Sunday 19 November 2017

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

A wrist injury and toilet incident has curtailed Julia's text messaging
A wrist injury and toilet incident has curtailed Julia's text messaging
Julia Molony

This 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.

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