Ahhh… dating in the digital age. I’m sure I’m not the only analog girl who continues to be perplexed as I attempt to navigate love and relationships in the age of technology, instant access and TMI. As old-fashioned courtship and slowly getting to know someone you may be romantically interested in appear to be things of the past, we have to be mindful of our digital interactions, because most times they outlast our physical ones. It’s complicated. And while I’m not one to embrace dating rules, I found that cocktails with friends and Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider’s women’s dating guide Not Your Mother’s Rules: The New Secrets for Dating (The Rules) has brought up some interesting points to explore.
1. Just say no to rapid and excessive communication via text, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. If you’re anything like me, you love being smitten with someone new, and in those moments of butterflies and lash batting, you want to be in communication with him or her all. the. time. Well, Fein and Schneider warn us against all that chitter-chatter and banter. According to the authors, women in particular should wait at least four hours before responding to an initial text message (much later if she’s older); should limit subsequent responses to one-hour time frames; and should make herself unavailable on the weekends.
The logic, of course, is that women should appear to have busy, fulfilling lives and not be out here putting their thirst on display like fabulous couture during New York Fashion Week.
But here’s the thing about this rule (and many others listed here): sweeping generalizations about what works in dating scenarios may end up turning off your potential date/boo/snack. If I send someone a text at noon and he responds at midnight, I’m pretty sure I’d take that late response as him not being interested. And doesn’t it all seem a bit like game playing?
“No,” says my girlfriend April. “You can’t give guys the illusion that you’re sitting around waiting on them to call, text, email or whatever. If you commit that crime early, it’s all downhill from there.” I will agree that making yourself too available opens you up to those annoying “u up?” text messages that come in at 1:00 a.m. when you’re, in fact, not up and don’t want to be bothered (at least not that night). See? Complicated.
2. Mind your connections on social media. Don’t be too quick to Facebook-friend, Twitter-follow or Instagram-follow a potential love interest, for a few reasons. According to my seemingly ever-single homie Ken, “Women need to slow down on all that friending on social networks.” Because “men like mystery.” I don’t know about basing dating decisions on what “men” like or don’t, but there are a few reasons that it may be a good idea to wait a while to connect online with someone you’ve newly met or are just beginning to date.
Not only do these social networks tell a great deal about us with no filter, our social media pages lack both nuance and context. I’d rather tell a love interest about myself face to face than allow him to make assumptions from my many duck-lipped Instagram selfies, or that rant on Facebook about how much I hate Kem for absolutely no logical reason whatsoever. I prefer to slowly walk my lovers into my crazy, thank you very much. (No, but really: Kem is like the Kenny G of soul music.) And what if it turns out that I don’t like the dude? I reserve my unfriending (but still lightweight stalking via social networks) for long-term exes.
3. Speaking of unfriending, understand that digital communication alone does not constitute a relationship. We all lead very busy lives, and as a result conduct many of our relationships in soundbites. I’m guilty. But, you cannot develop a relationship with someone you don’t speak to regularly or communicate with face to face. (And I’m not talking here about brief conversations to schedule hookups or long distance relationships.)
If you say you want to be in a real relationship, then don’t settle for a series of half-assed text conversations that masquerade as authentic communication between two people who genuinely want to get to know and potentially be with one another. I guarantee you, the guy who won’t call is the same guy whose idea of a date is watching your Netflix in your apartment, sucking up all your air conditioning and eating all your groceries for the week. Don’t bother.
Let’s keep this going! Share with us your dos and don’ts to dating in the digital age in our comments section!
Josie Pickens is an educator, cultural critic and scribe. Follow her musings on Twitter @jonubian.