I was watching a new television show the other night called the “Night Shift” set in San Antonio about a group of medical doctors on -yup- the night shift. The twist is that a big portion served recently in the military. It is not grand television but its a nice show to watch as I try to settle in at night. On a recent episode the female lead character was desperate trying to get a moment alone with her boyfriend, a fellow doctor, so that she could break the news that she was pregnant. The desperate scene reminded me of my own life the last few years.
Close to two years ago, my sister was desperately trying to reach me. She kept calling me but I was in meetings, travel and so on. My family doesn’t believe in leaving voicemail messages. I figured she was calling to tell me of some minor bit or two. Then I was sitting in a meeting with one of my staff members. I hear my phone ping. I look down and it is a text message from my sister. I click on it and there I see the words “I am pregnant.” Wow, I was absolutely floored. That news was completely unexpected. I texted her back “Wow. I’m surprised.” I finished my meeting and called her. She noted that she had not wanted to text the news to me but I was always busy. Indeed, I had been. Indeed, I always am.
Fast forward to three months ago. I was trying to let two different colleagues know, before the rumor mill hit, of my resignation and new job. There was no other way to let one of them know other than by text. I had to download the “WhatsApp” messenger and send about three texts. He wrote back that he was in shock. I then moved on to the next person. She and I were scheduled to talk but everytime we had to reschedule. At one point we even managed to talk for a minute and then had to hang up when another issue came up in the moment. Eventually, I decided to text her. I told her my news. Five minutes later she called me and we had a talk about the future direction of my life for about five minutes.
Breaking news via text is an odd experience, to say the least. You write in short sentences something extremely important to you and you send it out into the void. You then wait and wait for a reaction. Often, the reaction is the wording “Wow.” What do you take away from that? What can you take away from that? The emotions are running wild in your fingers as you text. However, it is a cold void that you are breaking your big news into. I can only imagine thousands of people are experiencing this everyday.
We are walking around with important news to share yet we often just have to throw the news out there and hope for some pithy short-phrased text to ricochet back to us. I don’t believe that our hunger for a visceral reaction from others to our news is satisfied in this way. Although, admittedly, when people do eventually call their emotions are “all in” at that moment. It is fleeting but it does happen. And once that happens, we start sending out other text messages to other people with our breaking news. It becomes a bit addictive. Perhaps that is why we now sign up for braking news alerts from cable news channels such as CNN and Fox News. We hear the ping and we are all of a sudden Pavlovian dogs running to see what is happening in the world. And boy do we get angry when the breaking news alert is about some silly ting such as Ted Cruz has just announced he is running for US President. When we run to our text alerts we want to read about life-shattering events such as the crashed plane or a tsunami.
It is as if we want to now be startled and surprised by our text messages. It is an interesting state of being in that most text messages are dribble and empty of most meaning. In particular, texts have become dribble as they contain mostly LOL, SMH and word! Yet, at the same time, many text messages are being used to break news in particular because we are too busy to talk to each other. What is a modern girl to do?
Pick up the phone to talk or text? Depends on what’s your damage, heather.