The (So-Called) “Do’s” Of New Text-Lationships…and Exceptions To The Rules
Texting etiquette is old hat.
By now, we’re so firmly in what hot-take editorialists and buzzwordy bloggers would like to dub the “digital age” that we’ve been greeted with a glut of blog posts, help guides, and listicles all outlining how we “should” or “shouldn’t” text our crushes, friends, colleagues, and significant others. But these paint too broad of a picture and totally discredit the subjectivity of the reader’s experience and relationships. In short, there’s no nuance.
Furthermore, as communication continues to evolve, it’s important to note what tenets of texting we should follow when it comes to new text-lationships with people we like—either future friends or romantic prospects—and how and when we should deviate from so-called texting laws. If there’s one thing that too many seasons of “Mythbusters” has taught us, it’s that there are always exceptions to presupposed rules.
Below are some commonly suggested “do’s” of new textual relationships—along with some caveats.
1. “Proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling are key.”
Un-ironic usage of acronyms and lolspeak can be aggravating and unprofessional. Naturally, if you’re texting a near stranger or a professional colleague, you should instinctively text with the utmost care.
Exception to the rule: The rule would have us believe that we should be just as colorless when courting our crushes over SMS—why?! After all, punctuating with periods comes across as too serious and telegraphic. And playful misspelling of words—like making use of savvy time-savers like “2nite” or “plz”—helpfully deflates a sense of unnecessary decorum. So if you choose to compromise spelling and punctuation, just make sure it’s intentional—but don’t slip into blatant grammatical errors. Subject-verb agreement, y’all. That’s some SAT realness. Ignore common-sense syntax and you come across as callous, indifferent, or—gasp—simply uneducated. In short, when it comes to engaging in less-than-stellar composition, just know your audience. Show your playful side through not caring too much about perfect, sterilized speech. But please know the difference between “your” and “you’re.”
2. "Keep it pithy."
Too-long texts tend to turn off your texting partner. No one wants to crane their neck, squint, and scroll through the Great American Novel, and then feel obligated to reciprocate with comparable long-windedness so as to not come across as blasé and uncaring. (On the other hand, “Keep it Pithy” is also the title of a book by Bill O’Reilly. Potential red flag?)
Exception to the rule: This one’s also a matter of reading the room. A lot of heart-to-hearts with a new friend or potential significant other can take place over text. But before diving in head first, dip your toes by sending a text more “medium” in length. If your texting partner is jiving with the new dimensions the conversation is taking—and responding with equally as profound prose—then feel free to go all in. Just make sure you don’t freak out your texting partner with your emotional frankness or your verbosity from the start. If that happens, pull an O’Reilly and keep it pithy.
3. "Be cautious with group texts."
The most common blunders are (1) forgetting someone you’re badmouthing is in the group (come on, we’ve all been there) and (2) including someone who just doesn’t want to be there. Be absolutely certain that you don’t throw shade at someone actually included in that given group chat (that’s why we make groups like “Squad,” “Squad Minus Lauren,” “Squad Minus Lauren and Sam,” etc.). And make sure to consider the temperaments and data plans of all parties when constructing a new group message. Will easily annoyed, financially strapped Roommate Steve really hit it off with textaholic New Friend Erin? Like, really?
Exception to the rule: No exception here; set up group chats only when it’s most expedient or necessary. And keep an open mind to being put in a new group yourself, even if you aren’t familiar with the other members. I’ve met some of my best friends through group chats—to think they were once just a confusing jumble of unfamiliar area codes!
4. "Clearly end your conversations."
This one is a real stretch. In the not too distant past, if you didn’t reply to a text warranting your response, your new texting partner might have wondered if the cell reception gods were conspiring against the relationship, you were rudely shrugging them off, or you were dead. So, to avoid needless 911 calls and/or embarrassing follow-up texts, you’d make it clear the conversation is over. But what about today? Don’t we just tend to engage in more casual, stream-of-consciousness communication anyway, as opposed to minute, semi-formal exchanges?
Exception to the rule: Nowadays, with read receipts on most texting apps, the more humane way to just read the text notification and not open the message. This signals that you may reply, but the conversation is on pause for now. Walk the tightrope between “trailing off” and “cutting off.” Your texting partner, left with the dubious “Delivered,” but not with the assuredness of the “Read,” may assume you are otherwise occupied (walking your dog, taking a bathroom break, or kneading particularly viscous pretzel dough; Who knows?) or will otherwise have faith in you to continue the conversation later on. More importantly, who cares? If we weren’t just engaging in a life-or-death interchange, whoever’s on the other end won’t mind. They have things to do, too.
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