Have you ever received a text message at an unwelcome time? I’m talking about at 5 a.m. when you were fast asleep, or during an important ceremony; or while you are driving in bad traffic.
Text messages. They are a new fixture of social life, and they are one of the persistent and present forces in our daily life.
Studies show that the average person looks at his phone at least 150 times a day. The average number of text messages sent and received daily far exceeds that. With each text, we are entering someone’s life without being physically present. Often, we are pushing those who are in the person’s presence aside, demanding their attention.
In Christianity, Jesus tells us to consider our actions through the Golden Rule. The Bible says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Luke 6:31).
When Christ was speaking these words, of course He was not directly talking about digital technology or behavior, but the principle can apply. Here are some pointers I have learned, to better monitor my digital manners.
1) Watch the clock
Back in the day, it was considered rude to call someone during certain hours of the day, say before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. In fact, if you got a phone call in the middle of the night or after 10 p.m., it was a sure sign that something is wrong. Text messages have broken all of those rules, and we send texts at all hours of the day. Just because you are awake, doesn’t mean the other person is, so pay attention to when you are texting.
2) Don’t interrupt
I recently sent my friend an unnecessary text message, even though I knew he was out on a date with his wife for their wedding anniversary. He texted me back instantly. I regretted it instantly. Here’s a couple, trying to share a moment of intimacy in a harried and hurried world, and there I was, barging my way in their conversation. Sure, my friend could have turned his phone off or ignored the text, but when I knew he had something going on, I could have waited until later. Try to apply the manners you would in person to when you text.
3) Be Present
According to a new book about digital technology called Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving Their Mark on Our Brains, “Twenty-four percent of users of U.S. adult social networking sites reported a curious phenomenon in 2012—that they missed out on a key event or moment in their lives because they were so absorbed in updating their social networking site about that event or moment.” In doing this, we not only miss our own moments through social media and texting, we lure others away from what is going on in their lives as well. Going forward, we can make a more intentional effort to live our lives instead of trying to cater to our online audience and encourage other people to do the same.
4) Communicate with the proper medium
Digital communication can be difficult, because it is hard to interpret humor. There is no digital body language, and emoticons only go so far. Moreover, some messages are too weighty or important to communicate by text. There is a difference between a text that says “I’m running late to dinner…” and “Grandma just died.” With every text you send, ask yourself, is this a message I would want to receive by text, or would call or in person be more suitable?
In the end, we are all learning etiquette and manners of sending and receiving text messages. By applying these and other rules, though, we can go far to applying the Golden Rule to the world of texting.