Vexations and Conundrums – January 2024

No More Talking

An etiquette change stealthily crept into our daily lives and I was caught off guard. Out of nowhere, texting has almost replaced voice communication. This development feels regressive.

Short written communications leave much to be desired. No backstory is given, no current state of affairs. That amount of detail would take too much typing time. Tone is suggestive at best. Punctuation marks may or may not have the desired intent.

I long for the days of simple phone calls on a clear land line. True, we didn’t always know who was on the other end of the line. Telemarketers, nosy neighbors and perverts were always possibilities, as one eagerly hoped for a call from family or a boyfriend. Those days are replaced by cell calls, clearly identifying spam calls, distant numbers or, rarely, people we may know.

My friends have started this habit where I get texted and asked if I can talk. Sometimes I don’t know if the text has arrived, and I miss a time-sensitive communication. The big change here is that there is a “permission to call” request.

I love to chat with friends and family. Far more information can be gleaned from a leisurely conversation where one can ask clarifying questions, exclaim in surprise, and sometimes segue to a new topic based on the latest information. This conversation isn’t likely when one is in a text chain.

Texts tend to be streamlined to the minimum information one can type to get a point across. Usually, the typist is in a hurry. God forbid if they don’t check the text and it auto-corrects to some new message, not at all what was intended. I have been the recipient of messages planning a lunch where the message insults me by accident. I usually answer the text with “??!!” and my friend will curse the auto-correct and set things right.

Gossip is best not put in writing. People seem to keep forgetting this. Texts leaked to the public have ruined careers and advanced lawsuits. More than one marriage has been blown up by the accidental discovery of a damning text message.

Friends who are on the dating scene have many stories of text “relationships.” Some suitors just want to pretend they have relationships, and text often, never really committing to anything. What a waste of time.

Then there are the people who like to “sext,” a modern habit of courting in the dating game. The texts have double entendres and sometimes make sexual overtures or include photos of nude body parts. I am so thrilled I’m not of this era. These photos are examples of dangerous and powerful information. They have spawned the category of behaviors that require legal involvement when an angry suitor decides to engage in punishing behavior by sharing what can be embarrassing photos, sometimes with a public audience. Revenge porn is a scary prospect.

I appreciate my husband so much when I listen to friends share their frustrations at the world of nonverbal communication. We dial each other during the day and have snippet conversations. “Don’t forget to get gas for our trip. Love you. Bye.” No text warning is sent. If he is busy, I go to voicemail or call later.

I cherish my friends who still like a leisurely gab fest. Sometimes I get a text asking if it’s a good time to talk, but this isn’t a requirement. This is them conforming to the new etiquette of not ringing a cell phone at what may not be a perfect time to talk or may interrupt a moment of contemplation.

I love the pleasant surprise of hearing from a friend, their voice, obvious affection. My heart thrills to the auditory lilt of a good laugh. I catch sarcasm or teasing that can get lost in text correspondence.

It is so good to hear them talk.

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Katina Pontikes
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