My cousin Joe says of everyone he texts with, I am the fastest to respond. “Within like ten seconds,” he says. “Amazing.”
When people send a text, it’s usually with the intent to share information. “On my way. Be there in ten.” Or “What’s Natalie’s email?” Regardless of the message, most texts solicit a response and very often, need to be timely. If I’m meeting someone and they text me, “Running late! Can’t get a taxi!” Of course I’m going to respond, if for no other reason then to let them know I received their message.
At the beginning of the summer I received a message from an old friend asking for information about a store on Cape Cod. Within two minutes I wrote back. Did I hear from her again? No. Not even a “thx.” If someone takes the time to do you a favor, how do you not respond? Are you conserving your data plan? Who today, unless you’re my friend Susan, doesn’t have an unlimited text message data plan?
Emails I can understand a delay, but a text? On your cell phone? Cell phones are like adult binkies; they go with us everywhere. What other excuse could you possibly use for not responding to a text? Dropped my phone onto the subway tracks! I’ll buy that. Lost my phone! It happens. Phone got eaten by a shark! I’ll even concede that one too. There are – I’m sure – a list of legitimate excuses for not replying, but for the most part, with many of us taking our cell phones with us into the bathroom, that list is pretty short.
When instant messaging first began back in the 90s, the first person I ever IM’ed with was my Aunt Ida. She was 98 at the time and was taking a computer course at her local community college. Our conversations didn’t last long, as Aunt Ida tired quickly, but she was so enamored by technology and the ability to reach out to family and friends, that no matter what I was doing, I would stop and chat. As always, Aunt Ida signed off by writing, “Thank you for taking the time. I know you young people today are so busy. It means a lot.”
I wonder how Aunt Ida would feel about the way instant communication happens today. Or rather, how often it doesn’t.