Newsflash: Your Dumb Texts Are Probably Being Read by Strangers

How many times have you looked over at a table beside you at a restaurant and watched two friends swap phones as they read one another’s dumb texts?

It probably happened at some point this week, right?

It’s not that they don’t have anything else to discuss, it’s just that some messages provide almost as much entertainment value as a Netflix binge.

It could be that your friend wants to share a ridiculously cute or sweet message from their significant other. Maybe their mom wrote another text message that hilariously proves she has no clue how text lingo works. Especially among single, actively dating young professionals, though, it’s often something questionable from that guy or girl you’re kind of dating (or who wants to be dating you).

And often, these dumb texts contain no shortage of both LOL and shock value material.

Basically, if you’re going to act “crazy,” overbearing, irrational, or pathetic via text, odds are, people you don’t even know (i.e. the receiver’s friends) will end up reading it. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s just the way it is, and it goes both ways.

In the demise of a recent relationship, I made a rookie mistake. I had things to say – a few explanations, a little clarification, and some parting words. So over a few days I sent a series of text messages that were at least three or four inches long (shudder), and in the process rejected my own advice and used my iPhone to wear my heart on my keypad in a pretty intense way. The messages were personal, honest, and contained things I would have said in person or on a good, old-fashioned phone call, had we both not been so caught up with daily life at the time.

The thing is, I would be pretty mortified if he had showed any of his guy friends (and I hope he didn’t). Instead of trying to explain the demise of our streamy summer fling, in theory, he could have easily opened my message, tossed his phone to his buddy, and invited him to read through my messages in all their good, bad, and ugly glory.

You know, the same way that I did the other night when yet another text message came in to add to the pile of unanswered messages from another particular individual. “What’s wrong with this guy?,” I asked a girlfriend, as I flashed my screen in her face and scrolled down to reveal all the unanswered messages above it. Naturally, her response was, “Wow, what a loser.”

But the thing is, most of us have been that “loser” at some point in our lives.

In fact, I became that loser later on that night, when I arrived home with enough of a wine buzz to relapse in the “texting of former flames from the past department.” And no, I didn’t feel great about it the next day, as I imagined he and his buddies recounting their evening over brunch the next morning, complete with the inevitable comparison of text messages, including mine.

Anyway, when it comes to text messaging (or, any form of written communication, really), be smart about it. Just because it’s easy to pour your heart out, express your feelings, “send just one more message in case they reply,” or to borderline harass people from behind a smartphone screen doesn’t mean you should. If nothing else, consider your humility. Really, we’re all better than that.

Think before you text, especially when it comes to dating and matters of the heart.

Before each message, tell yourself that there’s a chance a stranger could read it. Don’t leave anything in writing if you don’t want a paper trial that can be referenced at all times with a few quick clicks. Pick up the phone if you need to have a personal, awkward, or confrontational conversation with someone. Don’t drink and text – it rarely does you any favours. On the contrary, you’ll wake up feeling embarrassed at best (and often mortified) and the other person will have proof that you haven’t grown out of your party days as much as you would like to think you have.

Finally, don’t text stalk someone. Seriously, it isn’t cute. Your persistence is annoying and you’ll look like a total psycho even if you’re not (some people simply have no clue when it comes to dating, after all). As a general rule, try not to double-text. Meaning, if the person hasn’t replied to your last message, why send another, especially within a few days? When you’re dating someone new, one or two double texts is permissible at times. But seriously, if you’re triple-texting (and have allowed ample response time), then you’re basically acting like a desperate fool. I assure you, he or she knows how to get ahold of you, should they want to.

At the end of the day, you’re not only making yourself look bad to the other person, but potentially also their best friend, mom, and even the new person they’re dating (I’ve read them all).

As I’ve said before, remember that just because modern communication allows for instantaneous exchanges of information to take place right at our fingertips, it’s not an open invitation for a hastily decided, free-for-all influx of written words.

Trust me, you’ll regret all your dumb texts later.