Resnick: A few simple guidelines for successful flirting via text message

Gideon Resnick

Cell phones have soiled the art of romance. Because texting allows us to pursue women, men, and all things in between without seeing them in person, it tramples on all the romantic aspects of courting. For Chrissakes, Clark Gable wouldn’t waste quality mustache-waxing time to type out love letters. The occasions for calling are few and far between, so most of the time there’s not even a voice on the other side to let us know what people are thinking. Yet for all intents and purposes, we can get by without talking on the phone for days at a time. Most of our modern efforts at dating sadly begin with the text, so understanding what works and what doesn’t is of utmost importance. It’s ridiculous to think that people try to be coy and seduce with abbreviated combinations of misspelled words containing integers. But it can pan out, if you’re very careful. At least lack of human contact can eliminate the risk of projectile vomiting when you see your crush. All that being said, there are certain guidelines that must be followed in order to be successful in your pursuits. Neglecting to adhere to these rules would be akin to feeding Gizmo after midnight. There are of course blatant sext-based ways to let people know you’re interested in them. But in order to avoid sexual harassment charges, let’s stick with tips that entail less depravity. Emoticons are absolutely the worst. Essentially these make us menfolk have to sit stupidly and guestimate as to why a wink was sent instead of a smile. And those of us without smartphones are left wondering why we’ve received what looks like encrypted messages from Klingon spacecraft. Of course it’s a nice gesture to incorporate your facial expressions in cute, animated form, but adding them at the end of an otherwise perfectly jovial sentence makes us read too much into why they were included in the first place. For instance, if a friend of mine just so happened to receive a text that read, “Let’s go to Plex,” he’d find it completely harmless (food aside of course), unless there was a winky face at the end. In that case, he’s just been asked on one of the most horrendous dates you can imagine. And when guys do it, it seems to read as creepy and sleazy. I mean, even winks in person sort of make you look like a stroke victim or someone with an eyelash under your contact lens. The length of a text also has a lot of interesting implications. Basically, when someone sends the word “ok” or “cool,” with nothing else, it’s a conversational death sentence. And let’s be real, when you begin with the topic of Plex, you’re lucky you’ve made it that far. But length is a very tricky thing to master. That’s what she said. With our supremely awful attention spans, anything longer than the length of a tweet pretty much means the text is from a parent. It’s imperative to grab attention without taking it completely captive. Explaining the roots of your deepest arachnophobia is something that can be reserved for a dinner date. Or never. As with all things, one must know when enough is enough. Continuing a text conversation past a comfortable ending point makes for stilted, offensively boring conversation. If someone responds with an “ok cool,” (or any other monosyllabic colloquialism), don’t start mentioning the weather or your new haircut. That’s the point when you wave the white flag. Most importantly, above all things, the double text must be avoided at all costs. The typical situations in which this phenomenon occurs is when a person does not receive a reply in a window of time that fits the rhythm of the conversation. The person awaiting attention and validation is nervous that either the other party didn’t get the initial message, thought the first one was offensive or lost interest. This is the pivotal, palm-sweating moment at which the dreaded double text is sent, perhaps posing a new sales pitch for coffee. What ensues is either no response, because the person finds you abhorrently persistent and aggressive, or a response that addresses one text and not the other. In order to keep texting a light, easy dialogue, give the other person some breathing room. I’m not saying this modern life has no room for romantic gestures at all, because that would be tragic and we could all nosedive off of Swift now. It’s just that facilitating it with a phone can sometimes, or a lot of the time, backfire. The choice of language, and the intent and meaning of that curt word use, is imperative to turning botched party encounters into dates at Lincoln Park Zoo. Because when you think about it, a jaunt around smelly hippos is really just 100 characters away. Gideon Resnick is a Medill freshman. He can be reached at [email protected]