Choi: Texting is incredibly anxiety-laden. But I know people who will have a full-blown panic attack if you call them. I’m one of those nightmare humans where the little mailbox has an ellipsis on it because I have 1000 unread emails. So texting is the most immediate yet least anxious of all the incredibly anxious ways that we talk to each other.
Beck: It seems like we’re willing to trade that anxiety for a sense of control over the interaction. It feels easier to manage relationships asynchronously, or from a distance. Penny and Sam, for example, do feel more comfortable with each other in text format, at least at first. Do you think that’s because they feel more in control of what they’re saying that way?
Choi: For sure. But the one incredibly important distinction that they make very early on—and I do think this is the bedrock of their mutual trust—is that they always text back when they want to. It just sucks when you’re texting someone and for some reason every time you text them there’s a four-hour lag. Of course, sometimes you’re not going to be able to hit the other one back immediately. But for these guys, not only is it incredibly even in terms of who prompts the conversation, there is such a haphazardness to when they hit each other back that feels sincere. That, to me, is the greatest gift you can give to a texting person.
When you start thinking about response times—or “Ellipsis, silence, ellipsis, silence, ellipsis, silence”—you just want to die. And probably the worst is a read receipt, and then silence.
Beck: Leaving read receipts on is a questionable choice.
Choi: Yeah, it’s like a sociopath. Why would you do that to people?
Beck: Part of the problem is you don’t know the degree to which it’s a red flag or just someone who’s not technologically inclined and doesn’t know all the complicated rules.
Choi: Penny is so trusting with such a tiny social circle that she has wallpaper push notifications for her texts. That’s insane to me.
Beck: Where the full text appears on the lock screen, as opposed to saying “Message from so-and-so”?
Beck: Oh, mine definitely come up on the screen.
Choi: I feel like that means you’re a good person. A friend of mine recently got married. His messages come up on the screen, and I was like: “Wow that surprises me, I thought I knew you.” And he was like: “No one shady is texting me. It might be a work thing, but who’s gonna see it but my wife and my squalling baby? I’ve never felt freer.” I think that’s really beautiful.
Beck: I feel like I have slightly less beautiful motivations. I can’t stand the little red bubble that says one unread text, so I have to read it. But then I don’t always reply right away and I forget. So if I can just read it on the main screen, I don’t have to go into the app and open it.
Choi: Yeah, not me, I have to bank everything, otherwise, there’s too many tabs open in my brain. I’ll just be a pinwheel of death, if things come to me as they come to me.