Emailing, Texting, Instant Messages, and More

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m of a different generation. Technology is foreign to me, and will never be second nature as a means of communication. And even I can see the benefits of it. Instead of having to find a phone to tell someone you’re late, you can send them a text, and I can respond to emails or send them, at any crazy hour for me, despite international time differences, and without having to track someone down by phone. So I get it, and without question, it’s convenient. I can communicate with anyone I need to in business, at any hour, and respond to inquiries from them about everything from titles, to jacket covers, to music for a radio ad, or editing issues with my editor. Or communicate with my kids, without intruding on them, or calling them at a bad time at work. BUT, and there is a big BUT here, I think these modern technological conveniences are severely overused, in ways I find alarming, on the spectrum of human exchanges and relationships. I am ALL for the text saying “plane landed an hour late, I won’t be home for another hour” or “traffic on bridge, will be 20 minutes late” That kind of text message can be a godsend.

More and more of my kids’ friends, in their early and mid 20’s, complain to me that relationships start now by text, and worse, end by text. I hear it from my own friends, and it has happened to me too. The last man who told me he loved me did so for the first time by email, which kind of robs you of a special moment. I also find that often relationships that begin and get established by email are ‘fraudulent’ and virtual, and not real. When faced with the real human being, they either lose their nerve, or realize they were living a fantasy, and it all falls apart. (The man who announced so lavishly by email that he loved me, didn’t really want to see me when I got back to San Francisco, and disappeared entirely within 2 weeks. So what was that?). I would think that I had been targeted by a weirdo, but I hear stories like it all the time. And the last serious relationship I had was conducted in great part by long text messages, attempting to resolve some knotty problems (that I sure can’t resolve in abbreviations in a text message) by text, and the relationship ultimately ended by text. To me, it seems an appalling abuse of this convenient form of technology, and misuse of it is not exclusive to the young, but occurs in my generation as well. And the last marriage proposal I had (from my ex-husband) was by cell phone. Overuse, and abuse, of these forms of technology robs us of some truly important moments in a relationship: whether a declaration of love, a proposal, or even getting dumped (though it may be less traumatic to get dumped by text, it seems so incredibly disrespectful and so inadequate). I would think it’s just me, but I hear these stories all the time, from every age group.  And there are tragedies that occur by text too. When the best friend of one of sons committed suicide a few years ago, it seemed as though an army of people had texted with him only that day and suspected nothing. But NO ONE had talked to him, and heard something off, or even despair, in his voice.  And even more tragically perhaps, a young woman friend of my children had a fatal car accident last year, texting while she was driving, illegal perhaps but a common practice on the road.

Texting and even emailing are just too impersonal to be used when it involves human emotions. Also, I find that texting allows one to show off, to be clever, and have the last word. You don’t have the advantages and disadvantages of a real exchange, of hearing that person’s voice and batting the conversational ball back and forth. I really think that in this case, technology does not serve us well. It has become a substitute for real exchanges between real humans and everything that goes with it, good and bad. It allows people to hide behind their words, and mask who they really are. And it cheats us of some really great moments. I’m sorry, but how memorable is it if you get proposed to, or told someone loves you, by text??? I want to hear their voice, look into their eyes, and get the real thrill of the moment. And being ‘dumped’ by text is beyond humiliating, even more so than the real deal.

Recently a young woman I admire greatly, in her 40’s says that the moment she wakes up in the morning, she checks her BlackBerry and responds to her emails, before saying good morning to her live-in partner, or getting out of bed. A thirty year old woman I know said that she and her husband lie in bed and night and send texts to other people, and ‘check their apps’ (I’m so antiquated I’m not even sure what an ‘app’ is, but I’m almost certain it has nothing to do with sex). For most people who have young families, kids of any age, demanding jobs and busy lives, feeling romantic when you go to bed at night can be a challenge. Feeling sexy at the end of an 18 hour day, with equally tired mates, difficult teenagers, a 2 year old with an earache or stomach flu, an exhausting job, and household chores to do, is damn hard. That’s a challenge to most marriages, you have to fight to overcome. But text messaging in bed at night and checking your ‘apps’ seems like a poor trade off to me. Likewise meals, where the entire family is texting someone else. I have to admit I find it irritating when talking to my kids and they are responding to their texts during the entire conversation with me. They have stressful jobs and their BlackBerrys and smart phones allow them to communicate with the entire world constantly. But you never really have their full attention. It’s just too easy to be constantly distracted by technology, it has intruded on every moment of our lives, some of which we should be spending talking to the people we are standing next to, not texting someone else.

