Tone Deaf

Day 9

There’s always mountains of stuff to do and to deal with. Communication is such a key aspect of life when you’re tied to others for various reasons. I am definitely not a phone call guy. Texting is so much easier. Plus I actually like writing and believe that I convey my thoughts better when I can think and type, or even not think and type. Now, if you’ve ever read a slice of mine you know pretty obviously that I often say a little thing in way more paragraphs and words than needed. My verbosity is often superfluous and, admittedly pretentious seeming, in retrospect, at times. I very much admire those who are consistently able to squeeze or pierce or tickle with concision in their writing. Such a useful and powerful skill. 

I’m not going to touch my views on social media much here. I have a decent amount of disgust when it comes to a decent amount of it. For both kids and adults there are layers of gross surrounding social media that I have been personally affected by in both my own and my kids’ lives. I use it as a digital scrapbook, mainly, for memories and to share with far flung friends and family. But lots of what’s written in socials has some equivalency with communicating via text, which is why I even bring it up. 

More and more I’m realizing how much is lost in text. I rarely see eye to eye with my kids’ mom on lots of things. But just like when we were married, I pick my battles. The difference then was that we lived together and, thus, spoke face to face mostly. Now, I spend a lot of time holding my tongue. Well, thumbs, I guess, is more apt. There was some miscommunication over a fairly serious parenting thing via text recently that snowballed (very very quickly) into what could be considered our first major fight in probably 7 years. 

And that’s thing with texting, like in most forms of communication it’s not just what is being said or even how, we bring into these conversations our ideas of where the other person is coming from, and sometimes just who they are in general. We infer tone. We infuse bias. Even if it comes from solely within ourselves with no basis in the reality that actually exists in the text message launch or landing point. And sometimes, especially when trying to clear up obvious miscommunication due to these programmer-errors, the missile has already landed, the damage already done, so then trying to put the shrapnel back together by adding more text messages on top of the explosion as a means to provide clarity, you’re really just peppering that person with more info that is not doing what it is meant to. Again. 

Navigating school and emotional difficulties with my son must sometimes be done over text. Working through friend or romantic relationships, texts. And it never seems to work. You shoot out a text, knowing you’ve hit every chord and considered every emotional nuance and somewhere between those characters leaving your phone, bouncing off a satellite in space (that’s how it works, right?) and falling back into your chosen target’s device in seconds, even though the words appear as meant, this new version of the game “Telephone” screws up something. 

“I love you”, “I’m here for you”, “I’m sorry” – they’re just little flicks of info amidst a sea of bytes and pixels on that little display. I cannot count the number of times I’ve sent mini novellas that were actually hours in the making, in my head and then slaved over in a digital editing bay. Then I shut my phone off and turn it on and try to read the paragraphs carefully curated as if seen through the eyes of the person that I usually love for whom these words are meant to move, or swoon, or just convey some form of epiphanic understanding I’ve come to that will now change all of our lives just by finally hitting that “send” button.

Only to be ignored. Hundreds of lines of hundreds of texts over the years. Left on read, I believe the kids call it. That’s happened to me so many times. It’s embarrassing. Your vulnerability unleashed on someone else somewhere else just having a life when suddenly they have this awkward army of words thrown at them. A glance. A skim. Maybe an actual read-through. Then the phone darkens and goes back into pocket and on the other end? Just a weird form of cyber shame. I’ve very seldom been able to get out these movie scene-type speeches in person to people, but if I could it would be hard to imagine the real life version of being left on read. Maybe it’s better to be ignored from far away? Texting makes us feel closer to everyone, regardless of geography. I’m guessing it won’t be long before modern tech figures a way to factor in emotional geography before you hit “send” on what you think might be cupid’s arrow, only to figure out it’s actually a dud. Or a nuke landing on a trampoline that will send it right back. 

“My life in an upturned boat, marooned on a cliff
You brought me a great big flood
And you gave me a lift
To care, what a gift
You tell me with your tongue
And your breath was in my lungs
And you float over the rift”

6 thoughts on “Tone Deaf

  1. I relate to this so much… holding my thumbs and of course, the feeling of shame that comes with the absence of a response. Over the years I’ve become so protective of myself and really just moonlight on the social media sphere because it’s just not worth being upset about. You know?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When emotions are high — or low, the Google Machine needs to have a Time-Lock waiting period. So much grief could be avoided by waiting because it never comes across the way we intended. Tone is only audible.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I both love and hate texting. I don’t like having serious conversations over text, as so many of my friends do. At the same time, I’d rather text with most folks than get on the phone, but my big thumbs and tiny phone screens make for a lot of bizarre typos and funky autocorrect errors.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the honesty in this writing. I tend to be sarcastic, but I have realized many times that sarcasm isn’t heard correctly through text. And the stress I feel over a text I sent that never receives a reply. I wonder if I should resend it in case it didn’t go through, or maybe I send a different text in hopes they see that one and realize they missed the previous text I sent. UGH!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “We infer tone and infuse bias.” I can relate to this so much. I can’t tell you how many fires I’ve had to put out between my ex and I over the way either of us read a text in a way it was not intended to be read.

    Liked by 1 person

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