The following is a guest contribution written by Gen Zer, Ariana Chaparro:
I have seen so many conversations and debates over text message turn into ugly arguments because of miscommunication. Texting has become one of the most prominent forms of communication, especially amongst the younger generations, but with that comes many good and bad things.
One of the best qualities of text messaging is how easy it is to reach out to people. Instead of writing letters or waiting to use a house phone to make a call, we can just send instant messages whenever we like. That can make relationships (whether work-related or personal) much easier to form and manage. However, one of the negatives is how easy it can be for those relationships to be damaged by a misunderstanding through a text conversation.
I'm in a group chat with a couple of friends. We like to have conversations and debates about different topics like politics, pop culture, and religion. While many of these tend to be lighthearted discussions about our perspectives, they can get intense. Sometimes we misread a message, or the punctuation and emojis make it hard to understand the tone of someone's comment. Maybe one of us accidentally skips over the part of a text that would have changed the whole conversation. These can lead to confusion, frustration, and sometimes anger, especially if we feel like something was said as an attack towards us when that's not what the other person meant. Things can get very messy, very fast.
When we meet up in person or get on a phone call, things get cleared up so quickly. We can explain our meaning without reading between the lines or trying to figure out the tone the other person is using. Arguments that might have gone on forever over text can be solved in minutes over the phone or in person because it's so much more effective to express ourselves without the screen as a barrier.
In some cases, we can use our screens as a barrier on purpose. We're afraid of showing emotions through our voice and face, so we hide them through texting. We feel as though we have more control over the situation when we can take our time replying and rereading everything that was said. I'll admit, I am guilty of this. It can be so much easier to speak your mind online than having to face another person in real life. We feel almost protected by the virtual wall that is between us and others. Being comfortable hiding behind this wall isn't healthy. It can cause tension and resentment towards others because we are not expressing how we feel correctly.
While it's usually more convenient, texting is not the best solution to handling disagreements and conflicts with others. Yes, it can be easier. Yes, it can be more comfortable than facing another person. But shouldn’t we be okay with being uncomfortable for a short amount of time rather than losing friendships? Or risk hurting others and ourselves? Or being in a place of frustration and resentment because we cannot bear to lose this feeling of control we have?
Next time you are talking to someone online or through text messages, and you get into a disagreement, pause for a second. If this is important to you, take the time to call that person or reach out to meet face-to-face. It might be uncomfortable, but it's better to solve these problems in a healthy way, rather than in an easy and possibly harmful way.
Dr. Jolene Erlacher is a wife, mommy, author, speaker, college instructor and coffee drinker who is passionate about empowering the next generation of leaders for effective service!