One of my favorite moments of the day in my marriage was that quiet moment and lull before the storm of a busy day, when we would talk to each other, cuddle for a moment (whether or not it led to more) and just talk about whatever was on our minds at the moment. It was a tiny moment in the day before defenses went up, life intervened, and the thousand aggravations of a too busy day could put you in a bad mood or just wear you out. Couples who spend that special moment texting and answering emails are really losing out on some of the intimacy in relationships, which is hard enough to come by these days anyway.

My grousing about it isn’t going to change anything. The young will continue to text each other on every subject, whether about relationships or work. Women and men will continue to get dumped by text, or start relationships by email that will never come to anything. And if I have another relationship, maybe it will all be virtual and happen by text too. I just feel that we are losing an important part of our humanity, we’re losing out, and have lost moments that are memorable and far more meaningful in person, or even over a phone, than in 140 characters or less, in an abbreviated text. And for those in intimate relationships, it seems worth thinking about what they’re losing or giving up in the hours spent every day, texting or emailing, instead of turning to the person sitting, or standing, or lying in bed next to them, and just smiling at them, and enjoying a moment of intimacy with them.

Love, Danielle

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28 Comments so far
  1. PJ June 11, 2012 7:54 pm

    Amen!

  2. Oleg June 12, 2012 10:32 am

    Dear Ms Steel,

    I cannot disagree with you and you are right we are losing something in between those message lines… most likely humanity and feelings of surrounding reality. It will never come back because new generations don’t know how to live without it and they will never probably know how it could be without it .. Unfortunately looking at our world we make some conclusions … depressing ones. It is like human memory having flashbacks and pieces of past as images .. wil normal means of communications disappear … Can we change it ? Probably not … Another question is if we can try ? Probably yes. I hope when I will become a grandfather I will see my kids and grandkids coming to my home and letting me talk to them just for a few minutes …. Can it be replaced by text, phone call, email or even video conferencing ? Never … but thinking about what if they working far away trying to find their own path in life … I understand that we just have to enjoy anything … even if its non-human … digital.

    Sincerely yours,
    Oleg

  3. Oleg June 12, 2012 10:35 am

    Dear Ms Steel,

    P.S. I always wanted to ask you what is your favorite book from the ones you wrote and why ? What was the reason you started to write this book and how you feel now in comparison to times when it was written ?

    Many thanks.

    Oleg

  4. Oleg June 12, 2012 10:51 am

    Dear Ms Steel,

    P.S. I am sorry but I just wanted to see your Art work but link is not working.

    Just FYI 🙂

    Oleg

  5. Nicole June 13, 2012 12:54 am

    Dear Ms. Steel,

    I feel exactly the same way about texting. I think the sight of people texting at the dinner is ghastly, basic table manners hardly exist anymore. This happens everywhere no matter the class of the establishment, you see people looking at their phones instead of actually talking to the person sitting next to them (SO RUDE). We may have all this technology, but it is not making us anymore civilized in our interaction with those we should care for the most. Sometimes I think we are living in the Age Of Mediocrity.

  6. Lorraine June 13, 2012 4:44 pm

    I loved this article. My kids are in their late 20s and early 30s. For all different reasons, they are always with the phone on hand. I sometimes actually feel less important than the phone during some conversations. It scares me. But my youngest daughter recently said to me she is glad that they knew what it was like before everyone had phones, because the next generation of children who are quite young right now, will never exist in a world w/o this instantaneous communication. Sometimes it makes me sad.

  7. Sharon Smith June 16, 2012 5:16 pm

    I understand completely. Even when you go out to eat with someone. Your attention should be with each other not checking text messages between every bite of food. I see this all the time when I’m in a restaurant with people sitting at tables around me. Or just going to the grocery store. It can be very irritating. Me I like to enjoy my food and the conversation with whomever I’m with.

