My friend’s grandmother has died. I have heard about it through another mutual friend, and I am really sorry to hear it. She loved her grandmother.
I send her a text: “I was so sorry to hear about your beloved grandmother. I hope you and your family are doing okay. All my love to you all. xxx”
My friend is currently suffering from anorexia. She is incredibly unwell and undertaking treatment at a hospital. I visit her every weekend but during the week, I text.
I send her a message every few days to make sure she is doing okay: “Hope your day is going well. See you soon. xxx”
My friend has just been diagnosed with cancer. She is going to have to have extensive chemotherapy and a major surgery. She may not even survive. She is only 24 – the same age as me. We grew up together. My dad hears the news from her dad and calls me to tell me. They are close, too.
I am devastated and I cry and then I text her: “Dad told me about the cancer. I am so, so, so sorry and I am really just in shock to have heard the news. Do you want to have dinner soon and we can talk about it? Whenever suits you. I’m always here. xxx”
This is 2013, and this is my life.
This is how I speak to my friends who are going through difficult times. This is how they speak to me when I’m going through difficult times. And so I was a little bit thrown when I saw an article on the Daily Mail called, “What kind of friend sends condolences for your mother’s death by TEXT?”
Of course I clicked on the headline. I had to.
Because I am that friend. And I wanted to understand what was so bad about it.
The article has been written by a woman named Angela, whose mother died only a few weeks ago. Angela is, understandably, devastated. And she is even more devastated by the amount of condolences she received via text.
Angela admits that she’s done it herself in the past – sent a quick “I’m so sorry” rather than pick up the phone or go and see the person. But now that she’s the recipient of the texts, the tables have turned:
I realise just how soulless it is to receive condolences – however well-meant – in short and impersonal, almost glib, one-liners, and often signed off with ‘lots of luv xx’.
As I squint to read these messages on my phone screen, I’ve come to understand how this new ‘etiquette’ has obviated the need for a personal touch, even at a time of dark sorrow and deep distress, allowing well-wishers to appear to be doing ‘the right thing’ while, in fact, expending no emotional energy at all.
Interestingly, only a handful of those who contacted me this way prefaced their message with an apology at their mode of communication or explained they had no choice but to resort to texts because they were away on holiday. Though, in some cases, it seemed the text was enough to feel they had discharged their duty even after their return.
Angela mentions that the handwritten letters, sympathy cards and phone calls she received were so much more gratifying than the texts: “You think it shows you care, but the effect can be quite the opposite.”
I was very sad to read about Angela and her loss. If I lost my own mother, I don’t know how I would cope, and so I do sympathise very much. But I’m not going to rule out my texting-in-tough-times habits.