WSJ “Text: Messaging Is the New Email”

A recent WSJ article asserts that texting is the new email. I don’t believe it. Is it replacing some email? Sure. But texting is a long way from replacing email as a communication tool, though I recognize that for many young people not fully integrated into their careers it is a primary communication tool. They will, however, end up using email for the foreseeable future in addition to text and other communication platforms.

With the exception of a few use cases, I think texting is far worse than email for a host of reasons that I’ll not take time to list, except for one; we already have a problem with distractions and partial attention. The last thing we need are more. Text messages assume and expect an immediate response. That is intrusive, distracting, and I believe unhealthy. I also think it is socially undesirable. I was out for lunch today with my wife. Seated next to us was another couple. Both were texting on their phones rather than talking to each other. Sad.

I’ve made a habit, again with a few exceptions, of purposely delaying my response to text messages to “train” heavy texters not to expect an immediate response from me. If I respond quickly I reinforce what I consider to be an unreasonable expectation of an immediate response. I’m also very judicious about giving out my cell phone number. My EA has strict instructions to never share my cell number and I never place it in an email signature. I have yet to experience a negative consequence from my approach.


I think texting has its own very useful niche, but I agree that it is not the same as email’s.

Not necessarily - I have a group of friends scattered across 4 or 5 time zones. Texts enable us to have very prolonged conversations (time between texts can stretch for ~6-12 hours) and there is never an expectation of an instant response. Similarly to what you said later in your post, it’s about what people expect from you - but this is not an inherent flaw of text messaging, the problem exists between the chair and the keyboard (phone?).

On the more professional side, I think texting is also useful for synchronous communication where a call or face-to-face meeting is not possible - I collaborate on software side projects with people in other time zones, and while they may be awake, the people they live with may not be, and a call may be disruptive. And flying us all to the same place to deal with a small bug in a piece of hobby software isn’t exactly a great solution :stuck_out_tongue: It’s also useful for quick check-ins that don’t necessarily need an instant reply (“hey, did you push the changes from our last discussion?” - “no, I’ll finish them up tonight”). Once again, I think this is more about setting the right expectations vs an actual flaw in the technology.

Replacing email with text is like replacing rich text with plain text - there are some cases where the new thing does have advantages over the ‘default’ or incumbent, but as usual, an absolutist argument that one is definitively better than the other is ultimately always flawed. Using text where a call or an email would work better is obviously not a good idea, but this isn’t a flaw of text messaging itself, but rather a problem of humans taking something they really like and trying to stuff it into contexts where it doesn’t work as well.

P.S. where’s the link to the article? :joy:

I think this is about managing expectations. In our organisation WhatsApp is used more extensively for communication than email. Conversations, however, can run over days with hours between responses.

If anyone expects an immediate response to a text/WhatsApp message to me they will be very disappointed!

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I agree with you, which is why I stated, “ With the exception of a few use cases,” your examples being good illustrations of a good use of texting. As to expectations, in general, I find most people expect a fast response—in fact, that is one of the points in the article, the speed of engagement. :slightly_smiling_face:

Here is the link to the article. It was also in Apple News, at least it was for me but I’m a WSJ subscriber so that may make a difference.

Ehh. I understood the article not as you communicate with colleagues via text instead of email now but that companies get your phone number (for 2fa, shipping, etc) and then use it as another marketing channel which ruins the “peaceful, idyllic” texting world which used to be just friends and family.

Which in turn leads to the same:

  • how the hell do I triage this stuff
  • why doesn’t unsubscribe unsubscribe!?
  • your new messages become your task a manager

I personally think that each communication tool has their own use case. Which tool is to be use depends on the audience, personality and quantity, context, legal needs, etc

  • TEXT
  • instant messaging
  • voice mail
  • phone call
  • video conference
  • email
  • blog
  • etc, etc

I am also a “trainer”. Especially with email I was able to get rid of several bad habits.

As for messaging: we moved most of our internal communications to messaging (MS Teams). We don’t have a culture of “immediate response”. But it’s a great medium for easy questions, quick infos, etc. From “Sorry, running late because the train was cancelled” to “Hey, here’s the draft for the press release, what do you think?” we use messaging a lot. With the rules I already heavily enforced with email (as many recipients as necessary, as few as possible, no spam, no bulk, no …). We also use it a lot when video-conferencing (“Hey, can that estimate be correct? Please check xyz”), especially with external partners.

As for my cell phone number: not allowed to be shared, only call when urgent. The threshold for “urgent” is high.


When the pandemic started, my mother started a texting group with me and my two brothers. This was initially to see if we are all safe and healthy, but it has evolved into a way that we keep in touch almost every day. This didn’t really happen before and I think we’re all happy that we have this new way to keep in touch. There is no expectation that people respond right away. Sometimes hours go by before me or my brothers respond. Now we could’ve done this via email I suppose, but we didn’t and texting does feel more immediate than an email that sits buried in all the nonsense that fills up our inboxes.