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When Is A Text Message Cheaper Than A Phone Call?

by sanjanakumar (writer), New York City, July 15, 2008

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Lately I have noticed that I have begun using text messaging as my primary form of communication with my friends.  I will text message them prior to calling to see if they are available to actually speak on the phone.  I prefer to text message as I feel this is slightly less invasive than the phone ringing and let's be honest, how many people actually check their voicemail and listen to the message? 

I have a friend who we will call Maggie.  Maggie really doesn't like to receive text messages.  She will not engage in a text message conversation.  She especially doesn't like to receive text messages from the guy(s) she dates unless it is a "quick" text message informing her that you will be late for your date with her.  In today's world, where everyone is multitasking--answering the phone at work, responding to emails from clients/coworkers, instant messaging with your friends, and surfing the web simultaneously, I used to think it was odd that my friend Maggie didn't like text messaging.  I need instant gratification.  I simply do not have time to wait for someone's cellphone to ring 4 or 5 times(or more) before I get their voicemail to leave a message that they probably aren't even going to listen to.  I would much prefer to send a text message that the recipient can respond to at their leisure and sometimes even faster than listening to their voicemail and returning my call. 

I used to feel that way until I met my new friend Bill.  Bill is an annoying texter.  He refuses to pick up the phone and actually dial my number and hear my lovely voice.  In fact, I don't think I have ever received one phone call from him.  He just text messages me.  One afternoon we attempted to make plans to get together that same evening.  Of course this entire conversation was over instant message.  The IM conversation lasted until I left work for the evening.  Then the conversation was picked up where we left off on IM and continued via text messaging.  Because I was running an hour behind, Bill decided that we should just make plans for another time.  So I texted messaged him that was fine, let's chat tomorrow (on IM) and figure something out.  I thought this was the end of the conversation, but I was wrong.  Not only did Bill continue to text message me his thoughts and ideas for the next few minutes.  He continued to text message me until 12am.  I finally text messaged him and said with all the text messages he had sent me that night, we could have actually had a conversation face to face.  I was a little annoyed, because clearly Bill had time to text message me all night long but didn't even pick up the phone to have a live vocal conversation.   The best part of this story is Bill literally lives the next block over from me. 

Bill likes to instant message me throughout the work day with nothing really monumental to tell me.  One time I decided I had enough of his gibberish so I decided to block him from instant messaging.  Obviously that was the wrong move because as soon as his ability to communicate with me via instant messenger was blocked, he reverted to text messaging me.  Now, not only do I NOT want to talk (IM) with Bill but now he is using up my valuable text messaging minutes!!  So I have unblocked Bill from instant messaging because I would rather be annoyed by the flashing window than have my cellphone minutes used up by his inane conversation.



About the Writer

sanjanakumar is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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5 comments on When Is A Text Message Cheaper Than A Phone Call?

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By Gerard Barberi on July 15, 2008 at 05:16 am

Whatever happened to those unlimited text messaging plans?

You might want to ask Bill why he doesn't like voice conversations.  Some people seem to like the asynchronous conversation that texting and IMing provide.  Synchronous conversations require your total engagement - as you've already pointed out, complete attention, and a quick wit.  Asynchronous conversations allow you to take a step back and think about what you're going to say first.  The also give a sense that there's a protective barrier, particularly in emotionally charged conversations.

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By Mason on July 15, 2008 at 10:04 am

I assume that text message is very popular in our country,because they know they chat by calling would end up with enpty pocket if calling without control,i mean if calling too long a time,it is fairly expensive,so they prefer to use QQ or text message,that is the way for them to go.it saves the money,that is the point.

i prefer to calling my friends if the charge is ok same as the messaging.but indeed,it is not,calling is much more expensive then just send a message.

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By DLFerguson on July 15, 2008 at 11:18 am

I check my voice mail several times a day to get my messages.  I suppose I'm in the minority as I don't understand the point of text messaging somebody when I could be using the same time to simply call them and leave a message. 

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By Christopher Gibson on July 15, 2008 at 01:13 pm

I absolutely HATE text messaging.  Maybe it's because I'm getting old or something.  I find it much easier to pick up the phone and make a quick two minute call than to spend two minutes trying to type out words on my phones little keyboard.  Oh well, I guess I'm old school.

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By Jen on July 15, 2008 at 01:25 pm

Of all forms of communication I prefer face to face.  I like text messaging because I hate talking on the phone.  I've never really been one for spending hours on the phone but with cell phones Im even less interested.  Its tiny and uncomfortable in my hand.  For any conversation of great length the thing gets hot.  As you stated in your article, I prefer to receive a text message to a voicemail as most voice mails are simply "Give me a call when you get this" or "Lets get together at such and such a time".  With a text message I open up my phone and the message is there without having to listen to the voicemail lady repeat your phone number to me before I find out that you just want me to call you or that you're going to be 15 minutes late etc.

I do agree however that trying to have an actual conversation on the text message is a little lame.  At that point just pick up the phone and talk about it.

My suspicion is that Bill is bored.  You might check out the stealth settings on your IM.  He wont know you're ignoring him if he doesn't know you're online. 

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