into something sinister, laughable or even downright rude.

It’s happened to me.

It’s happened to you.

A woman once sent me a message that was intended to say “I’ll shush you with my lips” but instead said “I’ll shush you with my legs”. I didn’t let her forget this for quite some time. The same woman also messaged me to tell me that the “only thing I am having in my mouth is you” which pleased me, but then she said she had meant to say something VERY different indeed, but by which time it was too late as I’d already mentally married her.

So be careful what you say. One wrong word can reshape an entire conversation and maybe an entire relationship…

I still like electronic communication and I think, on balance, it aids modern relationships rather than damages them, but I know I still haven’t got it quite right – though I think I’m more aware of the drawbacks than I used to be.

What do you think?

Till next time…

Single Man 75

You can read more from SM75 on his blog  and over on our About page you can also find him on twitter 

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