Modern text message communication is all about cutting corners. “Brb” “lol” “OMG” “WTF” “MATT LVE ME ALNE U LOSA.” We live in a world where with one press of a button you can get food delivered to your door, one right swipe can get you laid, and one superimposed French flag on your Facebook profile picture makes you a good person. Us millennials don’t have time for excess. Every character means something.
That’s why something as seemingly trivial as the punctuation used in text messages is its own form of communication.
Me: Honey, do you mind if I hang out with my best friend tonight on his birthday?
I’ve never had an exchange like this where I haven’t slept on the couch that night.
A new study from Binghamton University has confirmed what we’ve already known from our own field research: ending your texts in periods indicates you are an insincere, cold-hearted human.
Celia Klin, the study’s lead researcher, said the motive for the study was to determine the implicit communication used in text messaging:
“Text messaging is one of the most frequently used computer-mediated communication (CMC) methods. The rapid pace of texting mimics face-to-face communication, leading to the question of whether the critical non-verbal aspects of conversation, such as tone, are expressed in CMC.”
The researchers recruited 126 undergraduate students to read a series of exchanges framed as either text messages or handwritten notes. The exchanges involved one person inviting a friend to an event, and the other giving a one word response like Okay, Sure, Yep, Cool. Some of these responses were followed by a period, others were not.
The study found that when the reply was followed by a period, subjects rated the response as less sincere than when no punctuation was used. The effect wasn’t present in handwritten notes, which indicates that this is a modern day problem.
“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.”
In a follow-up study, participants rated texts that ended in exclamation marks as even more sincere.
Me: Honey, I’m sorry I went out for a beer with my best friend who has been there for me through thick and thin and who I knew long before you came into the picture. I bought you tulips
Honey: Aww, thanks!!!!
Nice. Definitely getting laid tonight.
As you can see, the period indicates that I am being insincere.
I’ll probably get shut down and wait until she falls asleep to bring up PornHub on my iPhone!!!