how to stop texting. and why.

2019-0817 OBT_Blog Post_texting.jpg

“I want to hear from you, but I don’t text. Crazy, but true. Pretty please forward your text to cherylchamblee at gmail.com or call. Love.”

That’s what you get back if you text me.

I know. You probably depend on texting. You probably text a lot. It’s pretty likely that you just clicked on this link to see what kind of crazy person I am because forgod’ssake who doesn’t text?

I know. I hear you.

But maybe you thought those same things the first time you heard someone wasn’t on Facebook anymore, too, and now that’s not so completely weird anymore.

Anyway, I’m not trying to convince you to quit texting. I don’t text. It’s weird and possibly slightly annoying to a handful of people, but it makes me a better person in at least six different ways. Maybe you’re considering quitting something that people 100% expect you to do. Maybe quitting that thing will make you feel better, show up better, rest better. Maybe that thing is texting. Or not. Maybe the story of how I quit text will help you quit your thing.

Here’s how it happened:

I was getting a lot of texts. Texting with work colleagues, texting with creative partners, texting with my husband, texting with friends, texting with family, texting with board members, texting with clients, texting with my daughter’s friend’s parents. So much texting. Almost all from people I like very much. Maybe you have that, too.

I felt compelled to respond to them right away. If I didn’t, they invariably dropped down in the list, and I never responded at all. I also get a lot of email. I bet you do, too. I get a fair amount of voicemail, too.

It was too much input.

So when my husband and I did our phone experiment, part of it was shutting off text notifications and responding to them in batches. For me, that responding time was once a night, just before kid bedtime.

I really liked not having that one urgent-feeling stream of input during my day. Really, really liked it.

But the nighttime thing was not working for me. Between supper and kid bedtime, it was not working to squirrel myself away and answer the day’s accumulation of texts. It was yet another opportunity for my kid to see me with my face in my phone because invariably, she would need something just at the moment when I was in the office with the door shut jamming away at my phone. And also, I would get all keyed up about whatever was in those messages that needed doing or solving or planning.

So I tried checking them at a few discrete times during the day. That didn’t work either. It just devolved into I’m Texting Again. Input stream restored.

I found myself doing online searches about quitting texting altogether. About just not doing it. At all. I found quite a few people who stopped texting for a day or few a week, but I only found one who stopped totally. I can’t find it again now, or I’d link to the article.

One was enough for me.

I set up an auto-responder on my text messaging app that read: “I’m on a no-texting experiment, and I won’t see your msg. I hope you’ll call me or email it to me. My apologies for the inevitable annoyance.” And I buried my texting app in a place where I have to put out some actual effort to find it on my phone.

Several months passed. Three or four, I think.

A few weeks ago, I decided that was a long enough experiment. I changed my message to the one you read at the beginning of this writing. And now, I don’t text.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

1: You don’t miss emergencies by not texting. If it’s a real emergency, you’re getting a phone call. Your kid’s school, the hospital, your mother, and the fire department will call before they text. Or—in the case of those automated school announcements—at least at the same time.

2: You will not get sucked in to checking or scrolling or falling down ye olde internet rabbit hole nearly as often when you’re not texting. Because you won’t be holding your phone as often. That’s how it happens, after all. At least for me.

3: You can still send photos from your phone without texting. Especially if you still have email on your phone.

4: No one stops being your friend because you aren’t texting. So far, two people have laughingly tried to convince me to make an exception for just them, and three people have said they’re jealous. I did actually offer to make an exception for a dear friend who was in a very specific situation, and she said, “No, don’t do that.”

5: Playdate details get worked out way faster when you’re not texting. Phone conversations actually do work some things out more quickly. Although sometimes people just text my husband instead. Which is great because dads arranging playdates is awesome.

6: I do not like texting, even if it is more convenient and also releases me from having to gather my energies for actual phone calls talking to actual, unpredictable human beings. This is really the biggest thing I’ve learned. I just don’t enjoy texting. It jacks me up. I don’t want to forget how to do that unscripted, un-editable. live “give-and-take” that Sherry Turkle talks about in her amazing Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.

I wonder if you have questions about this. Do you wonder if I feel left out or lonely? Do you wonder if I’ve looked back through those months of texts to see what I’ve missed? If this might change tomorrow or next month or when our daughter is older? If my husband is annoyed that he can’t text me that he’s running late or that one of us needs to pick up grapefruit? If talking on the phone more often is hard?

I would love it if you’d email me with your questions. Really love it. And feel free to share this with other people, if you want. If there are enough questions, I’ll answer them in another article. Because so many of us have this complicated relationship with our phones in our lives. And I think it would be so great to talk about that with more than just resignation or wistfulness or guilt.

These are our lives, you know. And we have a remarkable capacity for change.

I love you.