By Julz Cukrov
A Game of Texting with Textual Expectations
Giving “good” text is the be-all-and-end-all in today’s gamified dating landscape. An insatiable desire for textual chemistry bordering on manic. Heaven forbid if your texting skills are anything less than extraordinarily witty. Doomed if they’re not. This is a game of uninhibited digital intimacies and fantasies, timing anxieties, misinterpretations, excessive over analysis, unspecified rules, and strict textual expectations. A digital-world-within-a digital-device where anything and everything is textually possible when it comes to “courting” the object of your textual attraction. Deciphering digital nuances and decoding the rules of texting will be your biggest conundrum. Miscommunication is unavoidable. Textual compatibility isn’t a guarantee. This is the world of gamified dating. It’s a jungle out there…
In Pursuit of “Textual Chemistry”
It doesn’t take a brain scientist to know things have drastically changed on the contemporary dating front. The pursuit of “Mr and Mrs Right” now entails an all-hours-slash-all-you-can-eat vibrating smokescreen through a digital device that fits snuggly in your hot-little-hand.
Once upon a time, we wanted physical chemistry. The unsuccessful containment of rampantly swelling butterflies in the stomach instigated by the romanticized “other.” The mind envisioning titillating pictures of you and him, or him and him, or her and her, “getting your gear off.” Chastising yourself for intoxicating and foolish foresight. Hoping your cheeks have not gone red, yet again, indicating that your body is completely lovesick and gone cray-cray.
That’s right, keep acting like you are interested in the suffocating artificiality the two of you have created for yourselves. Stop thinking about him with his clothes off. Or her with her clothes off. About him throwing you against a wall and ravishing you right there and then. Or her doing the same thing. It’s the first time you’ve met in-person. But already you’ve lost the plot. You’re as nervous as hell. Sweating like a pig. Your heart beating like a drum. Dating is indeed super awkward and super stressful. We keep putting ourselves through this “BS” for a chance at real love. That’s all we want.
Things have inevitably changed. The whole “meeting-in-person-thing” right off the bat. Today, we, “get-our-rocks-off” texting the one that we want. Avoiding that horrendously awkward face-to-face date until we’ve exchanged a barrage of steamy texts. Sort out the textual chemistry first. Then deal with the physical chemistrylater. Then disaster strikes. We have killer physical chemistry but our textual chemistry sucks balls!
Of course, when it comes to texting and gamified dating we are enamoured with its contrivances. We have a global addiction to “effusive texting and multi-theses” says Eliana Dockterman. The amount of time and energy wasted on fanatically “texting and sexting” should warrant each of us a Nobel Peace Prize for outstanding dedication and achievement in SMS language. Seriously!
Coming across as “too desperate or too needy” is a major turn-off. Oh, and never contemplate double-texting under any circumstances. It reeks of desperation when “treating-them-mean-and-keeping-them-keen” is the look you should be going for. Not to mention accidental typos, wrong emoji use and arduous essay-style texts are laden with so many underlying complicated meanings and innuendos, exacerbating our confusion as to how best we can grapple with this relatively new technology-fuelled feature of the modern dating stratosphere Dockterman further maintains.
“Premature escalation” is also the ultimate dating nightmare says Emily Morse, the host of the Sex With Emily podcast. Obsessive pre-date texting back-and-forth strangulates any chances of developing a natural physical spark in-person. Instead your being neurotic. Like all the time. A major turnoff and sexual mood killer. Avoid it at all possible costs.
Undeniably, “our whole world is so instant now, people can craft entire personas through their slew of texts…by the time you meet your partner for an actual date, you’ve built up this whole image and fantasy in your head of who you think they are, and then they turn out to be totally different,” says Morse.
Ironically, we have retained aspects of traditional dating etiquette, in terms of, seeking romantic partners who are emotionally stable and concentrating on a meaningful connection with someone according to Danielle White.Moreover, texting shouldn’t be the defining aspect of dating communication, in that it potentially replaces normal face-to-face conversation either says Patrick Allan.
