Last Updated on January 24, 2023 by Alexander Burgemeester
Dry texting refers to brief, emotionless texts that sort of keep the conversation going but without any real purpose or effort.
While everyone may be guilty of sending the occasional dry text from time to time, a serial dry texter can come across as rude, awkward, aloof, or downright socially unaware.
What Is an Example of Dry Texting?
Let’s say you share a really funny story about something that happened to you earlier today. You provide excessive detail, and plenty of emojis, and end with a follow-up question. The other person responds with a simple, haha.
That’s a key example of dry texting. You’ve made a genuine effort to connect, and you’ve been met with this seemingly ironclad wall of resistance.
Or let’s say you vent about your long day at work. You talk about an uncomfortable interaction with your boss, a difficult moment with a client, and the traffic you hit on your commute on the way home.
You express how exhausted you are. You’re met with a simple, That sucks.
That’s another example of dry texting. It just doesn’t match the emotional intensity of your communication. You’re trying to open a channel for clear dialogue, and the other person doesn’t give you anything in return.
Why Are People Dry Texters?
In a world where communication is often virtual (the average American checks their phone once every 10 minutes, and we sent a staggering 2.1 trillion texts in 2020 alone, it may seem strange that some people don’t understand the essential texting etiquette.
However, people can dry text for many reasons. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind:
They’re Very Busy
Although it may seem like an excuse, some people may legitimately lead such busy lives that they don’t have the time to respond to texts.
When this is the case, they might dry text at certain points (like when they’re at work or traveling).
But then they will resume normal texting as soon as they catch a break. With this, there’s often some acknowledgment about being so busy.
They’re Socially Anxious
Social anxiety impacts how secure people feel in social settings. This can include both in-person and online formats.
Someone with social anxiety feels preoccupied with what others think, and they often second-guess and ruminate over how they interact.
Like all mental health conditions, this anxiety disorder exists on a continuum, but some of the telltale signs include:
- Consistent fear of being embarrassed or humiliated
- Physical symptoms of anxiety (blushing, sweating, having a shaky voice)
- Avoiding certain social settings due to anxiety
- Needing constant reassurance from others
- Analyzing potential flaws or mistakes after a social interaction
If you’re talking to someone with social anxiety, it’s important to remember that their symptoms likely have nothing to do with you.
They Don’t Prefer Texting
Some people dry text unintentionally. This may be more common in older generations, where texting isn’t nearly as prevalent or popular.
For example, older parents or grandparents may be dry texters when communicating with their children. This is because they’d prefer to just pick up the phone or talk in person.
For some people, texting is simply a way to ask or respond to basic questions, like where to meet for dinner or what time the party starts. There isn’t a further desire to talk just for the sake of talking.
Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, shyness isn’t the same as social anxiety.
Shyness refers to general discomfort in social settings. Most of the time, when motivated, shy people can still interact when needed.
Social anxiety, on the other hand, refers to a persistent fear of being negatively judged by others. This fear affects the quality of life and often impacts relationships.
Still, someone who’s shy might feel anxious responding to texts. This is especially true if they’re just getting to know you and they don’t fully understand your communication style yet.
They’re Trying to Distance Themselves
Some people dry text as a passive-aggressive hint that they don’t really want to have a friendship or relationship with you. They’re hoping that their emotionless texts give you the hint you need.
Keep in mind that this can, unfortunately, happen at any time during a relationship. Some people do it early on- usually as a way to show that they aren’t interested in getting to know you more.
Others might do it after you two have already established a dynamic. At that point, they may have realized that they don’t like you, or they don’t want to take things further.
They’re Mad at You
Dry texting can be a form of expressing anger. But instead of expressing their feelings to you directly, they take it out over text messages. This is like the virtual form of the silent treatment, but they know they’re giving you “just enough” to keep you guessing.
So, think back for a moment. Did you confront them on a specific behavior you didn’t like? Did you tell them something they weren’t ready to hear?
In other words, is there any potential reason they might be upset with you? If so, that could explain their dry texting behavior.
They’re Bored Talking to You
As painful as this may seem, some people dry text when they get bored in a conversation. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a boring person, and it’s important to avoid personalizing this behavior.
Most conversations have a natural rhythm to them, and if you text 24/7, there are bound to be slower periods where there just isn’t much to talk about.
If the dry texting is infrequent, it’s probably just a sign that they need some space. If it’s more chronic, it could be a sign of something else.
Finally, while you should strive to keep someone interested over text, don’t pressure yourself to “be fascinating” all the time. That pace would be exhausting for anyone!
Narcissists may use dry texting as a way to keep people on their toes. They often alternate dry texts with regular texts.
