Texting, emailing… talking? What’s the right balance?

Dr Gary
By Dr GaryCA Latest Reply 2017-06-26 10:22:23 -0500
Started 2017-05-21 14:01:34 -0500

I love technology. I think it has revolutionized the way we communicate. This site is an example.

But I also have concerns about how we communicate via technology in situations in which we need to be having direct, human-to-human contact. Voice to voice, face to face, in the moment. Back and forth texting, sometimes with long stretches of time between texts, are all too often not up to the task we are trying to accomplish. (And I won’t get started on my experiences with how clients get caught up in long email chains!)

Chronic conditions can heighten your emotions. Due to ongoing concerns about your health, your partner may be more likely to have an emotional reaction when you text, or even email, about your health. Without hearing your voice, and seeing your facial expressions, it can be difficult to know if a health-related issue you bring up is a big deal or a small deal.

I wrote an article about this awhile back. Here is a link:


So what you about at your house? How do you keep the balance between texting, emailing, and talking in person? Have you had any experiences when, for example, texting wasn’t quite adequate to the challenge? Any ground rules you have in pace regarding how you use electronic communication?

I’m looking forward to hearing your perspective so please jump into the conversation!!!

19 replies

Type1Lou 2017-06-26 10:22:23 -0500 Report

Not exactly a response to your discussion but it reminded me of an Isaac Asimov novel I read many years ago where people communicated more and more via technology to the point where face-to-face contact became extremely uncomfortable. I think Asimov was truly a visionary…wish I could remember which of his many novels this was. As for me, I still don't have a smart phone, so no texting. I find it incredibly rude when having dinner with a friend and they aren't able to tear themselves away from their phone. I do love doing face-time with the family…one of the benefits of technology!

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2017-06-25 20:13:50 -0500 Report

My sister and I always talk however, there are times when we will text but that happens if we are not in the house.

With all the I do in the community, I am always sending and recieving emails and text messages. Being that I am a Police Council President, I receive text messages from our district Major and Captain. All 9 of us must be informed if we have a major crime in the district. I always talk to one of them by phone. There are also times when we have a conference call with the Police Commissioner or Mayor. This past Tuesday I did an interview via telephone with a newspaper reporter.

When it comes to my doctor it was a mixture of face to face or telephone call if there is something I need to know about a test result.

Humans have always had various means of communicating. I think it is up to each individual how they choose to communicate. I can communicate face to face, texting, tweeting, email or phone calls and still get my point across. .

MargieWood 2017-05-31 13:29:12 -0500 Report

My husband and I are empty-nesters with grown kids/grandkids. Also, this is not our first marriage, and communication is so important. While we do love our technologies, we eat dinner at the table and talk-about things, all kinds of things. We laugh, cut up and half the time we have to go find our cell phones or the TV remote. This all came about as part of our weight loss regimen, to focus on how much we eat/don't eat out of habit. On weekends, we leave our cell phones in the house as we work outside. Kids have stopped by to "make sure we're OK (you know how feeble we get as we age), fussing the whole time that they've been texting and trying to call us! Just thought I would share that it is possible and VERY rewarding. Best benefit: You grow even closer to your partner too!

Anonymous 2017-05-30 18:03:14 -0500 Report

My boyfriend is a farmer and I don't get to see him much. When we do talk it's by phone or in person but I feel very alone overall and miss having voices instead of texts all the time.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-05-30 21:41:01 -0500 Report

Hi! Good example of how texting doesn't accomplish what a voice and/or a face can. Sometimes texting is the best we can do, at least it's a way to be in touch.

suecsdy 2017-05-24 11:37:09 -0500 Report

I very rarely text. I do email my Dr with a question and communicate via messenger on fb, but I really prefer actually calling someone and talking. It's just easier and more satisfying for me.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-05-24 20:25:26 -0500 Report

Hey suecsdy, a lot more satisfying is right. We owe each other our full attention and the time required.

Stuart1966 2017-05-23 21:53:42 -0500 Report

Interesting… I actively work at NOT texting.

It is a careless, and entirely NON attentive method by which to interact in my opinion. Important things, critically important things, face to face only, voice to voice if left no other choice.

I reject most electronic communication, too many will not put it down, it offends when I'm sitting at the same table with you.

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2017-05-30 20:05:03 -0500 Report

Stuart, I don't think it is careless because at times I have no choice but to text. I check my phone all hours of the day and when I wake up at night. I get text messages from the police department and If a major crime occurs in my district I have to know about it. Therefore, the Major or Captain will send a text as soon as possible. I have a problem with people who do it in church or at the dinner table.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-05-24 20:24:20 -0500 Report

Stuart, agreed. So much needs to be saved for an in-person conversation. I think we have all had a conversation in some form of e-communication that shouldn't have been. I also don't like someone texting when they are in a conversation with me. It really makes me crazy when my students do that.

Stuart1966 2017-05-25 14:22:50 -0500 Report

And YET the irony we are acquainted because of electronic communication. -WG- Even so, prefer, FAR prefer face to face… always and anytime. (Even remotely nearby folks lets
have some tea together!)

<<…we have all had a communication in some form of e communication that shouldn't have been…

In recent memory yes… got "ex-communicated" from a place I was a senior member & instructor just shy of 25 years, by email. I was running for the exit, but even so… was offensive and not forgivable.

