I am not a “quick texter.” If you text me, it might be a few hours or even a few days before I respond. It has been a focal point among my friends and family members. So much so, that if I do reply immediately, my quick response is often met with surprise. I could write and mail you a letter, and it would arrive quicker than my texts.
I know what most of you are thinking: Oh God, I hate people like that.
Your hate is understandable. People have their grievances with me about it, and I used to feel the same way. I used to reply to texts as fast as lightning. I would wait in seemingly endless agony for people to reply, frustrated at their snail-like response times.
Then something changed.
I started high school. Life got busy. So. Incredibly. Busy. From AP classes to extracurriculars to service hours to church, I had little to no free time. And what free time I did have, I definitely didn’t want to spend it staring at my phone or fulfilling other people’s needs. I didn’t want to spend my precious available minutes answering questions or giving an opinion on something.
The Concept of Unavailability
This probably seems incredibly selfish, and on some level I suppose it is. To say, “Although I’m not incredibly busy, and I do have my phone, but I’m not available for messages.” Is a foreign concept to most of us. Unavailability is something our society has eliminated. We’re not allowed to let a message sit. We’re not allowed to have a few uninterrupted minutes.
After hours of non-stop work, we’re expected to use our thirty minute lunch break to reply to messages. When I get a day off to rest, I am supposed to use my free time to fulfill obligations others gave me. That’s where the problem comes in.
Cell phones have given us 24/7 access to the people in our life, and that is a beautiful thing. In case of an emergency, I can call my mother to come pick me up. In the mornings, I can text my friends who live across the world. After dinner I can call my grandmother who lives in a different state, or text my lab partners for help on homework. None of these things in and of themselves are inherently bad. I love face-timing my grandmother and texting my friends. In fact, emergency texts to my lab partners at 12:00am have saved my butt a few times. However, we’ve become so accustomed to this 24/7 access that we feel that we deserve it. Immediate access to others has become a right, not a luxury.
We’re Pushed Towards Immediacy
If we don’t get our immediate responses, we send angry follow-ups. Instagram and iMessage notify the sender that we’ve seen their messages and haven’t responded. Social Media servers even display when we are online so that we have no excuse not to reply. Gmail sends nudges with bright orange boxes saying, Sent 2 days ago. Reply?
Built into the platforms we use for work, school, and everyday life are tiny little practices reminding us that our time is no longer our own. There is a time for immediate responses, and a time where we do need to reply as soon as possible. When at work or school, I answer my email. However, the time for immediate responses is not all the time.
To ask me to always reply immediately is not only to ask me to take time out of my day, but to withdraw myself from whatever moment I’m currently in. To quote writer Rega Jha, “If I haven’t replied to you, it means I haven’t looked at my phone. And if I’m not looking at my phone I’m in a good space.”
Did We Knowingly Choose This?
As it became possible to technologically reach each other at every hour of the day, we never stopped to consider how that would affect our society. Was that something everyone in our society even wanted? We didn’t stop to think about what unavailability and slow replies allowed us. Chances to head outside and disconnect, the opportunity to take a nap, coffee dates with a friend where you don’t spend the first five minutes on your phone, dinner with your family without pausing to check a text. We didn’t consider that there might not be time to just stop and think, or even just time to miss the people around us.
A few months ago, I had called a relative to catch up, and there was nothing to discuss because he had already seen everything on Facebook.
In a world where everyone is so far apart, we’re hyperconnected. Which is why I hold the radical belief that me being a “slow texter” is a good thing. I do not reply immediately. No one has 24/7 access to me. I’ll respond when I have the time and energy to.
I know some people reading this are thinking it makes absolutely no sense. Which is fine. I’m just encouraging whoever reads this to not feel obligated to respond immediately. Take your time. Let your messages pile up, sit with a text until you’re in a more social mood to respond, and don’t feel the need to lend yourself to constant availability.
Society might not get it, but I do. So if you’re a slow texter, don’t feel guilty about it. That is a good thing.
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