MY TEXT MES­SAGE HELL

She’s more likely to go web shop­ping than text you back, but a con­trite Ju­lia Molony begs that you bear with her

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - FIRST PERSON -

his col­umn is ded­i­cated to any­one who has texted me re­cently and hasn’t re­ceived a re­ply.

I know there are quite a few of you. My mother is chief among your num­ber. My fa­ther fea­tures, too. You in­clude my ex­tended fam­ily mem­bers and most of my dear­est friends. To­gether, you com­prise all the peo­ple I love, and also quite a few who I don’t even know that well.

Ad­mit­tedly, as a group, you have lately re­duced in size. Not be­cause I’ve got bet­ter at re­spond­ing to texts. Nah, if any­thing, I’ve got worse. It’s be­cause, un­sur­pris­ingly, sev­eral of you seem to have given up both­er­ing try­ing to get in touch at all.

I don’t blame you. I’m aware that your ef­forts to con­tact me are, more of­ten than not, met with an ar­sey-seem­ing si­lence.

And I’ve no le­git­i­mate ex­cuse. I haven’t sprained my wrist, or dropped my phone down the loo. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t care about you, or that I’m not think­ing about you. Quite the op­po­site. I spend much more time feel­ing guilty about be­ing so lame for not tex­ting you back than it would take to type out a sim­ple ‘wot r u up 2’, or some­thing to that ef­fect.

To some of you, I reg­u­larly ded­i­cate sev­eral whole min­utes of my day to com­pos­ing and re-com­pos­ing witty replies to your mes­sages in my head. But then, a sneaky cog­ni­tive glitch per­suades me that hav­ing worked on plan­ning the mes­sage — though not quite per­fect­ing it — my job is done. You see, the spirit is will­ing — it’s the thumb that is weak.

If only text mes­sages could be sent psy­chi­cally, this prob­lem of mine would be solved. I’m sure it’s only a mat­ter of time. As the ma­jor tech com­pa­nies ramp up their in­creas­ingly in­va­sive in­cur­sions on our in­ti­mate lives, surely it nat­u­rally fol­lows that some day soon, some­one will of­fer to im­plant a chip in the part of my brain where mod­ern tech-eti­quette should be.

And thus I’ll never have to beat my­self up about my woe­ful fail­ings of con­nec­tiv­ity again.

But then, just be­cause I’m re­morse­ful, doesn’t mean I’m not also self­ish. Self-flag­el­la­tion? That’s just nar­cis­sism dressed in bondage gear. And the mod­ern text re­la­tion­ship (or email, or What­sApp or iMes­sage) is like sex. The ex­pec­ta­tion is that both par­ties put in some ef­fort on the other’s be­half. But it turns out I’m a taker, in text terms. I love the lit­tle chem­i­cal thrill I get each time my phone pings. That lit­tle bell that an­nounces the pos­si­bil­ity of news, of at­ten­tion, of LOVE. But in ap­prox­i­mately the amount of time it takes to read a mes­sage, this fiz­zles into mild ir­ri­ta­tion that the ball is now in my court.

As the buzz fades al­most in­stan­ta­neously, I’m re­minded what an un­sat­is­fy­ing, hol­low form of hu­man in­ter­ac­tion a text mes­sage is. So, “I’ll ring them in a bit”, I tell my­self, or, “I’ll write a good long email later, which I’ll open by apol­o­gis­ing for hav­ing not re­sponded to their last four texts”.

But then, when ‘later’ comes around, and I turn on my com­puter to start the email, I’m im­me­di­ately dis­tracted by an ir­re­sistible ‘buy now or lose for­ever’ flash-sale ban­ner from that on­line re­tailer whose stuff I re­ally like.

So I get sucked into 45 min­utes of web win­dow-shop­ping, stock­ing up my bas­ket with deals that I feel I shouldn’t miss, but I know I’ll never buy — and, sud­denly, the baby is awake and cry­ing, and that’s my in­ter­net and screen time com­pletely squan­dered un­til the next time he naps. Which, as it hap­pens, doesn’t oc­cur un­til two Tues­days hence. Or, at least, that’s how it feels.

So I’m re­ally sorry to all of you that I’m just so crap at texts. Please don’t give up on me en­tirely just yet. And I prom­ise to con­vert all those stored-up, un­sent, but sin­cerely felt XXXs into real, face-to-face love next time we meet.

‘You see, the spirit is will­ing, it’s the thumb that is weak. If only texts could be sent psy­chi­cally’

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