What You Need to Know About Texting Anxiety — and How to Overcome It
A psychologist weighs in with his best tips for beating this serious side effect of smartphone use.
So many of us know the feeling of inbox anxiety, when you feel like your email has gotten out of control and you're not sure how to take the reigns. But in recent years, the phenomenon of "texting anxiety" has fast become a growing concern as well. With smartphones nearly ubiquitous, we expect a practically instant response from friends, family, and even co-workers — and the burden of feeling like you need to reply immediately to a query from someone also weighs on us, too.
"Texting anxiety is the distress some people experience when waiting for a reply from a text that they have sent, or the distress related to a text that has been received that raises unexpected questions/concerns," explains Forrest Talley, Ph.D of California-based Invictus Psychological Services. "The impact is that this anxiety adds to one's daily stress, is a distraction, and frequently leads people to spend unnecessary time attempting to resolve the tension that has now arisen." If you ask us, that certainly doesn't sound too appealing. Thankfully, with a healthy dose of willpower and a few simple tips, you can take control of texting anxiety. Read on for Talley's best advice.
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1. Set up an auto-reply.
"It's the most straightforward way to deal with the anxiety related to texting. Set up an auto-response on your phone that reads 'Thank you for texting me. I will be able to get back to you after the end of the work day.' This relieves you of the stress of feeling the need to immediately respond," suggests Tallley. "It also gives you the freedom to respond with more thought. This is important because texting lacks the nuance of spoken language." Yes, that string of heart emojis isn't the same as sharing your love through spoken words.
2. Sending someone a serious message? Let them know a delayed reply is a-ok.
Not all serious questions can — or should — be answered right away. "When texting someone wherein you know that you will be anxious about their response, specifically state that it is fine for them to text you back later in the day or evening (or next day)," says Talley. "This removes the tension that can arise due to wondering 'Why haven't they returned my text?'"
3. Or, skip sending the "big deal" texts in the first place.
"Important matters deserve a richer medium of communication — if it's important, don't text. Instead use the phone, or face-to-face communication (email as a last resort). It's perfectly acceptable to text someone and let them know that you would like to talk with them, and set up a time for a real conversation. Recognize the limits of texting as a way of communicating!"
And what more can you do beyond cutting back on texting? Try spending less time on your phone altogether. Both iPhones and Android devices now offer many apps and even built-in programs to help monitor and limit smartphone use. (Fear not, we still give you our blessing to text a friend to ask if they want to catch up — in person, over coffee.)