At home, ZERO electronics at the table. And none in our
bedroom if I can get them "out of her cold dead hands". Had a debate or two over that one, but winning more than loosing hopefully.

Ha… if they are STUDENTS, teacher Gary can compel them not to do so . Some pretend it as some kind of "multi-tasking" two, three conversations/activities at once. To me it is doing NONE of them with the attention which they merit and genuinely deserve.

Nick1962 2017-05-23 18:04:03 -0500 Report

This is a serious topic for me – one I may blog/rant on if I ever find the time. I like technology, I use technology, but technology has its place and time. I do instant message and Skype with people I need daily contact with – mainly coworkers (or ex-wives). Basically, communications that have no emotional content. I am careful to craft them that way.

Friends I can’t readily get together with (out of state), but want to keep touch with I will sit down and send out a brief but thought-out e-mail (I’m not a “chatter”). These can and often do turn into long strings. I avoid using the phone because it’s rare two people have the same block of time to share, especially when you cross time zones. Yes, technology has enabled us to expand our world which fascinates me, but the lack of visual or aural feedback frustrates me (and at times causes problems), so I tend to be a bit reserved, and make sure my words are clear. Some topics I avoid completely.

Local friends are another story. I don’t instant message, and if any e-mail goes more than a paragraph, or three “exchanges”, I insist we get together. There is a reason these people are my friends, and it’s not because I’m attracted to their font choice or use of emoticons. I care about these people, enjoy the small smile they offer when we see each other, enjoy what their eyes do when they talk, the smells of things when we get together whether it be their hand lotion, or the drift of a scent from a bakery down the block. These things create memories you just can’t from text. I also use body language as cues to tailor the conversation. You can tell people are happy or hurt just by looking, and that can really cut down on unnecessary words. I “bank” or save all those small e-mails or texts I’m tempted to send so we have things to talk about over wine or even mini-golf. Again, I care about these people, so I make an effort, but it’s not one way – I require they turn off their phones as well. My “friends” have no problem with that (mostly – I have a few FOMO addicts in the bunch).

It’s a shame technology is taking some of that away from us, and I hate to see it. Hopefully as we become more comfortable with all this new technology, we’ll develop how to utilize it correctly.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-05-24 20:22:25 -0500 Report

HI NIck, nice to see you again. I appreciate your perspective here. I also like those newsy email chaings, which allow groups of friends or family to keep each other posted on events in their life. Email is a good medium for posting news, I think. And I agree, there are some topics to avoid completely, instead stick to the facts. That's very funny about valuing friends because they people, not for their font choice. And as much as I like emoticons, they can help to indicate emotional intent, like a smile, but they are not a way of expressing emotions. Those are very good examples your provided of why we need to communicate in person. I see you have set standards for yourself, in terms of how you want to communicate with people you care about. I like that.

GabbyPA 2017-05-22 09:50:14 -0500 Report

Staying in touch and really communicating are two different things to me. Keeping in touch works with technology. Keeps me up on things that are surface issues or just dates and events. But when it comes to deeper things that are going on, face to face is still best for me. I write well, and can articulate my feelings pretty well on screen or in a letter (yes, I still write letters, cards and use postage stamps) But there are times when you just have to SEE what is going on that is hidden bahind the screen. There is nothing stronger than eye contact, a big hug and a good cry or laugh together. Sorry, but LOL just doesn't do it.

I don't text except for work and I only do that when I have no other option. I have never skyped and I suppose that would be almost as good as face to face. I prefer the phone or hanging out with my family or friends. It is good that there are many options now, making contact more available. I have several family members who are far away that social media is how I keep up with them. We share things with each other that we are doing and it makes us feel connected. It is a good bridge until you can see them in person.

This site is a great example of how electronic communication can work really well, or really poorly. Like you said, our emotional state when we are on here is not "seen" and it sometimes needs to be the background for our words that can be very misconstrued if we are not careful. Shoot, even if we are careful, words can be taken wrongly. I know I am grateful for the delete key! But while technology is great, it is not human contact and as much as communication may seem to be based on just words, it is not....it needs that contact.

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-05-24 15:44:57 -0500 Report

HI Gabby, thanks for your thoughtful response. Yes, you are a great writer. I always feel your realness coming through in your posts, for sure, and I am sure your family and friends experience that in your written communications, as well as in person. And you said it so well. I tell people that texting is great for "Just confirming I will meet you at ten" or "Have a great day!" But if the other person is not having a great day, then this needs to be communicated in person, not in a text. It is that back and forth texting that can lead to a lack of communication, misunderstanding, hurt feelings, anger. Very risky, to say the least. I do some skyping, and face-timing. Skyping with clients, face-timing with family. I agree that this works pretty well, less chance of misunderstanding I think. And yes, this site is a great example of the strengths and pitfalls of e-communication. We have had tremendous success here, I agree, but a few glitches along the way. Thanks for checking in, as always.

haoleboy 2017-05-21 19:31:12 -0500 Report

this is a big issue for me. other than my son, daughter in law, and three young grandchildren my only means of communication with my other family, friends is via social media, email or text
not very satisfying, but the alternative is being even more of isolated than I already am

☮ Steve

Dr Gary
Dr GaryCA 2017-05-24 15:21:55 -0500 Report

Hey Steve, I can relate. I have had to adjust to clients who want to text about appointment times, though I set limits about texting anything beyond that. My friends and family are of course another story. This is the world we live in.