Texting is unable to replicate natural nuances indicative of in-person interaction and communication. Its “digital barrier” inhibits us from our recipient’s facial cues, body language and tonal intonations. Invariably, crucial elements of normalized human behavior. Furthermore, texting has become a tangible yet superfluous ingredient within gamified dating, securing us with an ambiguous set of rules that are mostly indecipherable. As Elise Howell aptly demonstrates, “[n]obody wants to be the first to express interest, state preferences or communicate needs. Doing so requires risk and vulnerability, with the possibility of being rejected. What used to be the exciting initial phase of getting to know someone has shifted to one of frustration, missed connections, and worry.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum, texting is viewed as an effective tool to cultivate swift textual chemistry between romantic acquaintances. It may be of the digitally fettered variety, in terms of, its obvious constraints and absence of physical connection, but, it is, nonetheless, a highly convenient way to communicate (in a “time-poor world”) and fast-tracks our need for flirting and foreplay. To channel Docktermanagain, this is our dating reality in the 21stCentury. This notion of meeting prospective romantic partners through online dating websites or apps, and striking up a textual relationship virtually straight away. Ideally, text-based dating has superseded the antiquated concept of “meeting-in-person” at the first instance. Consider that texting also has enormous potency via its twin aims of operating as a medium for seduction and, as an on-screen foundation to build a potential future with the one we are “textually attracted to.” Besides, textual compatibility these days, has become the all-important signifier of how communication would sustain in a “committed and emotionally satisfying [long-term] romantic relationship” just to channel Finkel et al., again.
The “New Age Paradox” of “New Age Dating”
Gamification, in a nutshell, is, “the incorporation of game-like properties into non-gaming settings,” as Cayley Alexa Montmarquette articulates. Notwithstanding and uncharacteristically, “gaming and online dating are co-evolving within a complex technological sphere that is simultaneously evolving,” Montmarquetteadds further.
And this is where the “new age paradox” lies…
Inverting gamification in the form of texting into real lifevis-à-vis non-gaming contexts by way of engagement through digital devices. Our iPhones. Our Smartphones. Our iPads. Our MacBook Pro’s. Global proclivity for texting is as empoweringas it is dehumanizing. Empowering, in the sense that, we can masterfully control our textual conversations, behaviors and emotions. Dehumanizing, in the sense that, we are “buying into textual fantasy” claims Joel Sabarra. Indeed, the “texting world” is a contrived version of the “real world” whereby, true feelings and emotions are consciously repressed through an avoidance mechanism.
Gamified dating like traditional dating, internalizes present day frustrations over the “unknowability of someone else’s mind” says Kathryn VanArendonk.In addition, changing technologies of communication signal changes in the overall language and dynamics of howpeople meet each other and subsequently, fall in love. The more popularized the technology, the more potent and transformative the process becomes according to VanArendonk.
The dehumanizing element of texting, is, reinforced by its digital barrier and artifice since, “[t]ext alone lacks…paralinguistic cues that reveal uniquely human mental capacities, thereby enabling dehumanization if readers do not [adequately] compensate for the absence of these cues.” –Dr Juliana Schroesder
Perceived “Uninhibited Intimacy” 24/7
The modern dating scene has encountered a massive digital shake-up, but, our human desire to pursue romantic love despite its challenges, has endured says Eli J. et al. Alternatively, Theresa E DiDonato surmises, texting has taken pressure off those expected to have a spontaneous arsenal of witty jargon at their disposal. Texters, can take their time crafting messages to send to their romantic recipients. Since, textual communication is devoid of natural nuances, one can say what they want to say, without any externalizing self-consciousness. (E.g. sweaty palms, red cheeks, shaking voice, nervous laughter, clumsiness etc). Massively convenient.
But “[w]hat is text messaging really intended for? Ideally, not baring your soul?” Dr Goali Saedi purposefully implies.
There are pros and cons like everything in life.
On the one hand, texting is an illusion. It’s an illusion because it gives a false sense of assurance that the idealized object of your texting affection is available 24/7. In actual fact, they’re not. Oh, but “textual flirting” is just far too intoxicating! We all know it. We’ve all done it. The bonus is, you don’t have to risk face-to-face-in-the-flesh-rejection. You essentially “save face” by texting. The good old avoidance mechanism prevails.
On the other hand, texting is a playful medium in exploring our textual repertoire and prowess. Kira Asatryanclaims; “[it’s] [the] playfulness that’s built into texting [that] develops and enhances [our] inside jokes. It’s a [non-physical] reminder that the two of you like each other.” It can be said, “few people in life possess the naturally attuned social skills for spontaneous human interaction” Gigi Engle eloquently asserts.
Texting is cognizant of the gamification of dating, but, that doesn’t mean, it’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s a sign of the digital times and the preferred dating medium whether we criticize it or not. With texting, we have the ideal “security blanket” to compartmentalize our lives through the digital devices with which we text from.
We no longer have to “fear the fear” of romantic rejection. Texting gives us power and capacity to control our romantic interactions, attachments, and entanglements Yes, it’s technically a restricted way of communicating. Yes, it ‘s a frustrating labyrinth of misunderstandings. Yes, it’s completelycontrived. But, if, textual dating makes it easier to navigate the rocky terrain on the pilgrimage of love then it’s a damn good thing. Whatever floats your “love boat” at the end of the day.