The evil of the mass text

Mass texting. It’s a problem.

What do you do when you want to communicate with a big group all at once? You send a mass text. You need to find out what’s happening tonight, who’s free for dinner or who’ll be in town for the weekend. Maybe there’s a movie you really want to see or a game you want to watch, and you don’t want to be alone. You extend an invitation to a big group of people, instead of making a hierarchy of friends and slowly working your way down the line.

If you don’t want to rank your friends or you don’t want to wait for replies, if you have an announcement to make or you’re just really afraid of not having company, it makes sense. With a crazy busy schedule, you don’t want to waste the free blocks of time; they need to be spent with friends. And when your friends are equally busy, you’re looking to catch whoever’s free. It’s college; there’s always something going on. Sometimes you just have to throw the invite out to everyone.

It seems like an efficient system, but people don’t like mass texts, and some don’t respond, no matter the content, to anything they can tell is mass. And I can kind of understand that. With a mass text, you feel a little cheated. They’re impersonal and ambiguous. Does this person really want to hang out with me, or does she just not want to be alone? How many others received this message? There’s something almost insulting about the lump invitation, like you’re just one in a number of potential companions, not really sought for you but just for a friendly body.

In case it hasn’t become abundantly clear, I am guilty of the mass texts. Not a lot – usually I contact specific people to make specific plans – but I will employ mass texting now and then. Usually it’s if I have to be somewhere and want company or just want to find out who might be available at a certain time. Still, I feel a little guilty about it because I know it’s a cop out of genuine, individual effort.

But that’s what texting itself is: a cop out of a real phone call. You text someone when you have a quick question or invitation or news. Why? Because it’s brief and simple. Unless you want a full how’s-your-life conversation, a text seems to make more sense. You don’t have to go through all the “How are you?” “Good. How are you?” fluff that happens when you pick up the phone.  Bottom line, texting is efficient, and it helps us keep moving and multitasking at break-neck speed.

But the implication in all that, as my little brother once aptly put it, “So people text you when they don’t really want to talk to you?” I can defend it that I’m usually texting to set up face-to-face interaction, which is better than a phone call, but still. You text because you don’t have time for a conversation or any other side topics; you’re contacting about one thing, no introductions, no deviations. It’s not important to hear their voice. You just want to send a few letters through the airwaves, get a few more back and be done.

So you send a text. Ouch. Or a mass text. Ouch again.

But still, it’s better than nothing.

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