TEXTING is the most treacherous form of communication known to humanity. With a phone call, your tone conveys a world of nuance. Using email you can write and write until you've got your message across (and then some). Talk to someone in the flesh, and body language does most of the heavy lifting.
But the text message is fraught with potential for misunderstanding.
Should you gush? Is a two-word response efficient and to the point – or excessively curt? Are capital letters OTT? What about exclamation marks? And, of course, the ultimate dilemma: to emoticon or not to emoticon?
That's without even delving into the social consequences of living in a world where texting is increasingly the medium of choice for dispatching bad news.
People are sacked by text. We text falsehoods we would never dare tell a person to their face (how often have you backed out of a commitment via a curt SMS and not felt even a quiver of guilt?). Just last month Katy Perry claimed that her ex Russell Brand delivered his divorce request via text.
Here are the eight types of texter. If you can't recognise yourself, it can only be because you are in deep, deep denial.
He's 35, but as his fingers glide over the touch-screen of his Nexus 4, the LOL-er regresses to a squeaky-throated, backward baseball cap-toting 14-and-a-half.
When he doesn't know exactly how to respond to a message, he'll shoot back with a can't-fail 'LOL'. Mildly shocking news elicits a down-with-the-kids 'OMG!' He has been known, after a few drinks, to send smiley face symbols to work colleagues.
You should see his Facebook page (actually no, perhaps you shouldn't).
The texting weasel
He agreed to meet you for a drink tonight. Guess what? 'Something' has come up. Funny – 'something' forced him to call a rain check on the rendezvous you'd arranged last month, too.
Back in the day, wheedling out of social commitments carried with it a certain awkwardness. You'd have to phone up or risk a friendship-testing no show. Texting is the ultimate liar's lubricant and squirming free of obligations has never been easier.
The texting addict
Does this person have a job? Family responsibilities? Time to dress and feed? Judging by the rat-tat-tat rate they are firing texts, it is a miracle there is room in their lives for anything else.
Incessant texters are under the misapprehension that any event, minor or major, must be immediately commented upon via mobile phone. They'll text you about the queue in Starbucks, the fun/scary thing that happened at the bus stop, the unconfirmed nugget of gossip they've just been party to.
They seemed to know about Drico being dropped before he did. It's like being plugged into their frontal lobe. If you are unlucky, the texting addict may have secondary LOL-er symptoms and will fill your inbox with an unceasing torrent of ROFLs and XOXOs.
The one-way texter
Minimalist to a fault, the one-way texter believes messages should be succinct, gutted of humour and low on flummery. Patter is unbecoming –demeaning, even. Don't be insulted if they do not even reply. It is enough that they have received your message. If you're lucky they may shoot back with a sour-pussed 'yeah' or 'okay'.
Weirdly, in real life they are often loquacious to a fault.
Some folk don't know when to stop. Demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of text messaging, they will overwhelm you with over-caring, over-sharing mini essays, larded with stir-crazy punctuation and whacko misspellings.
They are also spectacularly bad at taking a hint and will continue to cluster bomb you with novel-length diatribes unless you do something drastic – such as going the the full one-way texter on them.
The tiresome enthusiast
This person loooooves to text!!! Also, they've never seen a sentence they haven't wanted to soap down in shiny exclamation points. When they are communicating something that does, in fact, require an exclamation point, they go into text-speak meltdown (I got that job!!!!! We're getting married!!!! etc).
Just be thankful they haven't discovered emoticons yet. If they ever do, prepare for death by smiley face.
There are enough urban horror stories about inappropriate emails going viral to give most of us pause before pressing 'send'. However, such concerns do not seem to extend to texting.
People will use SMS to dispatch unseemly or threatening messages they would never dream of committing to email, much less convey face-to-face. The logic is that texting is like dropping a rock down a well. Once it's gone, it's like it never existed.
Are they naive? Do they know something the rest of us don't? Or is their predictive text function suffering a heinous malfunction? You'll never know, as you're too terrified to text back.
The texting hermit
Under no circumstances will such individuals accept a phone call. Apparently they do not know how to operate voicemail. But a casual text will elicit a response in approximately .0005 seconds.
Too weird/shy/grumpy to engage in direct human contact, for these sorts texting is technological mana, allowing them to maintain the fiction of a social life without having to actually speak to anyone.
In a bygone era, they would have lived in a mountain cave and communicated via messenger pigeon. Nowadays, their Galaxy S is their conduit to the world.