LOL dating: the problem with text-based relationships


With texting, instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat becoming the new ways of communication between couples, fast speed interactions are causing real conversations to hit the backburners. Romance is dwindling with each quick pic and shout-out text, leaving roses and dinners-out to crumble in the past.

“[Through text] it feels like I’m not knowing or getting deep with them on an emotional or physical level,” freshman Ilia Sargent-Barba explained of getting to know potential partners. “Generally, that’s how I’ve talked to guys and I feel like I didn’t know them for real and we never went on dates or anywhere amazing.”

Once upon a time, people would meet each other out in the real world, ask the other person out, take them to dinner or a movie, and then call them afterward if they had a good time. Today, sadly, the norm is quite the polar opposite. Young people meet through dating sites like Plenty of Fish and Zoosk, hang out in a dorm for a couple of hours, and then sit waiting for days, not wanting to look desperate, until a simple “hey” text can be sent.

Being able to hide behind the screen of a phone, computer, or tablet leaves many young people shy when it comes to “real” dating and talking about serious subjects with partners or potential partners.

“Texting is useful for logistics like ‘meet you at the library,’” Dr. Susan Heitler, PhD, author of The Power of Two, said, adding that to convey a more complex message, like apologizing for being late, a phone call or face-to-face communication will be more beneficial, especially in unestablished relationships. Heitler identifies texts as “nice little teasers” but not a way to get any more than a glance at a connection.

Quick ways of communication are affecting both couples currently in relationships and dating opportunities for college singles, all in one fell swoop. Trying to make committed relationships work through texting and instant messaging leaves couples bored, un-infatuated and lonely. Feeling love and closeness with another person through typed words and random photos is pretty impossible- relationships grow through contact and spending time together.

Heitler explained that there are positives and negatives to using texting and social media to stay in contact with significant others. She believes staying connected throughout the day in a “real” relationship through text and messages is fine because there is still face-to-face contact being made on a regular basis.

She then described a relationship where couples see each other on weekends but not during the week, as accordion relationships, which is different from long distance because texting and phoning are being used to stay connected until they can see one another.

Heitler said that often times, in long distance relationships, however, couples break up once reconnecting in person- leading to the assumption that messaging forms of communication mislead us in our feelings. She describes catching up through text or email as “refreshing the mind” but minimally, since words cannot express how it feels to laugh and have fun with someone.

After meeting and exchanging numbers, people often get to know one another through text afterwards before deciding to “hang out” or go on a date. Ashley Heitla, 19, said texting to get to know someone doesn’t work because you can’t tell whether or not you have a connection.

“During the beginning of last semester,” she said, “I exchanged numbers with a cute guy at a party. We talked through text and I thought he was a really cool, funny guy, but once it came down to actually hanging out, I came to find he was very bland and we didn’t share the same sense of humor at all.”

Emmett Penski, another freshman at Buff State, says that when people use texting or social media to get to know one another, “They don’t get to see the small things a person does; little things that would go unnoticed unless two [people] were to hang out. From hanging out [with a past girlfriend] I knew she liked [having] her back and the back of her legs tickled. Things like that you don’t learn through texting.”

Texting has “so little data,” Heitler said, that it is easy to be misinterpreted, especially in sensitive subjects or when getting to know someone. She uses “Got your message” as an example, explaining that with how vague texting is, a message like this can be interpreted as annoyed or even businesslike. With texting and messaging, one’s emotional tone and feelings cannot always be properly exhibited.

People looking to date have similar problems when they are learning about someone else through the virtual world. Falling in love with someone takes noticing their quirks and feeling a connection- all of which fall short when social media becomes a first date substitute. Even for those who meet in person and feel a connection, but continue that through texting are most likely going to miss out on a lot and become bored with each other unless they are really good at maintaining their appeal through text- something no emoji can do.

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