Are Your Text Messages Tone Deaf?

The immediacy of communication is not new to most of us. We’ve grown up with devices literally in the palms of our hands. And yet there are still people out there, walking the streets, thinking that all they need to say is a simple “Okay” or to use the thumbs-up emoji to convey what they need.

The only excuse for this one-word response nonsense is if you need some type of acknowledgement or confirmation of the information you’ve sent – and even then, a couple of extra words – “Looking forward to it!” or “Hope you’re well!” – makes you sound more like a human, rather than a robot.

So, do your texts make your friends and loved ones shake their heads in dismay? Here are the warning signs:

– You text “k”

– You write essays

– You send stream-of-consciousness messages to the group thread

– When asked multiple questions in one text, you can only manage to answer one, prompting the poor sod on the other end to ask you again

– You can go days, or even weeks without responding to anyone, but then when you do you’ve already disappeared again before anyone can respond

This wantonness can also manifest into habits such as:

– Seeing an incoming call and letting your phone ring out because you weren’t prepared to speak to someone in real-time

– Preferring the trusty electronic mail (email) because of their handy flagging options, meaning you can follow these up after you have calculated a response

– Wishing your iPhone had an ‘unread’ option for texts so that you could stop being that person who reads a text, puts their phone down because you’re in the middle of something or you answered in your head, then is forever defending yourself against the slack friend allegations you cop because you never write back

– Being scared of the myriad of communication options at your fingertips to the point where you respond with the aforementioned “K” or a thumbs-up emoji even if it’s a rhetorical text just so you can show the receiver that ‘you’re there’ without actually having to engage in back and forth banter.

Have we gone so far as to not communicate at all using traditional words? Linguistics expert, Vyv Evans, author of The Emoji Code: The Linguistics Behind Smiley Faces and Scaredy Cats, believes that a simple emoji plays an essential role in conveying expression and emotion, and even has the potential to save relationships by preventing misunderstanding in communication.

In 2015 the Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year wasn’t even a word, but instead of these little pictographs – the “Face with Tears of Joy”.

“Fine. See you later on”, or “Fine, see you later on😀” can certainly mean two different things. One could argue that a simple exclamation point rounding off the latter example may also suffice in lieu of the smiley face, but then does that suggest your excitement, or does the exclamation point actually represent anger?

You can see why most of us opt for the humble emoji: it’s a safer bet.

Here are some helpful suggestions if you’ve just realised, or have known all along, that you’re a Tone Deaf Text Messager:

– If your pals or family insist on constant dialogue, stick to the one platform. Who needs Messenger, email, texting and group chats all at once anyway?
– Whilst multiple notifications can be intimidating, having group threads isn’t always a bad thing. You can often disseminate bulk information to multiple people, and can always turn off those pesky notifications when you’ve had enough
– There’s nothing wrong with an emoji, given the right opportunity! You don’t need to write an essay in response to the ever irritating “What do you feel like for dinner?” when the taco emoji can do the talking for you
– Get in first before there is the opportunity for a “K”. If you haven’t completely clocked out from communicating, jump in before waiting to be asked
– There’s also always just owning it. After all, look at all the options on offer if the situation were ever to be dire.

You may even need to have one of those face-to-face conversations.

Emily is an arts administrator with a background in writing and music. By day, she works at the ANU School of Music, and by night she moonlights as a contributing writer, the Communications Coordinator and Secretary for MusicACT, and dabbles in freelance marketing, social media and communications for the arts.