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Artwork by Stacy Nguyen

Texting for Work: The Wave of the Future or a Path to Disorganized Disaster?

Written By Stacy Nguyen | May 10, 2018

When I work with fellow creatives, we are often working remotely and on varying schedules. In-person meetings typically happen at the start of projects, during big milestones, or when something goes threat-level-red and everyone needs to be pulled together for an emergency meeting. But beyond the highlights, we largely work apart.

Finding ways to keep the lines of communication open is a challenge when people aren’t meeting in the same room. In my work, I’ve found that a lot of younger creatives — Gen Zers who are 24 or younger — prefer to talk over text messages. I am a 33-year-old millennial, so I actually can’t stand getting work texts because it’s hard for me to keep information organized. I don’t like scrolling through a million bitmojis of me and all the Drake memes I sent out to find the one text message that talks about a due date.

That seems really inefficient, but am I totally crazy? Is there a method to this madness?

Yes to the text!

Kevin Bui is a 21-year-old graphic design student and like many of his contemporaries, he likes the immediacy and the personal touch that texting yields. He said, “If it’s a question to a friend about school, then texting is the quickest option for me. And it does feel more personal because emails usually feel like it should be more for professional reasons.”

Kevin then went on to hilariously say that he generally only emails (my preferred method of communication) the old people in his life. “I use email just for contacting my professors and other professionals. I only use email with friends if we need to send files to each other.”

Madison Woo, 21, also a graphic designer, uses an iPhone and she likes that her texts have read confirmations — so she knows when her messages have been viewed. She also said that the people she works with are typically within five years of her age — and they all prefer to text one another in the course of work. Madison said a challenge she faces is that a lot of people are not avid email checkers.

“Texting is a reassuring way of communication when working with others, because some people may not have email notifications on their phone or they’re away from their computer,” she said. “Texting makes me feel better about knowing the other person has seen my message. It makes me feel better in times of urgency.”

Text me and die

I actually don’t like that some text apps tells you who has read your message. Sometimes I’m in a group text with eight people and I see that only three people have read my text and I’m like, “What the hell? What is Cindy’s problem?”

I don’t like scrolling through a million bitmojis of me and all the Drake memes I sent out to find the one text message that talks about a due date.

For me, ignorance is bliss. I like sending emails and not knowing if the other person has read it. Because if they miss my email and drop the ball, well, there’s a paper trail! And I just point it out to the boss later and be like, “Hey, I told Dan about this on April 14th, at 12:34 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.” I also like email because we all generally use email clients in our course of work. They are tied to a lot of productivity tools like calendars so we can send meeting notices and Skype (for that immediate communication).

My friend and former creative director, Mike Vogel, 45, is a Gen Xer and said, “I realize the immediacy of texting is what makes it attractive when you want a question answered, but some people like to compartmentalize their work and personal life.”

This brings up an interesting point. One reason I like sending emails is that I can put off responding to them if I want to (and there are definitely some that want to put off!). Maybe I am using text messages like an old person, but when I get a text, I feel a lot of pressure to drop everything I am doing in order to read it and respond right away. Because if I don’t, then it’s very likely I will completely forget about the text and never go back to it. Texting limits my ability to prioritize communication.

Ruth Bayang is a 45 year old Emmy-winning news editor. She works in an environment that has much faster deadlines than the timelines designers typically work with. I asked her if reporters have her phone number. And she said, “Email only. They don’t have my phone number.” When I asked why — what if there’s a reporter that has to miss a tight deadline due to impending death or maybe gross incompetence? — Ruth simply said, “They don’t need to know my number. I check my email daily.”

Y’all ancient. Insta DM is actually where it’s at.

In the course of my informal polling for this piece, my sister, Monica Nguyen, 31, actually told me that for some, it’s not even a debate between text and email. The fight is actually on Instagram.

Monica oversees stylists who generally are ages 20-50, with the average age being about 30. She tells me that her stylists are artists who refuse to check their emails at all, so delivering them information from corporate is just about impossible over email. Monica said she has had to go just beyond what she thinks is normal. She said, “The worst are new employees who don’t respond to email or texts. Those goddamn Gen Zers. You know how I hunt them down now? Instagram DM! That’s where they choose to respond!”

Am I old?

I honestly think that email is the most organized and intelligent way to communicate, but I am also aware that at one point, baby boomers probably thought that faxes were awesome and when this new fangled email thing came up, the Boomers were like, “No. NO!” And look where we are now. I have to wonder: Am I now that person?

What do you think? Do you text for work? Is it a boon to creative real-time collaboration, or is it just inviting disorganization?

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