Don’t Text Me—You Don’t Know Me Like That


Think twice before you send your next text message. Texts can be disrespectful and too intrusive for some. (Alex Palamino/The Observer)

Published: January 31, 2008

At an annual convention a couple of weeks ago, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) upheld a ban they implemented last year on the use of text messages by Division I colleges to contact and court the best athletes. Coaches had turned to text messaging as an alternative to telephone conversations, which, according to coaches, students seemed reluctant to have. The ban was implemented because student athletes complained that the text messages were increasing their cell phone bills and taking away from their personal time. I also think plain old creepiness had a part to play in the students’ complaints.

I don’t know what it’s like to be bombarded by text messages from a college that is trying to recruit me. Colleges did not try to court me (I have no athletic ability at all). However, I do know what it’s like to receive a random text message at 10 in the morning from a co-worker that I hardly know, asking me to “come out to the bar tonight” or from a friendly acquaintance while I’m out on a date simply wondering, “What’s up? What are you doing today? When are you coming home? ” Those were not all included in the same text message, by the way. I know what it’s like to receive a text message a few days after a first date saying, “Hey Princess.” This one made me wonder whether the guy had the right phone number. I don’t have any athletic skills, but as much as I’d like to be, I’m not a princess either. I’ve also experienced the excitement that comes along with thinking your significant other has sent you some romantic thought via text message only to find out that the one new text you have is from some advertiser telling you about an online shopping Web site.

Tell me you haven’t heard at least one story within the past month of text message innuendos, invitations or break ups, and I wouldn’t believe you. The fact that the NCAA is  having such a debate as whether text messages can be used by college coaches to recruit students is enough indication that inappropriate exploitation of the text message will continue to happen if we (text-ers) don’t establish some sense of texting etiquette.

The most important thing to realize is that text messaging should be an experience between intimates (or those close to intimacy). It assumes an air of informality and, therefore, should be used only as a means of communicating with loved ones throughout the day or to relay important messages when it is impossible to have a conversation in a more direct way whether it’s via telephone or having a discussion in person.

Text messages are the equivalent of a look you share with your sister at a family reunion that lets her know you have gossip to share with her. Text messages should not be used between persons who have and (most of the time) should maintain a distant relationship (i.e. coaches and prospective team members, teachers and students, businesses and potential clients, acquaintances and people who try to avoid seeing one another face to face). Why do you think women (or men) get annoyed when someone asks them out on a date via text message? It’s too easy and too comfortable. A good dose of awkward phone or face to face conversation is needed to bring any relationship a little closer. Also, if you’re using text messages to convey to someone that you haven’t seen in a long time the infamous empty promise of “doing lunch,” then just forget it.

Many people of the older generation make the claim that instant messaging systems (text messaging, AIM, email, Facebook or MySpace) could help us to avoid actually interacting with anyone. In reality, this is only partly true. All this virtual communication might render us socially awkward someday, but text messaging isn’t teaching us how not to communicate; it might be leading to too much communication, so that the result is a loss of formality, respect, and some reasonable measure of distance. Some of us might not want to be reached at any time no matter where we are.

The point is, texters, show some courtesy: don’t text anyone unless you know them like that. If someone doesn’t pick up your phone call, chances are they don’t want to respond to your text either.