How Can You Make Texting Courtship? 

Tech will trip your dating game, if you do it wrong. Women weigh in on how to not suck at wooing with SMS. 

We are in an age that some have actually coined “The Dating Apocalypse”. According to Vanity Fair:

As the polar ice caps melt and the earth churns through the Sixth Extinction, another unprecedented phenomenon is taking place, in the realm of sex. Hookup culture, which has been percolating for about a hundred years, has collided with dating apps, which have acted like a wayward meteor on the now dinosaur-like rituals of courtship.

Hyperbolic joking aside, it’s true that technology has catapulted modern romance into a unique and unprecedented realm. Between social media and dating apps, Snapchat and sexting, communication has become more high-tech than ever — which doesn’t always make things straightforward in the dating world.

Three individuals who took different stances on texting weighed in on how to best deploy it to communicate with someone who catches their eye.

Lucy, who works in Washington DC, is dating a guy who lives in Boston. She visits Boston on a regular basis to see family and friends, and she met him on one such visit.

“When I gave him my number,” she said, “knowing he lived in a different city, I was skeptical anything would happen at all.” But he happened to visit DC later that month and they went on a date. They started texting regularly thereafter. “Sometimes 20 times throughout the day,” she said. “I discovered I liked talking to him that way. It was two months between our first and second date — though we must have sent more than a thousand texts to each other within that time.”

In Lucy’s situation, texting is not so different from older generations exchanging written notes. My own grandparents began their relationship with letters and telegrams. In fact, my grandfather couldn’t get off work on their planned wedding day, and he sent my grandmother a telegram that simply said “call the wedding off.” She assumed he was dumping her, until he was able to explain. Tech + sweethearts has always been a romantic comedy waiting to happen.

Lucy was in line with my grandmother, because she added, “that being said, texting counts only if you’re good at using it to actively communicate. I don’t think it would have counted if he had just been texting me emojis or LOLOLOL. You can use text to fill space and stay connected but it doesn’t replace in-person interactions.”

A 23-year-old New York math teacher I talked to had a slightly different outlook. “You can stalk someone via text, so you can court someone via text,” she said. “But be careful which one you’re doing. That being said, I do appreciate an artful text-flirt.”

Her focus gets at one of the most difficult parts of texting: gauging tone. This is particularly vital if you’re trying to set the mood for some sexy messages, because things can go sideways quickly.

Without eye contact and body language, there’s a lot of room for ambiguities. One person’s flirting could be another person’s creeping. In his book Modern Romance Aziz Ansari says, “As a medium, it’s safe to say, texting facilitates flakiness and rudeness and many other personality traits that would not be expressed in a phone call or an in-person interaction.” Texting invites you to become that guy from the comments section.

A 27-year-old producer at an advertising agency took a harder anti-texting stance. “Long conversations and plans should still be made over the phone. I enjoy when men call me to chat about my day and then ask me out that week,” she said. “Texting should only be used to check in or if something funny happens during the day and you want to tell the person you’re dating. Texting is used as a serious form of communication now, which I think is the main cause for the ‘ghosting’ aspect of dating. But I don’t think it should be used as a courting method, ever, nor should a woman consider it one. I don’t want to be your pen pal.”

To recap: Lucy was content to be someone’s pen pal, the math teacher liked sexting but was wary of it crossing lines, and the producer prefers the least amount of texting possible.

So, to make your dating life easier, the takeaway is “courtship through texting is okay, except when it’s not, and also if the person doesn’t like it.” Totally straightforward!

Fact is, this is tetchy territory, not fit for roundups like “10 ways to make her like you over text — you’ll never believe number 7!” You can click on those, but good luck learning anything useful. The bottom line is, establishing a relationship in written form before human interaction is like taking a test before studying. People have different tones, senses of humor, and thoughts about how much they dig texting, and you’re only hurting yourself if you try to walk in blind. Find out in person first, and if they’re into texting, go for it. As in so many things, just ask your date what he or she prefers. But don’t generalize, because you know what they say: Everyone who generalizes is generally wrong.