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Suler, J. (2010). Interpersonal Guidelines for Texting. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 7(4):358-361.

(2010). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 7(4):358-361

Contemporary Media Forum

Interpersonal Guidelines for Texting

John Suler, Ph.D.

Text communication has become ubiquitous in contemporary culture, whether it occurs via email, cell phones, or online discussion boards and social networks. More so than ever in history, people rely on texting to converse with colleagues, friends, family, and lovers, as well as to form new relationships that might never progress to a face-to-face encounter. As we become more experienced with these text relationships, we discover unique challenges that require new interpersonal sensitivities and skills.

The most problematic scenarios in texting often revolve around the inherent ambiguity in this type of communication. We cannot see and hear the other person, which deprives us of the visual and auditory cues of facial expression, body language, and voice dynamics that convey emotion and meaning. Texting also occurs in a flexible temporal zone that might involve relatively slow “asynchronous” exchanges over the course of days, weeks, or months, as well as much quicker “synchronous” connections that approximate face-to-face verbal dialogue.

These unique qualities of texting create an unusual type of intersubjective space where primary process thinking and unconscious needs, emotions, and transference reactions have a greater influence over interpersonal perceptions and behavior. When discussing these challenges with people who consult me about online relationships, I often find myself referring to a set of guidelines that help minimize problematic texting scenarios - what I like to call my list of Top Ten Texting Tips:

1. Be Clear and Concise

Effective texting means effective writing. Try to be as clear and specific as you can in what you type in order to avoid ambiguities that encourage misunderstandings and possible transference reactions. Also avoid long unbroken blocks of text that resemble free associations, especially when those associations lead to the expression of thoughts and feelings that are better off suppressed. No one enjoys rummaging through someone else's rambling ruminations, as if they are peeking inside the person's private intrapsychic world.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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