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Textiquette: Keep it out of church

Texting. Some of us are doing it this very second; in fact, we are most likely waiting on a reply while reading this article.

While making instant contact is the norm in Westernized society, it doesn't change the fact that what was once vocalized conversation has now been integrated into routine, digitized multitasking.

It doesn't change the fact that we're retreating farther and farther behind our technological barriers.

It might not be a conscious thing. Sometimes we hear our phones ringing and we ignore it, thinking, "Who has time to talk right now?" We'll text whoever it is back in a minute, no big deal.

But that's not always the case when it comes to texting. Sometimes we forget there is still a line between "no big deal" and plain old bad manners.

When we talk etiquette of any sort, we should really go straight to the top: What would manners queen Emily Post have said about texting?

Her great-great-granddaughter, Lizzie Post, who is helping to keep etiquette alive and relevant, boils it down to this: "Text messaging is a strictly casual affair."

A strictly casual affair. From important discussions to dating to formal church settings, recognizing and understanding the boundaries of texting can only win you points.

It used to be that we exchanged phone numbers. Then we would sit and wait to see who called first. What am I going to say? How do I get out of it if it's not going anywhere? How do I keep him or her on the line if it seems to be going well?

Texting has made anxiety-ridden phone calls a thing of the past. Now we can curl up comfortably, instead of pace the room, and engage in 160-character flirtation.

Nick Barfuss, 22, and Denise Goldy, 20, became engaged this past December after 2½ months of dating. When they were apart, texting was their main form of communication.

"We hardly talked on the phone, to be honest," said Barfuss, who admitted he asked Goldy out for the first time over text.

The pair would rack up more than 5,000 texts one month on Barfuss's phone bill.

"I was fine with it," Goldy said. "It was our way of communicating with each other since we both had to go to work.

With unlimited texting on both of their phones, it saved Barfuss and Goldy talk minutes and money on their phone bills.

But Goldy acknowledges there's a definite stopping point. "I find it totally tacky for two people to decide 'oh, well, let's be boyfriend and girlfriend' over text. If you're ready for that, you better come talk to my face!"

Barfuss admitted that it was initially easier to text since he could "hide his emotions" a little more so he could avoid getting hurt.

After all, how much more comfortable is it to text "how r u?" to start up a dialogue rather than leaving an awkward message on someone's voicemail? Hey, uh, this is so-and-so from that singles activity three weeks ago. Remember?

For opening up the lines of communication, something as casual as a text message is appropriate. It helps us to be a little braver.

But when it comes to asking that person out to dinner, it's time to open our mouths.

A phone call has come to mean you're important. A call means someone has carved out a tiny piece of his or her busy life in order to focus on you or me.

Stephen Weber, a BYU student ward bishop and the director of the Orem Institute of Religion, suggests it's fine by the fourth or fifth date to text "Are you busy tonight?" but then arrange details in actual conversation.

Weber further advises to never "text your heart," be it to express tender feelings … or to break up.

Certainly, if there's one hard-and-fast texting rule in relationships, it's this: Never, ever break up over text. That's placing your boyfriend or girlfriend beneath both convenience and technology.

"Don't text and say, 'Gosh, we're not right for each other' or 'Gosh, I'd like to move this to the next level,' " said Weber. "We need to have DTRs face to face."

If we do ever get a break-up text message, we're better off without someone who doesn't do us the courtesy of sitting down and having a talk.

Barfuss asked Goldy to marry him the tried-and-true way, taking her up to the temple and getting down on one knee. He insists he would have never texted a marriage proposal.

"We actually talk on the phone a lot more now that we are engaged," he laughed.

One rumor has it that actor Ryan Reynolds proposed to wife Scarlett Johansson over text message, to which he drolly commented: "The hardest part was to compress all of that love, all of that joy into just one text message. And then it was just hitting send."

Likely, Reynolds was mocking the insinuation. Either way, the problem is clearly illustrated: If you're ready to take the next step, why on earth would you let your phone do the talking?

Wendy Kanno, a relief society president from Lehi, Utah, received a text from her future son-in-law asking permission to marry her daughter.

"He and my daughter had been friends their whole lives," Kanno said. "They started dating, and things got serious.

"Then one day I get this text: 'I don't know what the proper protocol is for asking your permission to marry your daughter, but we should set something up.'"

Kanno can laugh now, but her first reaction was "Are you kidding me?"

She made him sweat it out. She texted him back: "I'll let you know."

Kanno understands approaching a proposal, or future parents-in-law, can be scary. Even so, Kanno suggests the proper protocol: "Always gather up your courage and do it in person."

Should cell phones and church mix and mingle?

Ned Christensen, a counselor in a singles ward in Eugene, Ore., estimates 90 percent of his ward texts. "It's a wonderful tool for getting people to activities," he said.

He points out that sometimes it's even a matter of urgency, like if they have to reschedule an excursion to the 100-miles-away Portland Oregon Temple.

Still, etiquette lines need to be drawn at some point.

Both Christensen and Weber assert that once we move into a church calling, such as visiting and home teaching, it needs to be done face-to-face.

As a bishop, Weber once had a young woman in his ward ask if she could do tithing settlement over the phone. "I said, 'No, no, you can't!' That's not appropriate. Some things are too important, too formal or too sacred to be done any way but in person."

The same goes for texting during sacrament meeting. Christensen keeps his phone on up on the stand on Sundays since someone might text him in the congregation to let him know that so-and-so is out in the lobby and needs someone to reach out and invite them in.

"But it's definitely not appropriate to be texting for any other reason during that sacred time," he said.

Weber points out that those who pull out their cell phones in church meetings should remember there's a "triangle" of people behind them who can see not only what they're doing — but can get distracted by it.

"If I see a little blue screen shining near me, I look over," he said. "I stop paying attention."

Which is certainly not fair to speakers or teachers. So unless it's being used as a missionary tool to encourage other young adults to join in, it's safe to say "Put it away."

We should be conscious of not missing out on a deep conversation or an uplifting talk because we were too busy hunched over our little QWERTY keyboard.

In all situations, spiritual and social, texting should be treated as an additional communication tool but not as the primary medium.

Our crushes, significant others, mothers-in-law and bishops will appreciate the show of consideration and courtesy.

e-mail: eschmuhl@desnews.com

Tale of the texts

30 days a month times 24 hours a day equals 720 hours a month.

720 hours a month times 60 minutes an hour equals 43,200 minutes a month.

43,200 minutes a month divided by 6,415 texts a month (according to his phone bill) equals a text every 6.7 minutes.

If Barfuss averaged 8 hours of sleep a night (which may be a slightly inflated considering he's a young buck with a social life) his texting time would be cut to roughly 16-awake hours a day.

16 awake hours times 30 days a month equals 480 possible texting hours a month

480 possible texting hours times 60 minutes an hour equals 28,800 awake minutes for possible texting.

28,800 awake minutes divided by about 6,415 texts a month equals (drum roll) Barfuss receiving a text every 4.5 minutes on average.

We would also eliminate minutes Barfuss spent each month showering, shaving, going to church meetings and driving from his available texting time like we did his sleep, (which would lower that number to a text every 3-point-something minutes), but we're highly suspicious those obstacles stopped, or perhaps even slowed, the thumb typing