A Guide of Knowing When to Hit Send

A Rundown: Dialing 411

Once upon a time, in a world that existed long before the dawn of the twenty-first century, we used letters and face to face conversations to talk to one another. That’s right, folks, people back then used a little thing called pen and paper (probably called something much fancier in that day and age, but that’s the basis). If you wanted to tell somebody something and you couldn’t tell them face to face, your message had a bit of a delay. No instant arrival like today. 

But let’s face it, things have changed. 

Today, if you want somebody to receive a message, you simply shoot them a text. They receive the message instantly, and there’s no waiting a few days for a slip of paper to reach their doorstep. Instead of dialing a number on a phone hooked up to a cord, we now dial the number on our smartphones with a few quick taps. Instead of having to express emotion through words, now we have emojis. The technology that has made up so much of our lives has quickened the pace of life and led to an increase in communication, testing the limits of productivity and establishing connections to anything and anyone we so desire. 

Sounds great, right? Well, sort of.

If used well, we have a handy tool in front of us. But if used poorly, we have a problem on our hands. So stick with us as we dial 411 and find out how to succeed at the game of texting. We promise you, by the end of this read, you’ll have all the information you could ever want or need.

Bad Texting Habits

It’s only fair to start off by wiping the slate clean. And sometimes, that means literally ‘deleting’ habits bound to cause some texting turmoil. Let’s begin.

First off, avoid using all caps. WE GET IT, IT’S REALLY DIFFICULT. We also know you must be asking the question: why? Essentially, all caps can convey an excess of emotion. And sometimes, this is a good thing! For example, if it’s a best friend’s birthday or a person close to you just got some really good news, a ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! :)’ or ‘OH MY GOSH CONGRATS!’ may be in order. But this doesn’t explain why to avoid it… 

Think about it this way. If you just got off from a really tough day, and you text a friend to come over for dinner and a nice little chitty chat (probably to vent about the day you just had), would you really want to receive an ‘I CAN’T, WHY?’ or something like ‘Oh man, I’m sorry, but I can’t tonight. Talk later?’? Which one lends itself to being more comforting? The overly emotive all caps version of ‘no’ or the regular one that seems to evoke calmness while still being a ‘no’? Probably the latter, right? 

Of course, there are a few exceptions to this non-verbal rule of thumb. As mentioned before, an excited version of ‘Happy Birthday’ wouldn’t cause any harm! Neither would an overly excited version of ‘Congrats!’. Simply put, if the emotion is positively directed towards the other person (and doesn’t come off as bragging), then all caps may be acceptable! If it’s not, maybe rethink the over capitalization. It may prove to do more harm than good!

And second, let’s talk for a bit about everyone’s favorite thing… sarcasm. Before we dive into why we should avoid it, a definition may be helpful.

According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, sarcasm is defined as “a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual”. Let’s break that apart. 

The phrase ‘satirical wit’ is simply referring to intelligence with regard to mocking or critical behavior. Just think about how this can come across over text and how we express ‘mocking’ in general. Typically, we use body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, and other bodily cues to give the ‘mocking’ impression. Evaluate all of these determinants of mocking behavior; how many of these can be expertly done over text? Your answer probably should’ve been zero. 

Now looking at the next part, we have ‘bitter, caustic, and often ironic language’. Note that you most likely know what bitter means. It’s an edgy sort of tone, and most people synonymize it with ‘salty’. If you’re unaware of what ‘caustic’ means, note it means ‘corrosive’. Another term that can be swapped in here is ‘abrasive’. A physical abrasion means that the skin is irritated to the point of minor pain. Would you want to convey ‘abrasive’ language over text intentionally? Probably not, especially when it’s bound to be misinterpreted.

Still, feeling good about using sarcasm over text? If you still believe you’re an expert on sarcasm, you may want to note that all of this bitterness, mocking, and abrasiveness is directed ‘against’ the individual. It’s always at their expense. This is something we’d like to hit home. If your argument in favor of using sarcasm is on the basis of ‘it’s all a joke’, take a brief pause. If it’s directed ‘against’ the individual, unless it was an accident (which you can easily apologize for), it’s almost always intentional. If you believe in intentionally causing abrasion to someone else over text without reasonable ways to show body language, facial expressions, and other typical social cues, then you may want to rethink the type of relationship you’re encouraging. But hopefully, this was a reminder of sarcasm’s effects and possibly a reason to cease its use (at least over text). 

Topics to Avoid

There are many topics to avoid when texting: for example, relationship conversations, heated political debates, conversations of religious philosophy, or any type of argument. One thing that we would advise against would be relationships in general. For instance, “What are We?” questions, asking someone out, and breakups are a few things you may steer clear of when texting. ‘What are We?’ questions are a hard thing to talk about, and doing it over text is not the way to go. If one gets asked ‘What are We?’, then it would probably be safe to assume the other person is wanting more than what that relationship is. 

Asking someone out could come out after the “What are We?” question was asked because if you get asked that question and you answer something along the lines of “I think we are great friends but would like to be closer”, chances are you will get asked out.  If you get asked ‘Will you go out with me?’, then our advice would be to avoid replying and simply calling them. Even with emojis, if you say no, you could be saying it in a totally different way than how they read it. 

Then we have one of the most highly contested topics when it comes to talking about relationships over text: breakups. As mentioned before, emojis are great in some situations but breakups are a horrible time to use them. In fact, our advice would be to avoid a phone call, and instead, resorting to a face-to-face conversation. It might be awkward, but it’ll at least avoid the long-term ramifications of doing it over text or over the phone!

