Texting Has Limitations

Body language expert Patti Wood recently wrote an article citing a study involving infants and how they interact with their mothers.  Researchers discovered that if an infant does not receive an immediate facial response from his mother when they are interacting, he becomes stressed.  Lead author of the study, Dr. Thomas Lewis, used this study to emphasize that human beings need facial responses from one another, something we don’t get from text messaging.   Regardless of how “good” we are at texting, Dr. Lewis maintains that our brains find it stressful due to a lack of nonverbal communication.

I’ve no doubt this is true. But, sometimes the sheer convenience of texting outweighs any negatives I associate with it.  And, occasionally I will send one blanket message to all four of my children at the same time  So, when they reply to it, they reply to all of their siblings as well. In one of these instances, I was reminded of the limitations of communicating via a device rather than face to face  – or at least voice to voice.  Facial expression and voice inflection could have certainly helped.

In the first blanket text, I sent them a picture of their cousin and her new baby; three of them began to reply about how cute little Pearson was.

My daughter Jordan  had been asleep when I sent the photo, so she didn’t respond until the following morning. Here’s what she sent:

Jordan: what a cute pic?? !Not?

At first glance it looked like she was being snarky – that she was saying “Cute baby. . .NOT!!!!”   I knew this isn’t what she meant because:

  • she’s not in the least snarky
  • Pearson is one of the most beautiful babies on the planet, and
  • Did I mention that Pearson is one of the most beautiful babies on the planet?

I began to try and figure out what she actually WAS saying.  I looked back at my original message and all of the back and forth replies from the night before.  In one of them, my youngest daughter, Bethany, asked me a question about something unrelated to the picture, something about a glitch in Pearson’s adoption process.  I explained to her some of the unexpected hoops my niece had to jump through, at which point the conversation continued:

Bethany:  That stinks!

Me:  It stinks exponentially

Hmmm. . . maybe Jordan thought we were talking about the picture itself, and so she was saying,  “huh? you guys don’t think that’s a cute picture?!?!?” If that was the case,  I certainly wanted to clear things up, so I called her:

Me:  Jordan, when Bethany and I wrote “it stinks” we weren’t talking about the picture of little Pearson.

Jordan:  Oh, I know that.

Me:  [very confused at this point] Well, why did you write “!Not?”

Jordan: Because in the first message I wrote “what a cute pic” with two question marks after it instead of two exclamation points, so I was just saying I meant to type an exclamation point, “not” a question mark.

Well, that makes perfect sense.  Five minutes later, I heard my phone beep indicating I had a new text:

Bethany:  Jordan why did you write “!Not?”

Patti Wood and Dr. Lewis are right — texting can be stressful. . .

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