The Avid Texter

INTRODUCTION

Once I got to college, my communication with people from home, including my family, definitely decreased. Sure, I talk to my mom on a pretty regular basis, but other than that I talk to people back home on rare occasions. So when I decided that texting was the form of communication I was going to use for this norms breaching experiment, I knew whomever I chose would be pretty taken back. Texting has become a regular, if not the main, form of communication for people of all ages. Instead of calling someone to ask them a question, many people simply text them to get the answer. It saves a lot of time because on the phone, it is much easier to start unwanted and seemingly unnecessary discussion. Although people have meaningless conversation through text messages, sending a text takes about ten seconds while being on the phone can last ten minuets, if not more if the person REALLY wants to have a talk about something.

What if someone who you did not really text that often randomly started texting you a play by play of their day? How would you react? Would you even respond? That is the experiment I decided to do. I texted two individuals, one being my younger sister and the other being a girl who I was friendly with in high school, absolutely everything I was doing. I did not give either person any sort context for why I was doing that causing them both, as one would expect, to question me. In using texting more like Twitter, I was definitely breaking a social norm. What I found is that if we were to do this, people would not only be confused but also get extremely annoyed because that is not what texting is for by any means. Something else that I found was that at first, people may ignore it thinking that the texts are a mistake or simply just overlook it, however, as the texts became more consistent, you would get a reaction out of people.

METHODS

In order to conduct this experiment properly, I had to really think about what individuals I would use as subjects. After thinking for some time, I first chose my sister. She is younger than me and although we are close, when I am away at school, if we need to talk to each other we generally just make a short phone call. We tend to go for multiple days without talking. For me to text her everything that I was doing is something that I knew she would not only be really confused by, but she would also get extremely annoyed by. I also texted her at a time when I knew she would be on her phone. My sister is either not with her phone at all, or her phone is glued to her hand, there is really no in between. I had to use this in order to find the perfect time to conduct the start of the experiment. This lead me to begin my texting in the evening because this is typically when she does not really have many plans and therefore is constantly on her phone.

The second individual I chose was a little more difficult to choose. I started aimlessly scrolling through my contacts to think of someone who I thought I would get a reaction from. It was not until I thought back to whom I was friendly with in high school that I thought of the second individual. We overlapped in a lot of school activities, but never outside of school causing to be what many people would call ‘school friends’. That being said, we overlapped in a lot of what we did at school so we did begin to develop a friendship and would talk when we were not at those activities via text messages. When we both went away to college, however, this texting completely stopped. I knew that this individual was too nice to totally ignore me so I knew that I would definitely get a response and reaction from her, which was obviously the end goal.

In order to document their reactions, I simply took screenshots of the conversations. I also had to make sure I was doing it consistently enough for them to react. I texted both individuals over a two day period so just when they thought they were done receiving my incredibly annoying text messages, they got more! That being said, one individual completely ignored me the second day while the other only really addressed the weirdness of what was going on on day two.

RESULTS

SUBJECT A — The Little Sister

Subject A is my younger sister. She is sixteen and has a whole lot of attitude, especially when I start to annoy her. The first text message was sent at 5:22 pm. I knew by this time, she would be home and constantly on her phone. I had to send her four text messages before I got a reaction out of her. As expected, she was very confused as to why I was telling her everything I was doing.

At 7:04pm, I received a call from my sister, but I ignored it because I knew that answering would have ruined the experiment. After having ignored her phone call, she texted me again questioning what I was doing. Knowing my sister, I could tell she was getting annoyed and that she genuinely was confused about why I kept texting her.

At this point, something happened that I did not expect; my mom called me. My sister had said something to my mom about me constantly texting her and said she thought that someone else may have had my phone. I simply told my mom that I was just letting her know what I was doing. Apparently at the time when I was texting her, my sister was trying to take a nap so I really was annoying her more than I realized; PERFECT.

This is when she completely stopped responding. I stopped texting her for the night, however, the next day I texted her again a few times. She called me three times the next day but did not respond to any of my text messages.

Subject B — The “School Friend”

I had to think a little bit more about how I would start the second conversation. I decided to just dive right in to the experiment because that would generate the most genuine reaction.

“Ok….” definitely not what I expected

Okay…so maybe this girl is not as nice as I had remembered. Not that I expected some friendly reaction, however, I was kind of taken back by her initial response. That being said, I probably would have reacted in a similar way if she had randomly texted me something strange like that.

“Are you drunk?” Definitely did not expect that one either.

At this point, I knew I had definitely confused her. I waited until the following day to text her again to see if she would even bother answering me.

Although it did take her a few hours to respond to my text messages, that was more of the response I had expected from her. “I hope everything is going well with you though!” is a nice way of her saying, I am totally confused why you are texting me and super annoyed by it but I promise I am still the nice and friendly girl you were friends with in high school. She never answered that last text message that I sent.

ANALYSIS & DISCUSSION

Previous to doing this experiment, I had never thought about how someone would react to receiving such unnecessary text messages. Not only were they unnecessary but they were also completely random. By the reactions I received I would assume that texting someone everything that you are doing without telling them why would not be considered a social norm. Texting has become a mass form of communication, however, it is not meant to be used to give a play by play of one’s day. This is definitely why I received the responses I did from both individuals. Additionally, my previous texting habits with both of the people were pretty nonexistent causing them to question my actions even more.

Imagining myself on the other end of this, I would not have responded at first either. I would assume that it was a wrong text message and simply ignore it. Even after the second text message I would probably consider the fact that it was simply a mistake; that they meant to text a different Melissa. After the third text message, however, I would definitely be confused and probably ask them if they realized it was me. Something that surprised me was that Subject B did not ask at first if I was texting the wrong person or even react to the fact that I had not spoken to her in probably a year. The lack of reaction from her initially is definitely something I was not expecting.

Both individuals reacted pretty much in a similar way: confused. Something that Subject A, my sister, did that surprised me was say something to my mom. After conducting the experiment, I told her the reason I was acting that way, and she told me that she really thought that someone else had my phone because of the fact that I never text her and am really never on my cell phone. That in itself is showing how this was definitely not considered normal.

The experiment really showed me that social norms are developed without us even knowing it. Previous to doing this, I had never really thought about the texting ‘norm’ or whether there even was one. All individuals have different texting habits, however, texting someone everything you are doing for seemingly no reason is without a doubt not normal. Due to the fact that this was an experiment, no real harm was done. Yes, two people thought I was a little off while I was texting them, however, it really did not have an impact on my reputation. Breaking social norms on something like Facebook or Twitter could have more lasting effects because of the permanence of those social platforms and the great range of reactions you could get from multiple people. Partaking in this experiment taught me that, in many cases, there are unspoken social norms attached to social media and communication platforms that we all abide by and when those are broken, it is apparent.