***Writer's Note: If you're somebody who doesn't text often or ever, I commend you. I wish I didn't text, at least not as often as I do. It's a terrible habit (addiction?) to have, and if your life hasn't been ravaged by it, I suggest you stop reading this right now, because it's going to be like me reading a manual on how to operate an eight-track player: completely useless and extremely boring. ***
I send a lot of text messages. It's definitely not the best way to communicate, but it can be convenient. You can text in pretty much any setting, no matter what you're doing - even dinner if you're not dining with your parents, who will at best glare at you for texting at the table, and at worst slap your Blackberry from your hands and right into a bowl of clam chowder.
If it's for reasons unrelated to work, I text message much more frequently than I carry on phone conversations, and by a stunning margin. I've frequently had text message conversations with a person for the entire day and well into the night, without even speaking one word to them verbally. In fact, I might actually have some friends out there who I've texted countless times, but have never spoken on the phone with for more than five minutes, if at all. I'm not proud of this (well, actually I kind of am, because that seems like it'd be a challenging feat to pull off), and nor do I think it's particularly healthy. But I continue to do it anyway.
Now, I think we can all pretty much agree that text messaging is not the best forum for a serious conversation. You're obviously going to pick face-to-face, and then a phone call as your second option. These are obvious choices for two primary reasons: It's easier to talk than to type, and it is much easier to convey actual human emotion if you're looking at a person, hearing them or both than by analyzing 160 character messages for excitement, elation or pure unadulterated rage.
But sometimes you have to have a serious text message conversation. It can be unavoidable. Because sometimes the Steelers are on TV, and you're not going to mute the voices of the amazing duo of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman just so a person can talk to you about how they just got laid off or how they think it's time to start seeing other people. (And if you think that was a bad example, you're clearly underestimating the unintentionally comedic conversations Buck and Aikman have each game.)
So, I've consulted some friends (through a group text message, naturally) and combined their suggestions with my own ideas on how to convey emotion through text messaging the best you can.
Here are some observations and tips:
>I've found that things are rarely as they seem with the use of "LOL" and "Haha," because texting has evolved through the years so that these two phrases (I don't know what exactly to call them so we'll stick with phrases) are completely overused. This has changed the meaning of them from a symbol of laughing to a symbol of normality. So, if you're texting with someone and don't include one or both of these in at least one of every five or so messages, the person automatically assumes you're upset about something. If you send an abundance of text messages, go back through your inbox and outbox and count how many times you used "LOL" or "Haha" in response to something. Now count honestly how many times you used either one and were actually laughing out loud.
Chances are, you weren't laughing in every instance unless you still use "LOL" and "Haha" for their originally intended purposes. Or somebody who laughs very easily and was texting back and forth with Carrot Top's apprentice.
Those two phrases are used now not to show people you're laughing, but that you're staying at least mildly light-hearted. I'm in a habit of using Haha constantly, much to my chagrin and deep personal shame. But if I go without it, and use short sentences with correct punctuation (like the way we write for the newspaper), people think I'm upset or something, even when I'm not.
>If you're legitimately laughing at something, you can't fail with an overwhelming "Hahahahaha." Or you can say, "I literally just LOL'd at that one." (I can't believe I'm writing about this stuff right now.)
>Obviously, using all capital letters is an effective way of showing somebody you're trying to yell at them in digital text.
>Exclamation points are the same way, but they are also used to show excitement. F. Scott Fitzgerald said you should never use exclamation points, because it's "like laughing at your own joke," so I've always tried my hardest not to use them. But Fitzgerald never had to send text messages to his wife, Zelda, who was eventually deemed clinically insane. If he had, I'm sure he would've used an exclamation point or two. I know I feel like I need to use them every once in a while. Especially when I'm conversing with crazy girls.
>If you receive a message that follows capitalized words with multiple exclamation points, then you can be fairly sure that things just got real. That's straight text message anger and/or passion right there, and if you were looking to get a reaction with whatever it was you said or did, you just got it.
>Don't be afraid to utilize ellipsis. You know, the three consecutive periods, like this: … According to Wikipedia (this is a blog about conveying emotion through texting, don't worry about my works cited page), an ellipsis can be used to "indicate a pause in speech, an unfinished thought, or, at the end of a sentence, a trailing off into silence. When placed at the end of a sentence, the ellipsis can also inspire a feeling of melancholy longing."
Melancholy longing? That's a pretty significant emotion to be able to convey in a text message, and you can use it to instill fear and doubt in anybody you're talking to. End a message with …, and the person is always left wondering.
>It's probably not a bad idea to have a personal sign off to end conversations. Kind of like how Walter Cronkite and Edward Murrow would end their broadcasts with "And that's the way it is," and "Good night, and good luck," respectively. That way, people will always know when the conversation has concluded.
Think of it as the texting version of hanging up. Sure, you could just say goodbye, but you may as well establish your individualism in some way through texting.
My Mom gave me this idea, actually. She recently began texting, and is pretty slow at it. So when she has nothing else to say, instead of typing out "have a good night" or "talk to you tomorrow," she ends our text message conversations with "XO" or "XOXO." I guess the X means a hug, and O means a kiss (I never understood this symbolism, but I digress).
You can personalize your own. I'm still working on mine, but think she might really be onto something.
>Use emoticons. I never thought I'd say this and I still hate using them, but sometimes they can be crucial. It's tough not to feel a little ridiculous when you're texting a smiley face or a wink, but it's kind of unavoidable. I can understand how a lot of guys feel weird using them in messages to girls, but look at it this way: If you're attempting to establish a romantic relationship with a girl, aren't you already saying absurd things in your text messages that your friends would make fun of you incessantly for anyway? May as well go all out.
...I think I should take a break from texting.