Message anxiety

A close up of the iPhone home screen showing applications.

Sometimes messaging back can be anxiety-inducing.

It may sound strange to some, but often I will have reminders go off in the day which simply say 'TEXT [this person] BACK'. I will get met with weird looks, and questioned on why I need to remind myself to respond to a message. But sometimes, the unspoken rules of messaging etiquette can cause stress.

For those who don't overthink, it may be easy to laugh at this. How could something as simple and useful as a messaging platform be anxiety-inducing? Well, let me count the ways. For one, there is the pressure to respond in a certain time limit, which can be overbearing when you're having a day of work or study (or you know, time away from your phone!). That is where my reminders come in, because sometimes I will put off a response to someone (usually an acquaintance, rather than a close friend), and may forgot to respond at all. 

There is also the chaos of group chats. I'm in a group chat at the moment with some friends from class, but some people that I don't know as much. There is that pressure to come across a certain way, and my anxiety tells me that new people will read into every emoji, every hehe, and every stylised lower cased message. I found too that if I am messaging someone for the first time, whether it is an individual DM or in a group chat, I overthink the wording as soon as I press send. Should I have included more exclamation marks? Did I come across too formal?

So perhaps that is why messaging can be more stressful than a face-to-face conversation for some: it is the permanence of the act. The message is sent, and it is printed, permanently, forever. Well, that may be a bit dramatic, but you get the point. Unlike a conversation, where you can naturally express yourself, you have to carefully craft how you are perceived. 

How can we work through messaging anxiety? Can it be overcome? I think that I've come to the conclusion that it isn't that important, because surely real tangible social skills are more useful. In the future, I would hope that there is less reliance on online chatting, and we can get more done in-person. Let's hope so anyway. 

Tagged in What messes with your head