It’s a well known, unspoken rule of thumb to avoid politics in conversation generally speaking, and this is especially true when texting. The political world is always changing, and many topics regarding politics require boatloads of information before even attempting to talk to someone about it. This makes it really hard to have a casual, texting conversation over politics when everything is constantly evolving. Everyone has a different viewpoint, and unless you know for certain what that person’s viewpoint is (without making any assumptions as to what you THINK it is), it’s probably best to avoid it altogether to maintain the peace. 😂

Religion is also a hard topic to talk about because everyone reading this, like in the case of politics, has a different opinion on religion. And even so, talking about a single facet of religion with countless different viewpoints can include more than just personal opinion. Family ties, genetic background, and history itself can all be extremely easy to bring into the picture, and most people are aware that when these are brought into focus, it can bring some very uncomfortable and awkward conversations. This alone is a valid reason to go about ditching religion over text and only choosing to talk about it with people who you trust will take what you say for what it is, and not a chance to automatically reply with their own belief system. Besides, there are plenty of things to talk about that have nothing to do with religion, and most of them don’t include even a fraction of the turmoil. 

Healthy Boundaries

Talking about how to avoid sensitive topics and such can get really tiring, so from both of us, thanks for sticking with us! We’re not quite finished yet. It’s time to switch gears and begin talking about the positive habits you can set over text, and this all comes back to one thing: boundaries. 

Let’s first take a look at what a proper boundary is. According to our friend Merriam Webster, a boundary is defined as ‘something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent’. This one’s pretty easy to understand. If someone has a limit or an extent, it’s most likely referring to an impassable ‘fence’ of sorts, where most can’t penetrate or pass. In terms of technology, it’s mainly setting a ‘ceiling’ or a ‘maximum’ amount of time spent online.

You may be wondering, why set a limit?

Think about it this way: if you receive an urgent, ‘respond now’ type of text at 1am and you’re asleep, would you be very sympathetic to the person who was hounding you at 1am to answer the so-called ‘urgent’ message? Probably not. Sleep is a dear friend we should not take advantage of, even for 1am text messages. What about friends texting you at 1am the day before you have a huge exam? 

Either of these cases (unless your family/friends/co-workers are simply abusing the limit you put in place) are rookie mistakes not on the sender’s fault, but on the receiver’s. And once again, you may be asking the million-dollar question, why?

In our experience, anybody texting you at 1am willingly and with ‘urgency’ is not aware of any boundaries that you might have, unless you’ve explicitly stated them. Seeing that these people are unaware, how could one possibly put the blame on them for hitting send?

Hopefully, it’s a little bit clearer to you as to why you may want to consider having some boundaries in place for text messaging. Now let’s dive into how we can set these and what they look like in day-to-day life. 

First, a mindset haul is needed when it comes to the phrase ‘screen time limits’. People seem to have a defensive attitude when parental figures, friends, or teachers/mentors bring up these words. A lot of people think that it’s a bad thing to set screen time limits, and the thought that immediately jumps into many minds is that thought of ‘I’m not responsible enough to handle my phone’. 

Let’s toss that myth, shall we?

Screen time limits may be a result of historic abuse of screen time, but that’s not what we’re referring to here. We’re referring to setting a screen time limit for the sake of your mental health before anything were to go sideways. This can take the form of setting timers while on your handheld tech, limiting social media use to a fixed amount of time daily, and/or committing to set aside time that’s specifically screen-free. 

The benefits of doing this are endless. Not only do you find more of life outside the screen, but you free yourself up to be truly present in the physical environment you’re in. Committing time to go on a phone-free walk, reading a book without hiding your phone inside, or even just talking to other people face to face can have therapeutic effects on the mind, soul, and physical body. 

Instead of gravitating towards social media at the end of a long, school-focused day, go for a run. Instead of immediately going in the direction of YouTube or the TV, go for something tactile you can do with your hands. There’s an old saying that if you spend the whole day working with your mind, spend your free time doing something active, like going for a run. If you spend the whole day doing physical labor, rest with your mind, doing things like meditation, reading, or something of the sort. 

The second thing we’d suggest is setting business hours. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s a lot like setting ‘working hours’ to let people know when they can reach you. This is a great way to say no to 1am text messages and not have to stress about missing a call that came in just before the clock struck midnight. Setting normal workforce business hours such as 8am to 5pm allows people to understand and work around your schedule. This not only helps other people, but it helps you to respect yourself even more as an individual. Starting this early can build a lifelong, healthy habit of valuing your own time and energy, and when explained in this context, it makes setting business hours more of a no-brainer!

Both options above are just a few of the many ways to set healthy boundaries. The two of us can’t tell you what would work best; that’s something only you know! It may take some trial and error, but in due time and with enough effort put in, you’ll find out which route you should make your regular!

Epic Fails

We’ve covered most bases, but we thought it’d be fun to include a few iUPrep ‘epic fails over text’ to share a few funny examples of how not to text. Note that all of these screenshots we have been given permission to share, and names are blurred out, so nobody gets exposed! To start, you know you may have made a mistake if you see this in a thread…

But if the messages weren’t deleted in time, threads might look like this…

We hope these entertained you and showed you that no one is perfect! As long as you’re careful with your texting habits and are mindful of the effects, you can enjoy the experience without all the trouble that can come with it.

Think before you send, friend!

Works Cited

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Sarcasm. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved April 24, 2023, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sarcasm

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Boundary. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved April 24, 2023, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/boundary