Cell phones have undeniably become an integral part of our lives.
There are many positive aspects of cell phones such as the ability to stay connected to those who are far away (and even those who
are near), and feeling safer when you’re out and about. However, cell phones have also changed interpersonal communication, specifically with the creation of texting.
Have a quick question for your friend? Send a text. Found a funny meme you need to share? Send a text. Need to discuss something important that you’re nervous to say in person? Send a text. Or should you?
According to Forrest Talley, Ph.D, “Texting anxiety is the distress some people experience when waiting for a reply from a text that they have sent, or the distress related to a text that has been received that raises unexpected questions/concerns.” The thought of talking something out over text may sound less anxiety-provoking than doing it in person, but that might not
be the case.
Many people feel mental and physical distress after they send a risky text and are waiting for a reply. Preoccupation with what the other person may be thinking when they read the text and fear of what they’ll reply may be enough to make you stare at the ceiling and wait because you can’t focus on anything else. Even if the text isn’t something serious, you may wonder if using two exclamation points was too much or if your “lol” might be taken the wrong way. Misunderstanding is another problem that texting often exacerbates. We’ve all been there… you receive a text that seems angry or upset, you waste time and energy worrying about why someone is mad at you, and then you find out they weren’t upset at all. Texting has immense power, for better or for worse, but there are ways to successfully combat texting anxiety.
The best way to eliminate the anxiety that comes with waiting for a response and to avoid miscommunication is to talk either in person or on the phone instead of texting.
If you’re like me and prefer to write your thoughts out before trying to articulate them face-to-face, you can still practice what you want to say without sending a text. If you truly need to express your thoughts over text, something you can do to ease your anxiety and take pressure off the recipient is to say that they don’t need to respond right away. That way you can carry on with your day and not let your “what if” thoughts rule you. If these steps to relieve texting anxiety don’t work for you, it’s okay to get professional help. Therapy, medication, or a combination of both are great ways to combat any type of anxiety.
According to the American Psychological Association, one-fifth of Americans associate their phone with stress.
So whether you are facing debilitating texting anxiety or not, it can’t hurt to spend less time on your phone. Can you even remember the last time you went somewhere without your phone? Try it. Or challenge yourself and see how long you can go without touching your phone and without thinking about what might be waiting for you when you look at it.
Unplug, unwind, and know that you’re not alone in this struggle.