Thursday, September 27, 2012

Don't Call, Just Text!

I'm trying hard to be better, but it's just so... hard. As much as I complain about modern society's over-reliance on newfangled 21st-century communication -- text messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc. -- and the way it's stunted our capacity to have meaningful in-depth conversations, it's actually the perfect set-up for a writer like me.

Though I still haven't mastered the art of typing on my iPod Touch keypad (damn that predictive text!), I can rock an email on my netbook. Go ahead, send me one. Chances are I'll respond ASAP (to use 21st-century acronym-communication lingo that was actually invented last century) because chances are I'm already at my mini-laptop tying something -- an email, a blog post, search words on Google or Bing to help me diagnose my latest imaginary ailment.

My quickness to respond to emails is not necessarily conducive to a thriving 21st-century love life, though. As a friend pointed out to me yesterday, people like a challenge, and if you respond to their emails within 24 hours with a mini-novel, they might think you're too easy and lose interest. Wait a few days! As much as I hate to play those love games, I had to admit she had a point.

Depending on emails to conduct important romantic conversations is risky enough as it is without making people think you have nothing better to do than sit around composing perfect replies to them. There's so much opportunity for misinterpretation and wrong impressions. There's something to be said for good old-fashioned telephone communication, not texting but picking up the horn and having an actual mouth-to-ear conversation.

There's no waiting for a response (unless nobody answers and you have to leave a message, kicking off the worst kind of waiting game). You can pick up little communication clues from subtle vocal inflections and awkward silences (which say a thousand words). After the conversation is over, there's no transcript for you to spend hours, days, weeks, months poring over and obsessing over (which is something I seem to be doing non-stop these days -- more on that some other time... maybe). Nobody has to worry about being judged for spelling, punctuation and assorted typos (something that more than one friend has told me makes them fearful of sending me emails).

Most importantly, though, since I've always hated talking on the phone, if I don't pick up (and even back when calling someone was pretty much the only way to reach them, I usually didn't), chances are that I won't respond in days -- if at all. Though I may have pissed off a lot more people back in the day, nobody ever accused me of being overeager.

But I'm trying to be better. Yesterday I had to talk to my editor at the Bangkok Post. I could have sent him a quick email or text, but I decided to challenge myself. I picked up the phone and called him. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't feel a twinge of disappointment when he picked up. It was good to hear his voice, but I couldn't wait for the conversation to be over -- and I was the one who called him!

Yesterday was actually a sort of double-throwback because I had not one but two phone conversations. The second one wasn't by choice. Someone I went out on a date with on Sunday night called me to plan our second date. Since he doesn't have my email address, and we're not connected on Facebook or Skype (don't even get me started on those video chats, though I've found a spot in my bedroom where the lighting makes me look halfway decent onscreen), texting and calling are his only options.

It was a relatively painless telephone conversation, but I still couldn't wait for it to be over, and I suspect it may have shown in my tone. I guess I'll never be the guy who falls for someone because we can stay up until 3am chatting on the phone about everything. When the call ended, I realized that it might be the first time in years that I've set up a date by telephone. Score two for yesterday!

Next time, though, I hope he sends a quick text.

"Don't Call, Just Text" Toni Braxton

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