"There's a shortcut for saying 'I love you,'" I had
laughed to my then partner. I was poking around on my
smartphone, exploring the features it offered, and was
intrigued to find a list of shortcuts that let users
quickly send staple messages, like "on my way," "be
right back," and, apparently, a candid admission of
romantic love. "Well, gotta placate the wife when you're
busy at a meeting," ran his joking retort, but I had
to wonder--what is the role of text messaging in modern
dating and relationships, really? How has texting changed
the way we date?
With SMS entering just about every crevice of our lives,
it's no surprise that it has taken up a significant
role in dating. After all, if relationships depend on
communication, it's only natural that one of our favorite
modes of keeping in touch figures into our romantic
lives. In short, dating and relationships have continued
to change with the times-- but has texting changed dating?
One possible consequence of the ubiquity of text messaging
is that it has allowed dating to become more casual.
While this shift is perhaps also a product of a dynamic
culture that less and less views dating as formal courtship
or a search for a spouse, texting has surely contributed
to these changes. Perhaps texting has simply made communication
itself more casual and non-committal.
Texting usually demands little dedicated time, and
can be used to chat or say hello just about anywhere
or at any time. By making communication more mobile
and accessible, text messaging has made keeping in contact
more casual by sparing us setting aside time to talk
by phone or the pain of checking and waiting for emails.
This applies to friends and dates alike. The more casual
approach towards communication that texting has afforded
us has in part allowed us to approach keeping in touch
with dates in a much more casual way.
Of course, with an increased level of contact, however
casual, may come increased opportunities for stress
in burgeoning relationships. With more opportunities
to talk to a love interest, and an easily accessible
record of our conversations, those inclined towards
details may find themselves more able to read into anothers'
words--or read receipts--perhaps more than they should.
It can be hard to avoid, and, while hardly a new phenomenon,
text messaging makes it all the easier. Though in many
respects text messaging makes communication in dating
more casual, it may well also feed an attitude quite
the opposite of casual.
Perhaps this issue in part stems from changed expectations
for communication in relationships, thanks to texting.
Because text messaging has allowed communication to
become easier and more casual, text messaging has facilitated
communication; we are more inclined to initiate and
carry on conversations when they are convenient and
casual, so many of us who text will find ourselves talking
to people more often than we would without SMS. And
when this becomes a norm, in all sorts of relationships,
it becomes an expectation.
Deviations from what we expect can make us wonder if
something is wrong, and feel anxious and insecure about
our romantic lives. This anxiety is perhaps not the
greatest consequence of this constant contact, though.
Many a couple can attest to the value of some distance
between better halves, begging the question, is being
so in touch with our partners simply hurting our relationships?
It's very possible that heightened levels of and expectations
for communication between partners may be more stifling
than it is sweet. However, in longer-term relationships
in which this phenomenon may pose a problem, the situation
is certainly not hopeless; couples who find this constant
connectedness troubling can surely work to create any
needed personal space within the bounds of their relationships.
And, of course, others may find this heightened connectedness
a mere harmless side effect of modern life.
Whether we consider it a problem or not, with texting
encouraging an increased level of communication and
attention between partners throughout the day, it's
no surprise when we tend to shift more of our conversations
with our partners to text. While this progression seems
obvious, it may become problematic when serious conversations
arise. What happens when we tackle the big issues with
our partners via SMS?
Having important conversations over text could pose
problems for couples. It can be difficult and time-consuming
to make complex, and often lengthy, points via text,
causing us to sometimes sacrifice some level of clarity
for concision over SMS. It is also very easy to misread
nuances like tone over text, increasing the likelihood
of misunderstandings. Needless to say, misunderstandings
can complicate serious conversations, especially arguments,
in an all-too undesirable way. And even when happier
discussions arise over text, shifting these conversations
to SMS may cheapen them.
However, this potential host of problems does not seem
to be news to young couples. In a 2012 study by Amanda
Klein at Towson University, ten interviews conducted
with individuals between the ages of 23 and 30 showed
a unanimous belief that text messaging is not an ideal
venue for tackling the serious issues. This potential
room for problems that SMS presents also does not seem
to represent a significant problem among young couples;
while some participants reported occasionally indulging
in serious talks over text when phone calls or face
to face contact was not an option, or beginning an argument
via text, all participants reported that each of these
conflicts were ultimately resolved face to face. It
seems young couples still see and engage in the value
of interpersonal contact.
So, is text messaging breaking down dating? Or providing
a practical platform for our relationships in the modern
world? With all the complex ways we engage with texting,
it's hard to say. What we can be certain of is that
dating is changing, and SMS is helping to shape its
About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage,
Inc. a software company for communication software solutions.