Textpectations: Do you have text message anxiety?

January 7, 2019 | Jana Willis

Parents know how it is. You send a text message to your child and receive no immediate response. So you wait, you worry, you get frustrated. You may even feel a little anger; wondering why your child isn’t responding to your message. There is actually a name for that feeling we experience; textpectation.

The Urban Dictionary defines textpectation as the “anticipation one feels when waiting for a response to a text message.”  If we couple that feeling of anticipation with available mobile text tracking features, we may be creating our own text message anxiety.

Mobile text tracking features allow the sender to know when a message is delivered, when it is read, and now thanks to typing awareness indicators (for iPhone users, it’s the magical three dots in a bubble), the sender can “see” the actions of the message responder. Consider the following text message scenario: You text your child or family member, and the message is not immediately returned. Your mind begins to race. Why are they not responding? Should I call and check on them? This is called text message anxiety. 

Consider message scenario two: You send a message, your message recipient reads the message and fails to immediately respond. You begin to wonder, did I say something wrong? What are they doing that is more important than responding to my message? We’ve got another case of text message anxiety. 

Now examine scenario three: You send a message, the recipient reads the message, the bubble appears, lingers, and then quickly vanishes. What happened? Why did they ignore my message?  Yet another case of text message anxiety.

I would be remiss not to mention one final text message scenario: You are engaged in what appears to be an equally productive text message exchange, and suddenly there’s no response. What? How can they just walk away in mid-conversation? What is so important that they could just stop talking?  Sound familiar?

The question now becomes, what do we do to resolve these feelings, and how can we alleviate some of this self-imposed anxiety? We could practice a little more patience; maybe take time to consider the many variables that exist in the lives of our message recipients. Possibly the message recipient has set their phone aside for a few minutes, maybe stopped for dinner, become immersed in a “real” conversation, have no signal, have a dead battery, or even engaged in something that is more important than your awaiting text message.                              

Maybe the next time you send a message, breathe a bit, relax, and just patiently wait for the pending response. It might relieve you of a bit of anxiety, and keep the responder out of hot water.

Jana M Willis, Ph.D. is a professor of instructional design and technology and department chair of literacy, library, and learning technologies at University of Houston-Clear Lake. She specializes in serious games/gamification/game-based learning in education, self-efficacy, and digital storytelling. She resides in the Clear Lake area.