The Hook Up: Text Etiquette

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I like people texting me to know my whereabouts, but then I will get annoyed if they start doing it non-stop, like every single day. I mean, I get that they’re just being a good person and care, but seriously, give me a break. But then I’ll miss them if they stop texting me, and I’m too ashamed to start a conversation because of how I left the last conversation we had. I want people to like me, but when they do, I get bored, and somehow I always find something in them that make me makes me go, “Err.. kay.” I think I can never be in a relationship. I get bored too easily, even if we just started talking. I think there’s something wrong with me.—A Shitty Person

Dear ASP,

There’s something wrong with everyone. Do you find that comforting? I do. Especially when I’m grappling with the nightmare monsters of self-loathing and doubt, as you seem to be.

This started off as a fairly benign texting question and then catapulted into a grandiose (and untrue) statement that you can “never be in a relationship.” Do you really believe that, sugar shoes, or are you being dramatic?  

Either way, your perception of yourself is skewed. And I would encourage you to not view yourself in such limiting terms, particularly those involving excrement. You’re not number two, kiddo. You’re number one!

While you may not be “shitty,” I do suspect you are young, and that is great because it means you have plenty of time to learn and grow and develop into the kind of person you wish to become.

To that end, you don’t have to be in a relationship right now. In fact, I would encourage you to NOT pursue one until you can learn to chillax a little and not take things so seriously.  

Take texting, for example.

You like the attention that comes from hot baes texting you. Who doesn’t? Hot baes! Taco emojis! And you even like a certain amount of daily “check-ins” because it makes you feel desired and appreciated and special. But then another part of you, the rational part, realizes that daily surveillance is annoying and creepy, and you don’t want to be controlled, especially by someone you barely know, so you lash out at the texter and then feel guilty for the mixed messages you’re sending (and the mixed emotions you’re feeling).  

FullSizeRenderillustration by Natasha Miren Terbraak

What to do? Two things. First, you have to learn to get better about setting boundaries—that is, letting people know, in a calm, non-hurtful way, when they’ve crossed a line. If someone is texting you too much, tell them to knock it off. “Hey Hot Bae, I know you’re coming from a caring place, but I’m super busy right now and would appreciate if you sent me fewer ‘where u at’ texts. *taco emoji*”

Second, you need to develop a stronger internal sense of self-worth, one that is not dependent on the constant validation of others. That’s a tall order, I realize. I fail at it all the time. External validation is great. How can I be depressed when 39 people liked my bathroom selfie? Etc. But it’s also fleeting. If we get our confidence from others, then it can get taken from us just as easily.

We all have an inner critic, who is, frankly, an asshole. This inner critic tells us things like, “I’m shitty” or “I’ll never be in a relationship.” While it’s important to learn to accept criticism, our Inner Asshole is of no use to us, or anyone.

How do you turn this asshole into a cheerleader? Here’s a helpful hack. Don’t say anything about yourself that you wouldn’t want to say to your best friend or a loved one. For instance, if your best friend came to you with a texting problem, you would never be like, “Something is wrong with you.” For one thing, that’s not very helpful advice. And for another, it’s not supportive.

In other words, treat yourself with the same compassion you would give to a trusted friend.

Here’s another tip to aid in this self-worth boosting. For the next week, carry a notebook with you everywhere. When you catch yourself hating on yourself, take out the notebook and write down why that limiting belief is not true, and write down an idea for how you can improve.

For instance, Hot Bae texted you 33 times in an hour and you texted back angrily that you hope she’s “on fire somewhere.” Your immediate response might be, “I’m a shitty person!” So you would write down in your notebook why that’s not true. Maybe you always tip waitresses 20 percent. Maybe you call your mother not out of obligation, but simply because you miss her. Maybe you found a wallet on the street and returned it to its proper owner.

And then for next time, you could write: “When I find myself getting mad at Hot Bae, I will turn my phone off for 20 minutes to calm down before texting back.”

The goal is to retrain your brain from being a bully into being a helpful friend. Practice this when you’re down on yourself and you’ll find that obstacles start to feel more like opportunities and not pitfalls and self-loathing.

Good luck, ASP. Or should I say AAP, An Awesome Person.

Anna is a freelance writer in Oakland. Get overly personal emails and haiku from her at tinyletter.com/annapulley. Or Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at askthehookup@gmail.com 

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