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A big ‘thumbs down’ to ‘liking’ messages | Bubble Burst

Ten score and 15 years ago, we wrote each other letters. Flowery language and meaningful sentiment filled a page with beautiful calligraphy. A person in the 1800s had to dip a pen in ink and write down words and buy a stamp and seal their envelope with wax to send a “u up?” pigeon to their situationship. Now, the love of your life could send you the most endearing message in the history of messages just for you to respond by “heart-ing” it. 

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

The “like” a message feature, known as Tapback, was introduced by Apple in September 2016 when they released iOS 10. The feature allows you to hold down a message to respond to it with a heart, thumbs up, thumbs down, haha, exclamation mark or a question mark: the six human emotions. 

We should stop taking the easy way out and start writing out our messages, or even picking up the phone for a call, to inject feeling back into conversations.

The convenience of communication in 2023 is killing our ability to connect with one another. With cell phones, it might be easier than ever to keep in touch with people that are thousands of miles away. Yet, the emotional gap that the “liking” messages feature on the iPhone has created makes talking to friends, even those who are a 10-minute walk from your door, feel like a long-distance relationship. 

New York’s hottest club is just a room where you’re forced to type out responses when your friends send you texts. While liking messages is extremely convenient, it discourages people from putting effort into conversation. This may seem like an issue isolated to our screens, but refusing to craft a thoughtful text makes in-person conversation more difficult.

A 2018 Common Sense study found that most teens preferred texting to face-to-face conversation. While this is a pre-pandemic statistic that very well could’ve changed as we realized how essential in-person communion was amid COVID-19, the explanation offered in the study would suggest the opposite. 

Generation Z spends a significant portion of their time on phones. Direct messaging is comfortable. It even offers the perfect resource for those who hate to text: simply not replying.  Texting gives you time to think before speaking your mind and emojis to clarify your tone. Google is also one click away to help beef up your vocab.

Going from a text-world of being all-knowing to reality where all you have to depend on is your brain can be the ultimate source of anxiety. 

Anxiousness at its core is our brain telling us there is some terrifying noun lurking which we should be afraid of. Texting is the food which feeds the social anxiety beast, protecting us from a situation in which we’d actually have to conquer our fears. 

The only way to beat anxiety is to face it head on. But, because we aren’t forced to do so with the use of texts, and the even more simple option of “liking” a message, we validate our insecurities — allowing us to live in an incredibly cozy prison of our own making.

The art of conversation is perfected like anything else: with practice. Talking to people can be stressful. It can require thought, wit, humor, quirk, dramatics. Every conversation after summer break, for example, was a hero’s journey of fighting past small talk to find a worthwhile topic of conversation. 

Nowadays, that fight is even harder because you have no push to talk. If your texting partner makes a joke, you might try to think of a funny reply for five seconds only to give up and give it a “haha.” Maybe your friend texts their story of a particularly bad day while you’re busy and rather than waiting until you have time to reply, they get a “Bob dislikes this message” notification. 

Over text, we have all the time in the world to formulate the perfect reply, and we still choose the easy way out by holding down the message and choosing a reaction emoticon. In real life, where there is no way to evade oral or signed communication to express our feelings, we’re left without the building blocks that typically teach us how to do so. 

If you were one of those people that felt called out when “Barbie” jokingly mocked “Pride and Prejudice” enjoyers — live out your Jane Austen, 19th century fantasy and shoot your friends a full sentence text message. You can even include punctuation if you’re feeling particularly elegant. 

This is not a push to stick strictly to phone calls and does not ignore the fact that sometimes our social batteries are dead and we can only manage an exclamation point as a response. 

It is an encouragement to do your best to push yourself out of your comfort zone and maybe talk to your friends more often than you currently are. Your conversation skills will thank you. If every in-person conversation you have proves dreadful, consider it entertainment. If nothing else, awkwardness is comedy. 

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