Texting Fatigue? How To Avoid Feeling Anxious When You Don’t Feel Like Responding Immediately
“Texting fatigue” refers to the feeling of exhaustion we may face when we think of responding/while responding to messages.
Though texting fatigue is something I was familiar with pre-pandemic, this feeling has become more common as we progress through the pandemic. Why is this happening?
An article suggested that texting involves emotional labor. It can feel difficult to give attention and time to someone when we barely have the stamina to care for our well-being. The weight we place on texting may have shifted since the pandemic as there is greater pressure to get things right (due to restrictions and lockdowns, the option of in-person communication is not as readily available as before).
How do we avoid feeling anxious or exhausting our social energy when we do not reply to our texts immediately? Here are some pointers:
1. Be compassionate with yourself and accept that texting fatigue happens
I’m probably not the most qualified person to write about solving texting fatigue when I have unread texts in my inbox that I have yet to respond to in weeks (one of them is at least a month overdue… I am not proud of it.)
On one hand, it doesn’t feel great to not reply. And on the other hand, you find yourself putting it off because of a tiring day(s), work, life events, etc.
On top of not responding, the guilt we feel for not responding immediately can linger. We have become convinced that we owe an explanation, and if we don’t give one right away, we are a horrible person/friend.
This guilt may stem from the different expectations we place on ourselves in comparison to others. If a friend texts us to tell us they need time to respond, many of us will assure our friends to reply in their own time. Why then do we not apply that to ourselves?
2. Set up an automated text message system
When I first encountered texting fatigue, months of unanswered messages were slowly piling up in my phone. It became awkward to reach out to my contacts when I don’t reply for months.
One action I took recently is to send a short update text in place of my response. If someone texts me and I am not able to respond immediately, I will either update them that I’m swamped or that I will reply later in the day (or after a specific time).
Something simple like a “Sorry, I can’t reply at the moment. I will get back to you after I get home / after I finish this assignment / by tonight!” can assure both parties that you are (or will be) present eventually.
Dr. Amy Daramus recommends setting up an automated response for anyone who may be reaching out to you. Setting an auto-response can assure people that you had received the message. Sending an “update text” can assure people that you are okay, but you have things on your plate to deal with so you will get back to them sometime later.
3. Intentionally manage your time and energy
Dr. JaQuinda Jackson, a mental health clinician, recommends scheduling time to spend with your loved ones. If you are living with family, set aside time to eat together. Put your phone aside, focus on spending time together and sharing about each other’s day.
If you have an overdue catch-up with friends or peers, schedule a time where all of you can have a voice or video call. Setting aside time intentionally and using different methods of communication (other than texting) can help ease us back into dealing with social interactions.
4. Take breaks from your phone/social media
Just as we take breaks to avoid work burnout, we should also be taking breaks from our screen time. If we are with our devices 24/7, we will constantly be reminded of our pending responsibilities, tasks, and responses.
Therapist Therese Kempf suggests taking up activities that are more tactile and sensory focused such as cooking, exercising, knitting, painting, enjoying a bath, and/or listening to music. I’ve been reading (physical copies, not electronic), painting, and journaling more often. These can be carried out without screen time, and such activities may help us reconnect with ourselves.
5. Communicate when you need the time to respond
The points I’ve shared so far have touched on addressing the emotions that come with texting and practical ways to work around these feelings so that you can respond.
However, one of the best ways could involve just being upfront that you need time. I have been experiencing texting fatigue more often, which in turn affected the frequency I responded to messages.
In the past few months, I’ve been trying to make it a habit to send a short text to assure friends who text me to not worry about me if I do not reply immediately. I do get engrossed in work sometimes or I’m not in the mood to reply. I realised that by communicating this openly, my peers were understanding and they were willing to respect my space.
Consider communicating that you may not have the mental energy to respond at that moment. For example, you can send a simple message such as: “I can’t get back to you right now because I’m not in the right headspace. Could you give me some time?”
I hope that these tips will assist you when you find yourself experiencing texting fatigue. Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge that it happens, and do what is best for your well-being at that moment whether it is taking a break or directly requesting the space you need. Know that you are not alone. There are people who will understand what you are going through.
For further reading, check out this article on How To Improve Remote Relationships And Combat Online Fatigue.