On Why Selecting Emojis Is Exhausting.

I have this weird compulsion/habit/tendency where – if someone sends me a message of some sort – email, Facebook, text…anything – I don’t respond immediately because I want more time to compose a good response and then…can you guess what happens?

I never respond at all.

I’ll be surfing Facebook mindlessly when I notice I have a message from someone and I’ll read it but I’ll be on my phone and want to wait until I get to my computer to type a full response.

I’ll be standing in line at the grocery store, or stopped at a red light, when I get a text message that I want to do a longer voice-to-text response to, so I tell myself I’ll wait until I’m not driving, or until I’m not surrounded by strangers.

I’ll get an email that will require some extra thought or time or research and I don’t want to respond until I can put in that time.

Someone will leave a lovely comment on my blog, or ask a good question in a comment, and I’ll want to wait until I have time to focus on the right response.

It happens all the time because I’m wordy (if you haven’t noticed) and I tend to want to be thorough in my responses. Basically, sending a brief message is out of my skill set. I always think something needs more than a quick response and so I am always waiting until I have more time.

EXCEPT I NEVER ACTUALLY GET AROUND TO RESPONDING.

Most of the time it’s because with things like text messages or FB messages, once you read them the “Notification” goes away and it becomes very easy in the chaos of life to forget the message was even there. Sometimes it’s because I’ve waited too long and I feel like it’s too late to respond without making the rudeness worse. Other times I just 100% forget it ever happened because my tendencies for coping with anxiety by focusing on the benign means the important stuff gets lost in the shadows with all of the other important things that I am avoiding.

I’ve tried to do things like not check email unless I have time to actually respond. Or not read Facebook messages unless I’m sitting at a keyboard. But inevitably I’m bored in a waiting room or something and I just scroll through and end up back in the same cycle. I try to set aside a BIG chunk of time to just go through ALL of my forms of communication: FB Messenger, Blog Comments, Emails, Text Messages and respond one-by-one – and while this is usually the best method – it’s hard for me to find time to do that.

However, I feel woefully behind in all sorts of communications so I think I’ll make time today for that kind of focused effort. The thing is, while I always feel 100% better once I’ve “caught up” on all of those unanswered messages, it is really hard to force myself to actually do it.

The more I think about it the more I realize all of this avoidance is because it is simply emotionally draining for me to talk to people, in whatever the form. And while I honestly prefer typed words over face-to-face or phone calls (I can’t edit myself in real time), it’s still draining because any form of communication with another person activates the social-anxiety center in my brain where I have to double and triple analyze every word I’m typing to make sure I’m not saying or doing something ignorant or offensive or insensitive. I’ve even spent 5 minutes staring at an emoji response to a loved one before clicking “send” to make sure it’s the right emoji response. Is the gritted teeth too much? Should I do the winky face instead?

It’s very tough to live in my brain, is what I’m saying. And while it 100% helps to understand my own tendencies it’s still exhausting even if all I’m trying to do is turn off the anxieties and just be natural and brief with my response. I get so mad at myself sometimes, like Come on, Kim. Why do you have to sabotage yourself so much? Most people find sending 1 sentence emails easy! And yet here you are needing a nap after 3 of them.

But I try to remind myself how far I’ve come. I wouldn’t have so many people communicating with me if I hadn’t pushed past my anxieties a little to try to build connections in the first place. I haven’t let the anxieties rule my life, I’m just letting them obstruct my ability to keep communication flowing in those connections. And awareness of that is hopefully the first step to fighting against it.

Maybe today I’ll try to make it as relaxing as possible. I’ll light my favorite candle and keep out my bullet journal so I can write down the communications that need more time or research so they don’t get forgotten. I’ll make some coffee (my favorite drink of choice when I’m typing at a computer) and I’ll sit in a comfy chair and table instead of hunched over my laptop on the couch. I’ll try to set up the time with the AWARENESS of how exhausting it makes me so that I can try to create my own type of supportive environment for “catching up” on all of the emails and messages I’ve been avoiding. Make it something I enjoy even amidst the worry.

I’ll let you know if it worked or if I still spent 30 minutes composing a 1 sentence email to someone before saving it to the draft folder forever.

SLIGHTLY RELATED TANGENT TO END THIS POST: This is one of the examples of blog posts that help me process my own life a little bit. When I started the first paragraph of this entry I was just basically going to outline how bad I am at responding to things. But as I typed my brain came upon the “it’s exhausting” theory of causation and then I ended this entry with an understanding of my own tendencies that I didn’t have before I started writing this post. THIS IS WHY I SAY BLOGGING HELPS MY BRAIN. Something this format of decompressing my life helps me understand it better and I’m so very grateful for that because so many people lack an outlet that has a similar positive effect. Thank you so much for being my sounding board for these type of entries.

7 Comments

  • Kathy

    Thank YOU, because you just articulated why it’s so hard for me to write ANY kind of emai. It is exhausting to feel like you need to be so careful in all of your word choices. Then there is the worry that a response will come back that illustrates that you got the word choice wrong because the recipient clearly did not quite understand the point you were trying to make. ( insert winky emoji here )

  • Jim Grey

    I’ve gone the other way. I try not to have messages piled up waiting, so I tend to respond to most things immediately. My mind has 300 words to say but I never have time for that so everyone gets only 5. It feels thin and shallow, but at least I don’t have the cognitive load of 200 unanswered messages.

  • tb

    Thank you so much for sharing this. My husband doesn’t understand why I agonize over sending messages to people–the group chat for our kids’ sports teams kill me. I definitely think I’ve limited myself in forming connections in part because the process of communicating with people I don’t know is so stressful. Thanks for helping me realize that. I think its awesome that you’ve worked so hard to push past those anxieties to form connections! Maybe I’ll be brave, too. 🙂

  • Olivia

    Have you been reading my mind? Haha. From one social-anxiety ridden person to another, it’s okay. 🙂 We get you, no reply necessary ?

    • Olivia

      (That question mark at the end was supposed to be an emoji with sunglasses meaning “you’re cool, no worries”)

      • Zoot

        I hate how my website is so stuck in the non-emoji era! I keep meaning to google a plugin or something that will fix that!!!