Text back anxiety is something that anyone with a cell phone has dealt with at least once. You’re waiting patiently (or not very patiently) for that text back — whether from someone you just went on a date on, a follow up for an interview, or an update from a family member. The stress of text back anxiety usually hits during the primary stages of dating — especially after a first or second date! It’s one step away from finding out if this person you went out with is going to respond, or if you were ghosted once again (a pro tip: don’t ghost people! It’s really messed up!). It’s the anxious feeling you get in your gut when you’re waiting to get the: “Yes! I had a great time too!” response. Or, if you’re in a relationship, it’s the waiting game you have to play before your partner responds.
One of the issues people have with text back anxiety is the vulnerability that surrounds this issue. You sent the text first — you admitted that you had fun, or asked: “can I see you again?” — the question of your nightmares. You shot your shot, and it could go one of so many ways. Or, if this is someone you’ve been dating, figuring out that back and forth communication timing and style can be a big adjustment.
Dealing with text back anxiety means having to remove your expectations and demands of what you want from the other person. Everyone’s communication style is different. It takes a lot of patience to wait for something, whether a text or otherwise. Another way of battling this anxiety is focusing on other tasks — turn your phone off, and do anything else. When I’m experiencing this type of anxiety, I lock my phone in a drawer in my desk and set a timer for an hour. Half the time, the work that I’m doing (or book I’m reading, etc.) takes my mind completely off of what I’m waiting for and allows me to regroup and take the responsibility off my plate.
Where did this text back anxiety come from? We’ve had cell phones for years, but one close theory is that, with our constant need for attention, validation, and our obsession with seeing couples break up in the media’s eye, we think that having consistent communication with a significant other will solve bigger issues like cheating. Brynna Pawlows, Youth Educational Social Worker, shed some light on this core issue.
“Instant gratification and validation in a culture that focuses a lot of energy on making sure your significant other is responsive because we focus on celebrity drama around that [topic] so much,” she tells HipLatina.
You might think text back anxiety can be pretty harmless. You might be thinking or justifying it by feeling that you want to know if your partner is okay, or want to make sure they’re having a good day. The issue with this is that it drills down to one thing — needing constant validation via text or otherwise from a partner usually means you can’t trust them. Ask yourself: Are you constantly texting back and forth because it’s what they need, or are you doing it because you don’t believe their motives otherwise?
Pawlows breaks down this tactic for us.
“Additionally, that can be a manipulative tactic too that a person may not realize they possess. For example, if two consenting adults agree that to get their needs met, they need to text each other hourly and reply fairly quickly. When one partner does not consent to this or there is not a conversation about this — it can cross the line to manipulation or straight to abusive [behavior],” she says.
The key? Pawlows notes that we should focus on communicating BETTER rather than MORE. It’s in the quality of the conversation — not the quantity. In order to build trust in your relationships, the dependency on constant communication needs to take a backseat to build these relationships without proof of every single move.
As we continue our dependence on technology and needing instant gratification, we have to consciously work towards being able to separate our need for communication versus needing an instant response.