  8. Mike Reid June 17, 2012 2:22 pm

    Hi Danielle – networking – what a great subject – your so very right when it comes to communication between people- your stories & events in your life bring happiness and comfort to many. On the part where you describe this friend who wakes up & answers her emails before saying hello to her partner- I can see that. On the Real Deal – I had a Union Rep. tell me one time I was a Real Deal & I wasn’t sure if she was feeding me Baloney or IUPurdue Chicken. Hahaha Anyway – I’m no longer tied up & things our looking up & positive. I can also understand your frustration (grousing)at people who text or email when you our trying to talk to them & their not giving us their full a-tent-hut salute. I’d be mad too. Hahaha I must say- that your 100% correct when it comes to emailing & texting or talking while driving- I myself almost wrecked a few times and then decided to cool my jets. Also when it comes to intimate relationships – I could relate – human senses – hearing, touch, etc Seeyasoon mike

  9. patsy tiemeyer June 27, 2012 8:02 am

    my name is patsy tiemeyer and i am legally blind and i have written sorry read every book you have ever written and i love your books they are ossome i have question for you danielle i was thinking about writing a book but i am not good at writing or typing it once i figure it out i was wondering if you could give me a phone call at your convenience and talk to me about this i would definitely appreciate it i think that you could be a great help to me if it could be worked out my phone numgber is i have two of them the first one is 7 7856325490 or 4022149013 if you could give me call or send me and e mail i would truly appreciate it thanks bunches patsy tiemeyer

  10. gape July 3, 2012 6:38 am

    Dear PS
    I have read most of your books,and they are awesome.i love your work.AND your designs!They are a wow!i love bit of it.sensational.Your work is full of emotions!b blesseth,and have more days in this geo,so that you continue feeding us with this delicious,what can i say,m forever thrilled.

  11. steve July 7, 2012 7:33 pm

    U should write about prisoners and the struggles their family and friends go through.

  12. Diane Vogel July 14, 2012 3:16 pm

    I love your books and have read just about all of them. I just read “Now and Forever” and wonder if you would ever do a sequel to it. I wonder how Jessie and Ian made out when they got back together and what happened to Maggie and why did she do what she did to Ian. I don’tknow how you managed to write so many books and raise 9 children, it must have been a lot of work but also rewarding too. Thanks for all the adventures I’ve had just reading yourwork.

    diane

  13. brenda boehm July 30, 2012 1:29 pm

    OMG girl you are so right on!!! Although I do love texting, mainly to customers, I do taxidermy work, I don’t get stressed from maybe hearing their dissapointment in their voice. I too am not tech savy and computers hate me, lol. I’m always afraid my stories will get ate up by the computer, but my hands don’t hurt as much when typing, so I just pray that everything gets saved. I also write on paper, but my hands can’t keep up with my brain, lol. I have 11 stories I want to write, but I am a newby. I am worried that my husband and friends will lose faith in me, because it is taking so long. I told Tim if we ever won the lotto, I would hire a great author to help guide me. So you are now on my wish list, lol. You sound so amazing! I wish I had read about you a long time ago. Take care girl, God Bless!
    Brenda Boehm

  14. click here February 5, 2013 10:01 pm

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  15. JANET CINCOTTA July 23, 2014 6:46 am

    I understand completely but how can I tell you my story. Loss of my children in a custody battle that was staged. Finding out 3 years later only to lose again. Same reason only the guardian had the attorney that my ex had for his divorce attorney. It goes on and on….I dont know where to start or if by making it a fiction would help.

  16. Bet Stewart January 7, 2017 4:35 pm

    Would love to talk with you regarding writing a book about the greatest, true story EVER told… the story of our relationship. EVERY time we tell our story to someone, they say… “You guys need to write a book!”

    Please let us know how/when we might share our love story with you… to see about the interest in writing about our lives.

    Sincerely,
    BET 🙂
    and
    John Stewart

    I have a picture I’d like to send you – would you please give me an e-mail address or website where I might send this picture?

    Thanks!

