Recently, we talked about lashing out online and the effects it can have to other people that we interact with on social media. We mentioned that since social media is mostly text, it can be hard for the person you’re talking to to fully understand how you’re feeling, and your words can feel even harsher without a face behind it. This week, we wanted to talk about being on the other side.
Let’s face it. We’ve all overanalyzed text messages from crushes, coworkers, friends, family, and even strangers. Adolescents who are constantly connected are likely overanalyzing all the time. They may be thinking, “What does it mean if someone is using just one emoji? Is it normal for them to constantly end sentences with periods? Is the way that someone talks to you exclusive just to you or does it seem like they’re that cold with everyone? Wait, this person only responded to your text with two words, or even worse, just a “thumbs up” reaction. Does that mean they want to stop talking to you? Are you being annoying?”
Clearly, it’s incredibly easy to spiral and snowball based off of one text, no matter how close you are to the person. Those with anxiety and depression, specifically with social anxiety, are also more likely to fall into this pattern of thinking, blaming themselves and thinking that the way people act is a direct reaction to what they specifically are doing and saying.
We wanted to share a couple of tips with you to share with your child about how to recognize that text never paints the whole picture of a conversation, and is much less a representation of one’s relationship with someone. First off, remind your child that everyone has their own style of texting. There is no standard way of texting to get a message across, and things like personality, age, and the amount of time someone even spends online can affect how they communicate. Just because someone doesn’t use acronyms and types in perfect grammar doesn’t mean they’re mad at them or don’t consider themselves close to you, but might be used to typing that way because of their job, for example.
Everyone’s way of typing can always change too. Depending on what sites we go on and which people we talk to, our ways of typing and texting can always adapt. If your child has a friend who often uses emojis and see that they’re using them less frequently, they might think that they’re mad at them and being cold because there isn’t a cute smiley or animal accompanying their message. Maybe they feel like they don’t like using emojis anymore, or someone else told them to cut it back, and in fact, they might be feeling self-conscious about how they type.
There are tons of other reasons to help us feel better if we think someone is mad at us over text. These include remembering that something else could be affecting the person, which in turn affects how they’re interacting with us, and reminding ourselves that our brains often go to the worst-case scenario, so we should tell ourselves that the person isn’t mad at us, but is talking to us with good intentions.
Has your child ever been upset because of a conversation you two have had over text? Have you ever thought your child has been “dramatic” because of something someone texted them?
Activity: Ask your child to share a text message exchange between you two that they got upset about. Have a conversation about what both of you were feeling at that time.