A few weeks ago, I was at dinner with my mom and my aunt. We were in the middle of a conversation when my aunt's phone buzzed from a text. It was my uncle. She ignored it. Five minutes later, he texted her again. Then he called. To be clear, my aunt and my uncle are very happily married. My aunt ignores my uncle's call, looks at me and says "I swear, if cell phones existed back when we were dating, I don't think I would have married him. He is so annoying."
This got me thinking. As a writer, I love texting. I love being able to think about what I want to say before I say it. I love being able to use just the right word in just the right way. Over the phone (or God forbid, in person), I stumble and I mumble and I don't know what I want to say.
I'm the kind of person who says what I think. I have a lot to say and I'm not very good at holding back. There are a lot of benefits to this quality. I'm honest. I'm trustworthy. Conversations are rarely boring. But there are also a lot of drawbacks, especially when it comes to texting. More often than not, I'll look at some of my texting conversations and notice that the entire screen is blue. I say something, then I add another thought, followed by some sort of self-deprecating joke. Before I know it, I've texted an essay. With friends, it's not a problem. They know they can respond to the important parts, ignore the crazy parts and not think much of it. They know me. I'm a very chill person. Despite having a lot to say, I don't mean much by my incessant texting. I'm a writer with too much time on my hands. I hate it when people text me too much. I get annoyed fairly easily by people. And, I've been told I'm quiet in person. Shy, even.
But with guys, things get a little complicated. With guys, I've been instructed by my male friends to never send more than two texts in a row. See, that's a problem for me. I'm not good at brevity. Note the length of this essay.
In this generation, at the beginnings of relationships, we text more than we speak on the phone. The ratio of texts to in-person conversations is huge. So, the only relationships that have a chance are where there is texting chemistry. Yet, that doesn't necessarily mean there is chemistry in person. That's why so many relationships start as friends, or at work, because relationships and friendships have a chance to begin in person, rather than via text. I've spent more time with my friends in person than I've spent with them in a text message conversation. So they know I'm not crazy. With guys, I don't always have that luxury.
This past weekend, I went to Coachella. Coachella is a three-day music festival in California. I went out for four nights and stayed in a three-bedroom house with eight people. I was the only single girl. You do the math. So, I had to share a room with two guys. (Sorry, Dad.)
The first morning there, I instantly hit it off with one of the guys in the house. I'll call him Sam. Not only was I staying in the same house as Sam, but we were staying in the same room. So, over the course of the weekend we spent a lot of time together. Our house ate every meal together and spent almost every day together. So Sam really got a taste of me. He saw me with no makeup on in the morning and no cute "Coachella" outfit picked out yet. He helped me choose what to wear, and yelled at me for trying on more than one outfit. (Sorry, guys, but that's what girls do.) He heard my unfiltered opinions and ridiculous jokes. But he also saw my quiet side, the side of me that isn't always talking, the side of me that gets annoyed fairly easy by girls, or just by everyone actually. Over the course of the weekend, he got to know me. And we hadn't sent each other one text.
If I had met Sam on a normal weekend night, rather than during a four-day weekend, it would not have gone that smoothly. It would have gone something like this: We meet. We hit it off. The next day he texts me. And immediately we both start analyzing the texts: the timing, the words used, the number of texts sent. He used an exclamation point. He's a little too excited. Is he serious or joking around in that last text? Should I ask? Is that weird?
Although I might text a lot, I can't stand it when guys do. I find it incredibly annoying. Yes, I want them to respond to my texts right away. Yes, I want them to initiate conversations so I'm not always doing it. But there is a fine line between being a good texter with game, and an annoying texter. Does this sound confusing and borderline impossible to get right? Exactly. You can't win.
Everybody does this. We've all been frustrated at somebody for not responding or annoyed by how often someone texts us. Whether we like it or not, texting is a whole other world of miscommunications and misunderstandings that we have to navigate in order to hang out again. By the time Sam and I hang out again, there are now all of these pre-conceived ideas and notions about each other. The games have begun.
Who we are via text has nothing to do with who we are in relationships -- or in real life, for that matter. My aunt thinks my uncle is annoying with his constant need to know where she is and what she is doing. But it just means he cares. And this quality is a huge component to why their marriage is still strong after so many years. If cell phones existed when my aunt and uncle first starting dating, well, I wouldn't have my cousins today.
Our personas online and our personalities via text say very little about who we are as people. I have many relationships that exist only through my phone and my computer. Many of these friendships rarely work or exist in person. We have so many people that we are constantly in conversation with over Gchat, text message, Facebook and more that we forget the importance of interpersonal communication. Real connections, whether romantic or platonic, happen face-to-face. In an age of digital communication, we are so connected that we've become disconnected.
We form opinions about people based on who they are via text before forming an opinion about who they are in person. Oftentimes, the first opinion overrides the second. These days, the hardest part about dating is no longer figuring out what to say to the other person when you're together, but rather, what to say when you're apart.