You probably wouldn't think twice about texting your best friend about an annoying work problem, or about your relationship issue, but some experts say all that texting could be causing us unwarranted stress.
That's because texting, especially if you're messaging friends about personal problems, comes with a good amount of uncertainty, Danielle Einstein, PhD, director of distinct psychology at Macquarie University, says in an essay for The Conversation.
Technology, Einstein says, has made it more difficult for us to manage uncertainty, and not being able to sit with uncertainty makes us more anxious.
"Unfortunately some apps, such as Messenger or the 'read' message setting of the iPhone, tell the sender whether the other person is online or has read their message," Einstein wrote. "We need to retrain ourselves, and our teenagers, to stand up to such clear manipulation of their FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and fear of rejection. Learning to face uncertainty is essential to managing our mental health."
Einstein isn't the first to point out technology's tendency to make us feel left out or insecure. Earlier this year, Bree McEwan, PhD, assistant professor at DePaul University, told Refinery29 that texting is a complicated form of communication precisely because it's so full of uncertainty — especially when you're waiting for a crush to text you back.
It's the same idea that Einstein talks about in her story. You send a text to a crush or a friend, maybe about something personal, and then wait — constantly checking your phone — until they respond. In times when you're talking to someone who doesn't text back quickly, your anxiety builds as you wait.
Einstein believes that we can remedy that anxiety by sitting with the uncertainty of how that person will respond, and try to be less worried about the outcome. (Easier said than done, we know.)
"Being more comfortable with uncertainty improves a person’s ability to cope with worry and is closely associated with improvement for those experiencing anxiety," she wrote. "By sitting with uncertainty, a person gradually learns to distract themselves, let go of trying to control situations and realizes they can survive the distress of 'not knowing' in the situation."
Read these stories next: