Editor’s note: This is the first in a weekly series exploring the many perils and joys of modern dating.
Each generation reinvents the dating scene; we’ve graduated from the days of poodle skirts and burger joints to Match.com and going “Facebook official.” But as the rules of the dating game change, the goal has remained the same: to win over the one you love.
With cell phone service providers integrating unlimited text messaging into their service plans to cater to the millennial mindset that communication is best done electronically, it seems that before you can have a first date, you’ve got to nail that first text.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project this past September, young adults between the ages of 18-24 send an average of 109 text messages a day. Clutching their cell phones, the fingertips of students and young professionals alike tap happily away as they engage in one of our generation’s favorite pastimes. On a walk to class, you’re likely to catch half the students with their heads down consumed by their cell phones, carpal tunnel and oncoming traffic be damned.
Texting is the perfect medium for young adults ready to put themselves out there in the dating world but not yet ready for a face to face rejection. With the relief of preventing a foot-in-mouth situation, texting is an ideal first line of defense against potential awkwardness with a new crush.
Additionally, a text is the first taste of our compatibility with someone. We test out each other’s sense of humor as we carefully consider all of the ways a potential punch line could be misconstrued before sealing our fate with a quick tap on the “send” button. It’s also in those first few text messages that you learn the basics about a person, from hobbies to class schedules.
Alongside mastering the art of texting the person you like, text messages can be the center of the conversations you have with people other than the original recipient of the text. They become the center of coffee shop talk for any given group of girls as they share the texts with each other, praising the clever and witty ones and attempting to read between the lines of the casually vague ones. It’s not enough to just text the people we’re romantically interested in. Now we’ve made conversations out of rereading the back-and-forth message rundowns to our friends.
Whether we like it or not, we are judged by our texts just as we are judged by our Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds. Texting is more than figuring out the whens and wheres of a potential date; it’s a representation of who we are. Leave it to our generation to take a form of technology as impersonal as texting and employ it in our personal relationships.
Text messages are more than asking how someone is doing or what their plans are later that night. They can be the reason you went to bed with a smile plastered on your face, or the badge you show off to your friends and gush over or an enigma you desperately need to decode. When you can’t help but light up when you see your phone light up, it’s obvious that a text message is so much more than words on a screen.
In a swarm of acronyms and emoticons, how do you ensure that your text will stand out? Ideally a text should strike the perfect balance between being concise, clever and charming. But since we can’t hire out Zooey Deschanel to pen our text messages to our crushes, it’s best to keep this in mind: text messages are supposed to be the gateway to face to face interaction, so in your messages you should come across as someone that person actually wants to be around. It really is as simple as being the most likable version of yourself while not losing your personality in LOLs and ROFLs.
Because the winking face is the unofficial emoticon of choice for the supremely creepy and wildly promiscuous, it’s best to just avoid expressing your feelings through smiley faces. If you need to text a smiley face to clarify that you are indeed smiling, then you aren’t using your words correctly.
As technology continues to redefine every aspect of our lives, including the way we ask people out on dates, texting is a facet of the dating world that could determine your future with someone. With a little perfectly timed textual charm, it seems that a text message is this generation’s quickest way to have the guy or girl of their dreams in the palm of their hand.