This strategy, of course, is manipulative by nature, and it may be a sign of narcissistic abuse syndrome. In this toxic cycle, the narcissist wants to hold the power and control in the dynamic, but they don’t want to come across as desperate.
They know that their dry texts will likely make you nervous and/or clingy, and they secretly hope that you will anxiously react (so they can then gaslight you and make you feel like you’re the irrational one).
They’re Acting in Response to Your Dry Texts
Some people dry text to match another dry texter’s communication style. We’ll discuss some ways you can tell if you’re a dry texter below.
How Do You Know If You Are a Dry Texter?
It’s easy to spot a dry texter when you’re dealing with one. But sometimes, it isn’t so apparent to tell if you’re the one guilty of this behavior.
Here are some ways you can easily recognize whether you engage in this habit:
You Rarely (Or Never) Ask Follow-Up Questions
Healthy and engaging texting feels reciprocal. Both people ask and respond to questions mutually, and there’s a natural ebb and flow to the conversation.
But if things constantly feel one-sided, like you’re the one who’s always answering the questions, it may be a sign that you’re more of a dry texter than you realized.
You’re Slow to Respond (Or You Just Leave People On Read)
Consider how fast you are to responding to other people’s texts. You don’t necessarily need to react right away (and doing so can be off-putting), but nobody wants to wait several days for a response.
If you do that consistently, it sends a message that you don’t really value the other person’s time or needs.
Likewise, leaving people on read (or just never responding) can be just as hurtful. This is especially true if they shared something serious or asked a meaningful question. You owe them the respect to respond, even if your response is as simple as, I’m not sure, but I’ll definitely get back to you soon.
You Don’t Use Emojis
Whether you love them or hate them, most people agree that using emojis enhances an ordinary conversation.
They highlight emotion and share a story. Even just sending a simple happy face or heart sends a message about your feelings.
You don’t necessarily need to use emojis, but most people- especially young adults- agree that they make text conversations far more engaging.
You Answer With as Few Words as Possible
Look through some of your recent text conversations with someone. How does the volume of your text characters measure to theirs? Do they send long paragraphs or multiple messages? Do you respond with one or two-word phrases?
There’s no hard rule that you have to match someone else’s texts. In fact, you may actually want to distance yourself from someone, especially if their messaging feels overwhelming or burdensome.
But if that’s the case, it’s much better to be upfront and consider having an honest conversation rather than assuming they know how you feel.
How Do You Respond to a Dry Texter?
How you respond to a dry texter will vary based on the type of relationship you have and the type of relationship you ultimately want with the other person.
Call Them Out
I’ve noticed that you’re taking a while to respond lately. Is everything ok?
I feel a little embarrassed and like I’m the only one keeping this conversation going.
I haven’t heard from you in a long time!
Although it may feel awkward, sometimes being direct yields the best results. This strategy shows that you aren’t afraid to acknowledge the obvious discomfort you feel. How they respond will provide useful data about how you want to move forward.
Reinforce When They Do Make More of an Effort
If someone seems shy, anxious, or naive about their dry texting behaviors, you can be a source of support for them. To do this, validate the times when they are more engaged in texting.
It can be as simple as saying, I really like talking to you, or, Thank you for listening to me- I really appreciate hearing your perspective!
Positive reinforcement shows that you notice their efforts, which will ideally motivate them to continue being proactive in their communication.
If despite your efforts, they keep dry texting you, that may be a sign that it’s time to distance yourself from the relationship.
When you do this, two things may happen. First, the other person might realize just how important you are to them, and they’ll change their behavior. Or, nothing will improve, and that will reinforce that you setting limits was the right decision.
How to Stop Being a Dry Texter?
You can stop being a dry texter by first recognizing your behavior and being honest with yourself.
Are you a universal dry texter? Or are you just a dry texter in certain contexts or with certain people? If it’s universal, it’s a sign that you may need to brush up on your basic social skills. If it’s more situational, that might mean you need to reassess your intentions in a relationship.
Keep in mind it’s never fair to lead someone on, whether it’s just a casual friend or a romantic partner. If you feel overwhelmed by someone’s level of communication, it may be time to set clear boundaries.
Change starts by being more engaging in your communication. Ask more thoughtful questions. Make it a point to the text randomly throughout the day when you aren’t prompted. Use emojis or diversify your texting with other forms of media, like memes or graphics.
Above anything, keep asking yourself this: what can I do to keep this conversation going over text? If you embrace that mindset, you will naturally be more open in your communication.
Whether you’re dealing with a dry texter or recognizing that you’re one yourself, there are steps you can take to improve the situation.
When talking to a dry texter, it’s usually helpful to identify your feelings about the situation. You may need to share these feelings with the other person or reevaluate how you text with them altogether.
And if you’re the dry texter, reflect on what’s causing you to act this way, and make a plan of action for improving your behavior.