As people work to reduce their screen time and find more time to pursue their true interests, it’s often hardest to minimize time spent messaging. Personally, I’ve reduced to around 6 hours of screen-time outside of schoolwork per week, with around 4-5 hours a week on iMessage. Crazy, I know, but it’s not that rare. With >60% of people responding to a text message within 2 minutes, and most people (77%) using their phones to text, it’s no surprise that average Americans spend 24 hours a week checking e-mail, texts, and messaging.
All of this has been going on in my mind, and one of my readers left me inspired to write this article. They commented
Hi Kendrick, found your blog recently. I’m a student in the UK who has recently given up all social media and your writing is really helping to remind me of the longterm benefits – thank you so much.
I wanted to ask you how you got your screen time so low! Despite lacking social media, I kept a lot of messaging apps and there are days where I have to check them and get into time sinks.– Y
So, without further ado, welcome to Don’t Text, Call Instead!
See Messaging For What It Is
Can you visualize yourself reading and sending a text message? Try not to bring judgement or opinion, but rather just see texting for what it is.
It’s important to see things as they are. When you send a text, you are more likely than not looking at a small screen, tapping imaginary buttons, slightly bent forward.
This experience, clearly, lacks in all ways human connection. Nowhere in this picture is eye contact, body language, or tone.
The University of Texas at Permian Basin has an article where they break down language researchers’ work. In some contexts, the actual words spoken amount to 7% of the actual emotional conveyance. That means up to 93% of the conversation doesn’t happen when you have a text convo.
Sending a text is not a substitute for actual face-to-face conversation, and it will never be. Phone calls are a bit better, including tone. Further, Zoom/FaceTime is even better for this as we can actually see who we are talking to. There are still issues with it, such as lag and fatigue, but it’s certainly better than a text.
Breaking Free From Screens & Minimize Time Spent Messaging
When you are sending a text, you are not really having human connection. Sure, the other person receives your text and they must bend forward and look at a small screen, but wouldn’t it be better if we all made time to actually hear from each other?
There are some limitations. People do not necessarily live near their families or near friends, and with poor internet texting is the only option to keep in touch. Sometimes, texting is the only option, and that’s fine.
It should, however, remain a last resort.
Messaging technology places itself right in between a critical human function. The platform LiveScience reviewed a series of articles and scholarly journal entries from multiple research departments, including University of Texas and Columbia University. They write about how “the brain is wired to be social” and how people talking to each other can become electrically synchronized in the brain.
We are built to be around each other. We are not meant to get 6+ hours/week of social time through a computer or smartphone.
Why Is Social Connection Important?
Across the board, high-quality social connections are important to well being. Stanford Medicine has such a strong statement on this, written by Doctor Emma Seppala, that I’ve elected to include it in it’s entirety:
One landmark study showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.
On the other hand, strong social connection:
– leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity
– strengthens your immune system(research by Steve Cole shows that genes impacted by loneliness also code for immune function and inflammation)
– helps you recover from disease faster
– may even lengthen your life!
People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. In other words, social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.
Unfotunately, the opposite is also true for those who lack social connectedness. Low levels of social connection are associated with declines in physical and psychological health as well as a higher likelihood for antisocial behavior that leads to further isolation.– Dr. Emma Seppala, Stanford Medicine
It’s not just this one article either. Illinois State published an article called “Social connections important to well-being“, and both of these are just from the first few results of a search. There are hundreds of research papers on the topic, as well as countless lived experiences. Being connected in-real life is beneficial and healthy for almost everyone.
It’s important to stay connected. Talking to people face to face helps us stay connected, and texting is not a viable substitute for talking face to face with people. As a result, it’s important to minimize time spent messaging and work to increase the amount and quality of real-life social interactions.
For those born during the era of the smartphone, this may be counterintuitive. These are the times where some of the most important conversations happen through text message, and that is not great for life-quality or wellbeing.
Take some time today to call someone you would ordinarily text. Why not make plans over the phone instead of a message? Both of you were going to take the time to type out a message and read a response, so it’s generally more convenient for the both of you to talk over the phone.
If the idea of reducing screen time seems alien or strange, take a look at Life Without Social Media.