Why Text Arguing Can Be Better Than IRL

Photographed by Rachel Cabitt.
“I have some things I want to discuss. Can we meet in person and chat?”
For me, those are some of the scariest words that could ever flash across my iPhone screen. It’s like impending doom, because in my experience, the person sending that text never really has anything good to tell me. I’ve never gotten a text like that, and then met with the person and been told I’ve won the lottery, or that I’d be given free wine for the rest of my life, or that our relationship was moving in a positive direction. No, those words typically signal that shit’s about to go down. So, more often than not, I prefer to hash things out over text message.
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Don’t get me wrong: I’m not someone who shies away from confrontation or a healthy argument. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that, when it comes to certain types of conflicts, I’m much better in writing. In person, I can sometimes let my feelings get the best of me during particularly heated arguments, so writing things out allows me to take a step back and consider what I’m saying before it actually leaves my mouth. Engaging via text also allows me to know exactly what the person wants to talk about before I sit down so I can decide if I even want to engage IRL. (If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching The Sopranos, it’s that you never go into a place without knowing what you’re up against.) So why is text-fighting often considered the immature, inconsiderate route?
In my experience, there are certain situations in which a text message confrontation is completely justifiable. I’ve had mini breakups happen over text, because a guy I was barely seeing wanted to schedule a date to “talk” (a.k.a. initiate a breakup), but I didn’t want to waste my time meeting up with them just to be dumped. And I’ve engaged in political debates with my father over email, rather than over Thanksgiving dinner, because it can sometimes help to have that digital buffer between us — and I’m less likely to insult him and his beliefs if we’re not face-to-face. (Sorry, dad. Love you lots.)

Why is text-fighting often considered the immature, inconsiderate route?

Recently, a friend and I got into a discussion over Google Hangouts. The previous weekend, she’d called me on the phone with an issue she had with my behavior the night before (my big mouth gets me in a lot of trouble sometimes). Thinking I’d done nothing wrong, and in an attempt to get off the phone ASAP so I could nurse my hangover with some breakfast pasta, I apologized and told her I was sorry I’d hurt her. But she was still upset later in the week, which was her right, so she asked if we could meet in person to discuss.
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I knew that this meeting wouldn’t end well. We were both very passionate about our respective sides for different reasons, and I had awful images in my head of us getting increasingly agitated over beers in some bar in Brooklyn. I love this friend dearly, and I didn’t want that to happen. So I decided to engage her over text — or in this case, Hangouts — so that I could really think about what she was saying to me, consider my response, and then respond in a clear way.
Our discussion wasn’t the most elegant debate, but we did eventually get to a point of understanding — and we both apologized. And I feel like a lot of that had to do with the fact that I was able to go back and read what I’d said to her when she felt I was being unfair, and realize why she might take my words that way. Writing out our perspectives also allowed us to take a minute between our words and think about how we were going to respond. Within an hour, our issue was resolved, no subway trip necessary. Talk about efficient.
Now, I’m not saying that text message arguments are ideal for every person or every argument. I can cede that, without facial and vocal cues, it’s hard to know the exact tone of someone’s message. Not to mention, wanting to resolve conflicts in this manner can seem impersonal, if not disrespectful, to some people. And I get that. This is just what I’ve found works for me in specific types of scenarios.
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So, while I’m not encouraging everyone to bitch at each other via iMessage in order to avoid all in-person confrontation, I will say that, sometimes, you’ve just got to do what’s right for you and your situation. For me, not every argument (or every person) is deserving of an IRL chat. If you’re looking to meet up in person to offer me that lifetime supply of wine, however, I’ll be there with bells on.
After being raised on a steady diet of Disney movies, I expected to meet someone and fall passionately in love — but wound up collapsing under the pressures of modern dating. Luckily, I eventually realized that there's no "right" way to date, and that I need to find happiness within myself, no partner needed. It’s Not You is where I write to calm the voices in my head — and hear from all of you. Follow me on Twitter, on Instagram, or email me at maria.delrusso@refinery29.com.
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