Photo: Kitti Suwanekkasit (Shutterstock)
In general, SMS is an effortless and productive way to communicate. Sure, it can get annoying when I’m in a group chat that turns into a barrage of missives that I don’t care about. in these cases. The ability to mute an annoying thread is a godsend. But there’s another annoying facet of text messaging that is beyond my control and deserves credit: the apparent inability of some copywriters to resist, like, haha, or on every goodam message I send them Respond to emoji in a different way.
There are probably more than a few of these itchy-fingered texts among your friends and family – people who don’t think of answering even the most mundane messages with cryptic thumbs up, hearts, or exclamation marks, no matter that these texts actually deserve replies could contain – CFSP – actual words.
You might think my handles are little potatoes, but they are Tapback function– which allows copywriters to reply to messages with simple, unwritten answers like question marks, hearts and thumbs up or down – is terribly overworked and makes texting even more impersonal. Discourse blog Recently it was suggested that the time has come to reach consensus on how to properly use the thumbs up emoji when texting, but I would take the problem a little more vehemently: you need to use your tapbacks sparingly and strategically and use actual words more often.
Some smaller texts go a long way
Reacting to a text with a heart tapback is no substitute for a thank you. Incidentally, sending a heart emoji also pales in comparison to a “thank you” – especially one followed by an exclamation point. (I don’t make the rules, it’s just like that unspoken subtleties of SMS can flummox even the most prudent of us.)
When I text you wish a happy birthday, simply responding to the message with a heart doesn’t tell me that you appreciate the gesture. For me your reaction is a non-verbal yawn, an indication that honors have been received on your very special day that make it impossible to say a “thank you”! as you wade through the flood of good wishes.
The same is true of many other types of messages. Why would you put a thumbs up or an exclamation mark on my message and ask, “What are you doing tonight?” Has our brain been messed up by the sheer number of screens and digital notifications vying for our attention? When in response to simple messages like “Do you have plans tonight?” The answer is probably yes.
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A text – although it has no tangible emotions and nuances than any other form of discussion – is supposed to be a conversation. And tapback, especially in a text chain between two people, doesn’t encourage the conversation at all. It’s more like a bear trap holding up a discussion.
When someone sends you a joke or a good wish, I think it’s okay to respond with a tapback when it is followed by other subtle textual affirmation. I often throw in a “lol” or a “nice” to confirm that I actually read the message and didn’t fall off a cliff while looking at my phone.
When tapbacks are good
Don’t get me wrong: if we look at tapbacks at their lowest functional level, they can be very useful when used sparingly. Does someone tell you to remember to lock the back door before you leave the house? Respond with a thumbs up – it indicates the message was received and that you understand the importance of not being broken into. Are you in a group chat where someone’s jokes light the thread? A simple “haha” response will do – you don’t have to overshadow the prankster or try to yell at the sound.
A tapback is also a great way to indicate a point. Are you trying to end the back and forth of a conversation? Just put a thumbs up on the final message, which suggests that the message was actually received, so to speak.
However, it is important that we not abuse the power of tapback. It has its undeniable usefulness, but whether or not it is appropriate depends heavily on the context. So when I text you, “Hey what’s up?” Please, for the love of all that is decent in this world, don’t answer with a thumbs up. Send me a text. It’s right there in the name.