  17. looth February 27, 2018 10:33 pm

    Dear Ms Steel,

    Your book , Until the End of Time, My english teacher says that it’s a really good book, and so i m reading it right now.. I have read half of your book, ‘southern lights’ it’s particularly boring because i like romance stuff.. i hope this book is worth it

  18. Maggie Belcher September 30, 2019 5:41 am

    Hello Ms Steel I know this doesnt pretain to what your talking about but this was the only place I could find to leave a comment on one of your books. I have always been told that you were a good Author and since I’ve got more time on my hands I decided to try one of your books Called One Day At a Time It was very good the only down side I find is this the disrespectful use of God and Christ name but you are not the only one I guess I will never understand why we as a people show so little respect to the two people who should mean the most to us and yes I will read more of your books just over look where you put the Lords name I have asked people before how would they feel if they used there Moms or Dads name in that manner. Thank You for your time Maggie Belcher

  19. bev March 18, 2020 6:33 am

    Just finished reading or did not finish reading Moral Compass and was so disappointed in this book. The story line made me think I was watching CNN not the usual beautiful stories I have been used to over the many years of being a fan.I see a new one I haven’t read Wedding something. Hope that renews my faith in your many great books over the years.

    Sincerely

    Bev. Stevens

  20. susan sample August 21, 2020 9:31 am

    Dear Ms. Steel
    I thought I read a statement on amazon that you have been writing a “journal” of your favorite sayings and words of wisdom. did I dream that? If there is such a book out by you, is it published and for purchase? I also have a similar book going, but would LOVE to read yours. There are no words I can say that would attiquitely (sp) let you know how much I love your books. Much thanks

    sincerely s.s

  21. susan sample August 21, 2020 9:50 am

    crap….I really butchered my first attempt at spelling

    ADEQUATELY. lets blame it on brain fog.

  22. Kim Jamex January 4, 2021 10:51 am

    Let’s not keep talking about this and actually do something. what can we really do to stop all this madness. I agree with your comment that we can govern ourselves to keep ourselves safe. Stop closing everything down!! What can we do!!

  23. Janet H January 30, 2021 5:53 pm

    All that glitters was a wonderful book! I couldnt put it down! Nigel i would of stangled..i cried at the end of a touching book! Thank you again for being my #1 favorite author! Janet

  24. Stephen Roberts Jr May 26, 2021 4:34 pm

    What is the best mailing address to send the books to you?

  25. SHARON CHESWICK January 9, 2022 8:00 am

    Danielle, I am writing this follow-up message today, to point out the essential part missing in the email I wrote yesterday — your precious gift of moving each complicated, traumatizing part of the struggling relationships you create, in each one of the unique book you have written, toward a happy resolution. It’s what keeps me searching for every one of your books; and I wish you continuing Good Health, Good Luck and Success, always.
    Your Faithful Follower, Sharon Cheswick
    P.S. I have begun to create a Danielle Steel Book Club at the York Library, with the unsolicited, enthusiastic help of a librarian I spoke to about my recent request (Placed on the list of 55 requests before me, for INVISIBLE.

  26. SHARON CHESWICK January 9, 2022 8:03 am

    Danielle, I am writing this follow-up message today, to point out the essential part missing in the email I wrote yesterday — your precious gift of moving each complicated, traumatizing part of the struggling relationships you create, in each one of the unique book you have written, toward a happy resolution. It’s what keeps me searching for every one of your books; and I wish you continuing Good Health, Good Luck and Success, always.
    Your Faithful Follower, Sharon Cheswick
    P.S. I have begun to create a Danielle Steel Book Club at the York Library, with the unsolicited, enthusiastic help of a librarian I spoke to about my recent request (Placed on the list of 55 requests before me, for INVISIBLE.
    Sharon Cheswick

  27. Darlene matsinger March 31, 2022 8:16 am

    I have a true story for you. It is the most magical and heartbreaking love story. How can I tell you about it to have it put into words?

  28. Diana Robinson July 16, 2022 1:42 pm

    I have just finished reading your book Magic.I must say I enjoy all of your books but Magic will stay forever in my heart.Thankyou Danielle.Diana