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'Text me when you're on your way'

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Hajar Javaheri Hajar Javaheri | 13:10 UK time, Thursday, 19 May 2011

My boyfriend and I can track each other. Not because we're particularly possessive, but because it can help put our minds at ease in certain situations. When he's driving a long distance or if I'm out late all we do is turn on a 'location-aware' app on our smartphones and a little icon appears with our faces hovering over a map, showing the other where we are. If he's driving to meet me and gets lost (not that he ever does, of course), I can see where he is along the motorway and tell him which exit to take, how far away he is, and how long it will take him to get to me.

But when the rest of your phone's playing up it can cause some worry, as I found out a few months ago one afternoon after a bang to the head...

In a shopping centre on my lunch break I managed to walk into a wall while staring at a 90s pop star. It really wasn't worth it and not only did I feel stupid, but an hour later I started to feel rather queasy and emailed my other half to let him know I was leaving work early.

'Oh dear, just text me when you're near and I'll pick you up from the station,' he replied.

A while later I texted him from the train to let him know it was delayed, but the message went unanswered. When I didn't receive a reply to a second text my mind started to wander.

How, I wondered, is he suddenly in a mood with me? Is this because I left my washing up in the sink this morning? Is he really that petty? I could feel myself getting annoyed. I called his phone just in case he hadn't received my texts, but after a few rings it went to voicemail.

In a change to routine I switched trains at Brighton and when I finally arrived home my boyfriend was wearing a look of both panic and relief.

'Where have you been? Why didn't you reply to my text?'

'Your text?!' I'm puzzled, but figure an argument is the best remedy to the state of confusion. 'Why didn't you reply to my text?'

Unable to believe that our phones simply failed to deliver, we got them out, scrolled to our Sent folders and held the proof of our communications up to the other's face like five year olds. 'Seeeee?' we chimed, before gradually returning to a state of calm.

Even though we knew the phones were at fault and not us, we had still spent the last hour switching between feelings of confusion, worry and annoyance.

The boyfriend then mentioned how our location app had added to his textual anxiety.

'I could see you were in Brighton and thought that after banging your head you'd become confused and forgotten where you lived.'

The sentiment was sweet, but it does show just how far we'll go to explain away the failings of technology. As reliant as we've become on computers, phones and gadgets, it seems we may have forgotten that they're not always reliable.

The 'broken phone' excuse can act as a convenient brush off for fleeting romantic interests, but in the case of your nearest and dearest, a bit of a 'meet me by the riverside between 6 and 9' attitude can do wonders for anxiety levels. Not getting a text after 20 minutes doesn't mean you're being ignored or that your best friend suddenly hates you. It doesn't mean your partner's train has crashed or that they've left you on a whim. It usually means their battery's died, their phone's playing up or they've got no signal.

Technology can be tremendously helpful in worst-case scenarios, but it can lead us to overlook the simple fact that most days aren't worst-case scenario days. As good as caution can be, a little old-fashioned trust and patience goes a long way to filling the gap between text messages.

Hajar is part of the WebWise production team and has also made award-winning programmes for BBC Radio. In her spare time she loves reading, writing and singing.


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