The Conundrum of “Texting Paralysis”

A weird part of my social anxiety comes out when I’m texting, or really writing any kind of written communication. It can take me a weirdly long amount of time to write a response because I have to go over every word of what I’m writing to check if the wording is communicating what I intend it to. It’s just a text not a freakin’ literary piece, but I just can’t move past my pesky perfectionism, combined with this fear of upsetting someone by my message coming out wrong. As such, texting can be exausting sometimes when I’m already feeling high anxiety or stress.

It’s even worse when communicating on a platform that either tells the person on the other end if you’ve read their message, or notifies them when you begin typing. It puts a layer of pressure on me to respond quickly, and I more easily get flustered. The absolute worst is when I spend more than 20-ish seconds on a short messages (like 4-5 words) and I start to feel like I have to add more to justify the fact that it’s taking me so long to write such a brief message. So I spend another 30 seconds to maybe even over a minute just trying to think of something else to add, only to end up sending the “too-short” message.

On the other end of things I get anxoious when, as the kids say, I get “left on read”. My mind starts racing with all sorts of negative thoughts. “Did I say something wrong? Does the person not like me?” I try to reframe that by asking myself “did what I say need a response?” Among friends and family, 9 times out of 10 the answer is “no”, and that remaining time is just because they’re busy and couldn’t respond right away.

None of this is to say I dislike texting. I much prefer it to talking on the phone, which I suppose isn’t atypical considering I’m a Millenial. I guess it just overwhelms me sometimes, like any social interactions can. Maybe it’s also an issue with how these messaging platforms are designed. Do we really need to know exactly when someone started writing a reply? Do we need to know if our messages have been read? Maybe I’m biased, maybe “normal” people want these features. Maybe the solution is that these platforms give us more control over what features we want.

I’m going to be honest, this is something I struggle with all the time. I’m not entirely sure I feel qualified to give advice to people who deal with similar anxieties, and I debated even writing this post. I determined that was down to my anxiety over writing something that doesn’t have a solid takeaway, so I guess I’m writing and posting this as a form of exposure therapy. But mainly I’d like to spark a conversation around “texting paralysis”.

Sidenote: For any friends reading this, I’m not saying don’t text me, please text me! Just know if I take a million years to write a 5-word response, this is what’s going on.

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