I’d had enough. Another guy — this one I met on Bumble, I think — had just ghosted. After messaging on the app, we’d moved to texting, with both of us bookmarking topics we were excited to soon discuss IRL. When he didn’t return a text after four days, I checked in. He apologized, claiming his intended text hadn’t made it through the mobile-waves, evidently, and I gamely started bantering again. Hours later, and nothing. Days later, still nothing. He was gone. No drama, no games, no explanation. Just absence.
I didn’t lose any sleep over him, but I admit to disappointment. More than that, I wanted out of this game. Connecting with others is instantly at our fingertips, but the lack of integrity in this kind of communication has more and more of us feeling a pull to disconnect. So I went to www.NoTextWeekend.com and signed a pledge to join thousands of others in not texting for an entire weekend, September 23rd – 25th.
Allison Goldberg and Jen Jamula are the founders of the No Text Weekend and the creative team behind Blogologues, a comedy show where a rotating cast performs Internet exchanges verbatim onstage in wildly reimagined scenarios. Their work explores how technology affects communication and, with texting specifically, how it’s changed the way in which we converse altogether.
“We’re not anti-text,” Allison starts off. “Texting has a lot of uses. But now people are starting to use it in place of real conversation. I read an article about a boy who, growing up, had to visit his grandmother every Sunday. Every Sunday he said he wasn’t going to go, and his mom said he didn’t have to if he called his grandmother and told her he wasn’t coming. And so he went every Sunday. He didn’t want to disappoint her with that phone call. Now, he probably would have just texted an excuse, and not gone.”
“Texting allows people to not take responsibility for their actions,” Jen adds.
At its simplest, the No Text Weekend will be an invitation for each individual to explore the space the absence leaves behind. For those of us in our thirties (like Allison, Jen, and yours truly) who grew up hogging landlines from parents and siblings, they speculate that we’ll be shocked at the percentage of communication we now carry out through texting. For the generations after us, who grew up without models showing them how to have personal and professional discussions on the telephone, they hope to change the culture around communication itself, if only for a weekend.
“We want people to try and see how it changes their weekend,” Allison says. “The night before the weekend begins, we’re going to send instructions on how to set up an autoreply on your phone so that when people text you they get a response about what you’re doing, and an invitation for them to call you instead. The idea is, how do we reclaim real conversation?”
Imagine, if you will, an evening out at dinner with friends where, rather than digital conversations competing with three-dimensional ones, everyone will be left facing longer conversations (or awkward silence) instead. Picture the joy of a family member when you’ve called them on their birthday! Or — gasp — dare to end things with someone you’ve been dating in person.
For those who can’t imagine such scenarios without breaking out in hives, the ladies are ready with support.
“When you pledge, you’ll have access to a calendar of events like book talks, talks with psychologists, standup comedy shows, a storytelling at the Moth, things like that,” Allison promises. So far, Moth alumnus Adam Wade, Michaela Murphy, and Andy Christie are on board, as well as comedians Emma Willman and Ashley Gavin. The Blogologues team will be there performing workshops and classes like “How to Leave a Voicemail” and “Why Ghosting is the Worst.” There will even be a singles dating event called “IRL Tinder.”
“With dating, the idea of ghosting is so familiar to all of us that it’s accidental, even,” says Jen. “We have a ton of information coming at us all the time, but I think we should be thinking about how our actions affect other people. There’s a power play that goes on with texting, where whoever has sent the last text has given up their power, and the longer the person on the other end waits, the more power they gain. It’s palpable.”
“It’s dehumanizing,” Allison agrees. “It’s so easy to see the person as someone on a screen, not someone who was waiting for your message and is bummed that you’ve not taken the time to reply.”
“We hope those stories will resonate with people in different ways,” Jen says. “Even our ridiculous show about not breaking up by text, maybe it’ll inspire a dude not to break up that way next time?”
For those who can’t make it to New York City, where most of the events will play out, they invite anyone who takes the pledge to suggest events in their area that the team will help them organize and promote, like discussions about digital health and wellness, or even just private things that can be done with an intimate group of friends, like a book club or a no-text brunch.
“We’re curious as to what kinds of conversations we’ll then be having on September 26th,” Allison wonders. “How can we get people to have that moment of reflection afterwards?”
“It’s a brave new world that we’re all caught up in, without being aware that we’re in it,” Jen finishes. “The weekend should be one where we can take a step back.”
Pledge to take a step back at www.NoTextWeekend.com.
Top photo: Broad City
More from BUST