Does a text message conversation take place? It has a beginning, I suppose, though who can remember when it was. Does it have a middle? An end? An ever-expanding middle maybe, half-punctuated by a series of tentative ends — and perhaps one final, devastating one. […]
When you receive a text message you are presented with a choice: you can treat it as you would a phone call and immediately answer and strike up a back and forth, or you can treat it as a letter — letting it linger, inspecting it for possible implications, reading between the lines, trying out various interpretations — then finally crafting a response attuned meticulously to imagined contingencies that you will send at the most opportune moment.
The text message’s built-in ambiguity — its optional absence — generates its own opportunities and anxieties. It opens up whole avenues for expression that alternately try to take advantage of or try to soften the threat of absence. Response time becomes its own form of communication.