New study confirms what people really think about your text messages.

10 December 2015

texting étiquette

We all have that one friend (or have been that person) who uses punctuation to convey a passive-aggressive attitude via text message. I’m sure most of us have responded with a simple “K.” to try to show our boyfriend or girlfriend whose boss during a fight, or would question if our friend really wanted to attend that party after she responds with an unenthusiastic, “sure.” It sounds completely irrational, but the way you punctuate your texts has a major effect on how people view your personality. Science even says so!

A new study published in the journal, Computers in Human Behaviour, found that people who send texts that end in periods are viewed as less sincere than people who leave out the punctuation. Welcome to the 21st century, people! Researchers at Binghamton University recruited 126 college students to read a series of text messages or handwritten notes. The exchanges involved short notes or text messages, with replies like “Yup” or “Yup.” – sometimes with a period after it, sometimes without (yes, there’s a major difference).

Participants rated responses that ended with a period as less sincere than ones that didn’t. And in a follow-up study, participants rated texts that ended in exclamation marks as even more sincere (duh!). Handwritten notes didn’t have the same effect as texts, showing that this is definitely not a problem our grandparents ever had to worry about when exchanging love letters.

“Texting is lacking many of the social cues used in actual face-to-face conversations,” lead researcher Celia Kin said in a statement. “Thus, it makes sense that texters rely on what they have available to them – emoticons, deliberate misspellings that mimic speech sounds and, according to our data, punctuation.”

Since texting mimics face-to-face communication with its ability to rapidly communicate a message within seconds after receiving one (unless you’re trying to play it cool and wait 10 minutes between texts), we expect the other person to text back as though it were a face to face conversation – with emotion, enthusiasm and sincerity. So when we receive messages like “ok.” or “ya.” we tend to overanalyze the situation and view these responses as passive-aggressive. I mean, you wouldn’t take the time to add a period unless you were trying to sound stern or forceful, right?

Although texting seems to be the main source of transferring passive-aggressive messages to our friends (frenemies?), we must not forget that this is 2015, which means there are a plethora of social media platforms we can use to portray a specific message. Take the infamous Twitter wars of this past year. While quarrelling celebs like Calvin Harris and Zayn Malik hashed it out plain and simply for the world to see, celebs like Gigi Hadid kept their tweets a little more on the cryptic side, leaving it up to her one million followers to interpret.

The supermodel tweeted – then deleted – a cryptic message seemingly directed towards her ex-boyfriend and former Jonas Brother, Joe Jonas. “Sometimes life just happens…for whatever reason in whatever timing. And sometimes it doesn’t make sense til it does. That’s it,” the tweet read. Despite deleting the message shortly after, the Internet inevitably lost it, assuming that the tweet was meant as an apology to Jonas after Hadid went public with her new beau, Zayn Malik.

She later posted a scenic beach photo with the word “Chill,” leaving us to wonder if she wants us to chill out about the whole Jonas vs. Malik situation, or just really liked said photo enough to share it with her followers. Either way, we will never know the real meaning behind cryptic celebrity tweets, and should learn to stop assuming based on something as simple as punctuation, timing or use of imagery. Take a lesson from Gigi and just “chill” for a sec.

So, if you want to sound like your happy self via text message, make sure to include an overage of letters followed by a couple of “!!!!” and a few hundred emojis, or we can all just accept that we’re overanalyzing the situation, and that maybe correct use of grammar comes with age, intelligence and maturity (crazy thought, right?).

More about Paige Exell

Fashion & beauty writer, lipstick enthusiast, lover of all things beautiful, constantly on the lookout for what's new and what's cool.


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