Summer Reading Contest Winner, Week 9: On ‘The Best Way to Respond to Text Messages’

Summer Reading Contest Winner, Week 9: On ‘The Best Way to Respond to Text Messages’

We received 1,074 entries from students from around the world for the ninth week of our 10-week Summer Reading Contest. Thank you to everyone who participated, and congratulations to our winner, Bloomy, as well as the runners-up and honorable mentions we recognize below.

Scroll down to take a look at the variety of topics — from critical race theory and misinformation on Facebook to origami cranes and texting etiquette — that caught the eyes of our participants this week. You can find the work of all our winners since 2017 in this column.

Thank you to everyone who participated!

(Note to students: If you are one of this week’s winners and would like your last name published, please have a parent or guardian complete our permission form [PDF] and send it to us at

Bloomy chose an essay from The New York Times Magazine’s Letter of Recommendation column headlined “The Best Way to Respond to Text Messages” and wrote:

They say texting is easy, but through the eyes of an avid overthinker, it is an unsolvable, ever-tipping scale between “too much” and “not enough.” In his essay “The Best Way to Respond to Text Messages,” Todd Levin explores the struggle of responding to a text to show enough emotion while preserving genuineness. As Mr. Levin suggests, Apple’s new “HA HA” tapback feature may help make responding easier, until it doesn’t. Because it doesn’t take long before people read into it. Is the joke not funny enough to warrant an emoji? Does the tapback mean the other person wants to end the conversation?

In the pandemic age, overthinkers are hopelessly faced with a million text dilemmas, reading into two-dimensional letters and cartoon emojis. We sit with our thumbs hovering over the screen, spamming the letters “H” and “A” over and over like we are just exploding with laughter, while we sit tight lipped, back hunched, eyes dry from glazing over the screen for hours. Because the joke isn’t really that funny, is it? Or at least not as funny as our text reaction suggests. Because the joke is just letters printed on a screen, or a blurry meme you’ve already seen. Perhaps the problem isn’t how many “HA”s you should be typing out, but the emotional numbness we feel from being online so much that we forget what it is to really laugh. Apple can introduce a million features to combat texters’ overthinking, but no amount of “HA”s will ever seem genuine enough until our feelings are.

In alphabetical order by the writer’s first name.

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