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SMS: “Technological Enforcement of Good Behavior”

One of the best things I ever did was get rid of text messaging on my phone. I coined a term for this years ago, “technological enforcement of good behavior.” Setting expectations is a good thing because then people have a realistic timeline for response. After having been an on-call SOC IDS engineer, those text alert sounds and visual notifications made me react like a military vet hearing a gunshot every time.

In the days when it was just us techies, SMS was useful because all of us used it for its intended design, “Short Messages.” These included such literary gems as, “Meet me on raised floor in 10,” or “Patch failed. Reimaging.” Nobody tried to have conversations over SMS because we were busy and nobody wanted to walk around staring into a screen like someone staring into one of Piers Anthony’s Xanthian hypnogourds.

Ditching SMS meant I never had to deal sneak attack messages like these again: 

·    “I know you told me not to text, but…”

·    “I know you said not to text you while you’re at work, but…”

·    “I know you’re having surgery, but…”

·    “I know you’re sleeping but…”

·    “I know you just sent money to me two weeks ago, but…” 

·    “Your [insert relative] died” with no preamble or warning during mission-critical conference calls.

·    “Your friend [insert name of late friend] died,” while I was on my first real vacation in years.

·    Having my privacy violated by being added to group texts so that a bunch of people now had my mobile number, even though I never agreed to give it to them.

·    Drama over text messages like, “He broke up with me,” “he didn’t text me back within 1 minute,” or “Come over right now and help me with this [insert self-created emergency/emotional meltdown/find a job/‘drama of the day’].”

·    4 AM Sunday morning after I worked all day Saturday, played a gig all night, then finally got to sleep at 3:30 AM, “I’m going for a walk.”

·    1 AM on a work night, “Hey, what are you doing?”

·    On my birthday, “Happy birthday! Your [insert friend, relative, or acquaintance] was [insert horrible event]. You need to do something about it right now. I have [insert illness].”

·    “I sent an email to you.”

·    “I left a voicemail for you.”

· “Why haven’t you responded to my texts? I’m so upset!” after the people had been told countless times that I hate texting, but the people still ended up angry with me for not responding to texts. These usually came in during work, during a gig, when I was at the hospital, spending time with family or friends, driving my stick shift car, or riding my motorcycle. You know, when it was physically impossible to respond.

·      Text spam, scams, and political messages 24×7 because some wonderful person posted my phone number.

The few fun texts were buried by all the drama and junk. I’ve experimented with turning SMS off many times over the years, and each time I try it again, I can’t stop that reflexive reaction to the alerts. Besides that, people exhibit the same behaviors every time I turn it back on, no matter how many times I nicely ask them to respect my texting boundaries and communication preferences. The fine examples above ruined any chance I had to learn to enjoy texting. With email as my only form of text-based communication, I never have to be treated like I’m on call again!

Best of all, I’ll never be blindsided with bad news until I’m in the right environment to deal with it. Those “bad news” messages always made me feel like someone had emotionally “Goatse’d” me. DO NOT look up this reference if you don’t already know it.

SMS: Technological Enforcement of Good BehaviorBesides that, normal human interaction is so much better than being typed at. I love taking time to meet and speak with people, and really only use email to set up times to do this. Texts always made me feel like I was communicating with an AI anyway.