After I got out of my class yesterday morning, I reached into my backpack for my phone, and I found 48 unread messages from the group chat with my closest friends. Struggling to catch up, I missed a dinner plan and three arguments.
Even though I consider myself to be close friends with the other three people in the group chat, the friendships feel almost distant and disconnected when we communicate via text. By not being able to see them in person, it feels as though they are on the other side of the world. Texting can block us from registering the negative emotional responses that we witness in person, which can make confrontation easier to deal with.
When I told my friend in person that I would not be able to attend her birthday dinner, I watched the corners of her mouth quickly turn downwards. Witnessing the disappointment she felt was much more difficult to experience in person than it would have been over text. This shield of “emotional invisibility" makes those hard conversations less painful… but the pain is the point. The pain we feel is something we can share with another person, leading us to a more valuable relationship.
When my best friend, Lauren, moved to North Carolina, we decided to not text each other. We only write handwritten letters to each other about our lives because of our mutual passion for writing. When I open my mailbox and see an envelope with her name on it, I experience a moment of happiness. This feeling is far greater than the moment of giddiness I experience when I hear a “ping" sound indicating that I received a text. The difference is that she was willing to put forth time and effort into writing the letter, which makes our friendship feel more valuable, as the feeling of empathy is still present.
Texting can be a quick way to communicate with someone, especially if being physically close is not possible, but it is also a challenge because it can negatively affect our relationships. I resist texting Lauren because I want to be a better friend by maintaining the part of our friendship that is unique and important to both of us.
By being able to connect with one person on a deeper level through letters rather than short texts to five other people in a group chat, the quality of my friendship with that one friend is more significant than the quantity of friends I have.
If you continue this pattern of seeking validation from your friends over text, you will never be satisfied. If you are always on your phone (you know who you are), you may not be fully living in the moment.
Let’s create friendships and relationships that count, not relying on technology to do the job for us.