Aug
11
2012

Text messages, and why I hate them.

Actually, “hate” might not be strong enough. Despise? Deplore?

Not all text messages are bad, mind you.

I like texts from my wife. I like texts that are of the “FYI” variety.

It worked! — that’s a good text. It’s nice to know that you got it figured out, and I can feel happy with you and then forget about it without having to remember to do anything later.

Found it! — yep, I can handle that. I might even text you back, “great!

Bob dropped off a check for the website — this is a fine use of the SMS protocol.

What, then, are bad texts? My computer is crashing. What do you think it might be?

Wow, where do I start? First, this kind of question requires a lot of troubleshooting that is definitely NOT suitable for texting. Second, text messages imply that you expect an immediate response, but chances are, I’m in meetings for the next 3 hours when I received that text, and I can’t reply. By the time I finish my meeting marathon, I’ve probably gotten 4 more such requests, and remembering which texts I’ve replied to and which ones I need to reply to and which ones I need to call and which ones I need to email…. Well, it’s a little overwhelming.

Or how about this one, “Can you call me tomorrow morning around 10 to help me with a computer problem?

This pops up on my phone. I read it. I have no way to manage it — to mark it as unread, or to flag it as actionable, or to easily add it to my calendar or to-do list. I’m probably on the road or in a meeting when I get it, so somehow I have to remember it long enough to get to a stopping point. Then I have to pull up a calendar to see if I am available at 10 tomorrow. Then I have to schedule it, on my phone, which is not nearly as efficient as if I were at my computer or if someone else in my office scheduled it for me. Then I have to go back to my SMS application and use that tiny keyboard to reply to the text and confirm, and then hope that they confirm back so I’m not holding a slot at 10am when really they aren’t even going to be available.

Is this a rant? Definitely. I don’t write many rants, but I’ve been tempted to write this one at least a hundred times over the past few years. I figure anything that recurs that often probably deserves a rant, so here it is.

Some people love texts. I get that. And I’m happy for you. I might love them if I weren’t so busy, and if I didn’t get so many of them, and if they were more personal in nature. But when most of them are asking for favors or demanding my time and attention…. Well, you can probably understand why they don’t elicit warm fuzzy feelings from me.

It just seems like texts are so primitive. This is the 21st century. We have technology to solve problems like this. Email can be forwarded, flagged, associated with calendar items, delegated. Likewise, I can forward my calls, and have my voicemails transcribed and sent to my email with the original MP3 attached. I can sort them and prioritize them and set reminders and delegate them to the appropriate staff member. But I can’t do any of those things with text messages. At least not easily.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. This morning I spent close to an hour setting up a jailbroken app on my phone that is supposed to automatically forward texts to my email. If it works reliably, I’ll be miles ahead. At least then I can manage incoming texts with 21st-century tools, like flags, labels, folders, task lists, calendars, etc.

Maybe my next text will be, “welcome to the 21st century, SMS.”

Written by in: Business,Technology |

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