Recently I re-tweeted this thought from Pete Holmes:
top reasons for divorce. 1984: 1. financial problems. 2. religious differences. 2014: 1. constant inclusion in group texts. 2. no wifi.
— Pete Holmes (@peteholmes) September 14, 2014
because I’m in the middle of a communication crisis. I do “knowledge work” so it’s considered inappropriate to have a device constantly making little beeps and boops while the person next to me is working on some insane LibXML (you don’t wanna know) bug. Programming requires extreme concentration and distractions are to be avoided.
The rub of it is that I’m “on call” if our software product bursts into flames. Therefore, I must keep my phone in a mode capable of disturbing me so I don’t eat lunch, play ping-pong, or just code right through the disastrous failure of our software.
This used to be fine back when text messages were either:
- Time sensitive
- From one person
In first two cases the beeps my phone made were appropriate and in the last case I could simply text back to that person that I was busy if they didn’t get the me ignoring them hint. However, as we all sadly know, the plague of group texts has completely disrupted how we handle notifications. Now when my mother in-law, a nice person who likes to share, sends me and 10 other contacts a pic of a lake I spend the rest of the afternoon getting “Nice!,” “Did you take a swim?,” “No, it’s too cold”, “where are you guys?” etc. texts. Every one of those I should probably check to make sure it isn’t an important work thing — just in case.
Why not a mass email? Why do I get group texts trying to plan something days or weeks away? Shouldn’t that be an email thread? The answer is as obvious as it is sad-making: People have given up on email. For every Inbox Zero zealot, there are a hundred people who’ve essentially let their inbox run wild with clutter. Missed important emails because of that clutter? — better move to text messages For Everything. Of course, this leads to cluttered text messages. Plenty of times I’ve been furiously searching through my email to find someone’s reply only to remember “Oh, they’re one of those text-y people, I better scroll through all the various group texts threads they’ve been involved in… Sigh.”
A small aside: Some people don’t have unlimited text messages on their phone. The horror, right? My boss consistently crashes through her text message limit b/c of “friendly” group messages.
The problem of communication clutter isn’t going away. Ever. Abandoning email for texts just moves the problem. I implore you to take charge of your inbox, people. Getting emails you never read? Unsubscribe or Block! Can’t bring yourself to do that? Well, how about creating a rule that moves your daily…
Hold on, got a text… yup, a silly friendly chatty one from a friend who never emails anymore. I really like this guy but such frivolity is a tweet or an email or a Facebook or a Whatever but not a text that demands my attention.
Where was I… Oh yeah, create rules in your email client of choice that automatically move “less often read” messages to a folder for later (read: never) reading. If you’re still getting a flood then you must keep going. Unsubscribing, blocking, and rules are your new watchwords. If you can’t handle this fire hose of information now what do you think is going happen when everyone can send “animated emojis” on a whim from their Apple Watch (or some other wearable computer thing)?
Your “inbox” is not just your email inbox. It is Every Damn Message you receive in Any form. They all via for your attention and giving up on any one communication form only annoys your friends while providing, at best, temporary relief.
Apology: I’m sorry if you’ve sent me a group text in the past and see this as an attack. I really do want to hear about your cats, see your kid’s pics, and ponder your stray thoughts… In an appropriate medium. Does that sound bitchy?