The phone that almost ruined my social life

Punctuation is highly effective.

Getty Photographs

There was a interval in school when my mates thought I hated them. 

Hate is perhaps a robust phrase. They thought I believed they had been annoying. And dumb. And bothersome. That could not have been farther from the reality.

This discrepancy in how I felt about them and the way I seemingly acted wasn’t as a result of I used to be moody or short-tempered or, you understand, needed to be left alone to hang-out the campus bell tower. 

It was my cellphone that was in charge.

From 2009 to 2010, I used to be the proprietor of a telephone which, by some unlucky glitch, utilized three dots onto the tip of each single textual content I despatched, making every dispatch appear unusually passive-aggressive or — in some instances — unexpectedly suggestive. 


“That is high quality…”

“Come on over…”

Offending mates. Complicated potential dates. I may ship a pulse of social chaos with the press of a button. This can be a story in regards to the energy of punctuation — three little dots that morphed the which means of no matter I used to be typing, leaving my mates baffled and me questioning greater than a decade later what precisely the injury was from these dots. And even what would have occurred in the event that they’d been exclamation marks as a substitute. 

At fault: the Samsung Slash, a slider telephone made for Virgin Mobile‘s pay as you go vary. On the time, CNET gave it 3 out of 5 stars, calling it “a good entry-level telephone with a couple of additional options that put it simply above a fundamental handset.” It match within the palm of my hand, and fully in my again pocket, and the slider type made it really feel like some James Bond-esque communication machine. Most significantly, it held a cost, in contrast to my earlier worn-out flip telephone. Not one of the critiques from the time, together with ours, talked about the dots.

The Samsung Slash. 

Corinne Schulze/CNET

Samsung did not instantly reply to a request for remark. 

Two weeks in the past, recollections of the Slash got here again to me throughout a Slack dialog with colleagues in regards to the overuse of exclamation marks. 

I made a decision to ask my mates from school in the event that they remembered the notorious three dots. Absolutely, they would not, I believed. It has been greater than 10 years. Why would anybody grasp onto such a element after a decade of marriages, infants, graduate levels, new jobs, new cities and all our personal extra vital private particulars? 

To my slow-churning horror, most of them remembered. 

“The social implications of that telephone had been on one other stage,” my pal Aaron says, after describing “the acute anxiousness” it gave him for a full 12 months. At one level whereas figuring out logistics to go see John Mayer with some press tickets I had, he’d texted me, “Do you not need me to go?”

Cassidy, my chief co-conspirator on the campus newspaper, remembers texting about potential story concepts: “Each single time [you] ended with these three dots, I simply assumed [you were] passive aggressively telling me that all the pieces I stated was dumb.”

“It appeared like I used to be all the time bugging you,” my pal Emily remembers.

One other pal, Melissa, says she felt like I used to be all the time speaking one thing she simply wasn’t choosing up on. “It felt very out of character so that you can be consistently talking in innuendo.”

Even all these years later, it is a bit cringey to listen to. I wish to attain again into the previous and inform my 20-year-old self to ahead the payments to 2020 and purchase a rattling iPhone. 

It was like my evil twin was intercepting my communications, gleefully inflicting havoc within the nerdiest manner potential: errant punctuation.

In actuality, know-how has been including layers to the best way we talk for a very long time. In Reshma Saujani‘s 2019 e-book Courageous, Not Excellent, she talks about what number of girls litter their emails with exclamation marks and emoji. Sure! Certain! Can do! 

We’re deliriously enthusiastic, all in an effort to appear pleasant and approachable and undoubtedly not unlikable, and even worse — direct. There’s a surfeit of articles about how including a interval to the tip of texts is seen as curt, the equal of your mother calling you by your center identify. The Washington Put up, in 2015, referred to as it “an act of psychological warfare against your friends.”

In 2017, researchers gave a reputation to all of the bizarre spellings, emoji and punctuation we use to convey the facial expressions and physique language absent from messaging: textisms. Whenever you message your pal “!!!!!!” or resolve between utilizing “wut” and “what?” or stick about 10 additional s’s on the tip of a “sure,” all of these are textisms, they usually’re wildly vital in including further which means and context. Each punctuation mark, or lack thereof, issues. 

And there I used to be sending out ellipsis dots like I needed to burn down my social circle and disappear into the West on horseback.

As quickly I noticed what was occurring, I attempted to determine how one can repair the dots. The web turned up only some discussion board posts from different folks with the identical challenge. With no different choices, I began signing my texts “– EC,” like your dad does, in hopes of placing one thing, something, in between the content material of my texts and people dots. 

“I will meet you outdoors –EC …”

That too, was head-scratching to my mates. “I feel I requested you why you signed your texts and that is if you advised me it was due to the dots,” Emily says. “The whole lot made extra sense.”

And so started the reasons. Each time I exchanged numbers with somebody, like a classmate I had a crush on, I provided both in particular person or by way of textual content, a painfully crafted warning. Making an attempt to sound informal, I rattled off, “So my telephone does this bizarre factor the place it tacks three dots onto all my texts, which is fairly awkward. So I signal my texts so it would not sound like I am being passive-aggressive.” After which I prayed they might bear in mind.

“It was actually hilarious, even after I knew why it was occurring,” my former roommate Kindall tells me. Her husband, Nick, presents jokingly on the textual content thread: “I’ve ended friendships over folks utilizing …”  

Had anybody dropped me due to my texting points? It has been too lengthy to know for positive. 

After which in December 2010, my senior 12 months, in the course of essentially the most intense breaking-news state of affairs the newspaper had ever seen, my first smartphone arrived within the mail. Within the newspaper workplace, I frantically unwrapped the compact little BlackBerry and ported over my quantity, managing to arrange my Twitter and electronic mail accounts earlier than jogging again to my residence, emailing all the best way.

And identical to that, a 12 months of strained relationships ended. No matter I texted was precisely what I meant. I did not hate my mates anymore. And after I requested my mates why they did not ditch me that 12 months, the final reply was that they knew me higher than no matter was occurring with my telephone. 

Admittedly, I nonetheless have low-lying paranoia about my texts, emails and Slack messages. Do I sound sarcastic? Abrupt? A lot so, I make myself delete the surplus emoji and exclamation marks I’ve come to depend on to verify nobody ever thinks I hate them once more. 

I am not often mad, however I am additionally not doing backflips over right here, answering messages about assembly instances and article deadlines. Mercifully, my telephone will not betray any further which means.

I am OK. 


#telephone #ruined #social #life


Erin Carson