Russell Brand broke up his marriage to Katy Perry by sending her a text, and – believe it or not – that was probably okay with most people. In a recent survey of 1500 Americans ages 20 to 50 years old by USA Today, 59% said they too would end a relationship via text.
“It removes the unpleasant confrontation,” as Naomi Barton, a professor of linguistics at American University put it. “It’s just easier.”
She and other experts in communications believe that texting, even more so than emailing, is revolutionizing the way people date (and probably the way they cheat on one another as well). Just as it is quicker, cleaner and not as scary to break up by text, the same holds true for making a date or initializing contact with someone new. Texting is not as intimate as using phone or face-to-face communication. You can pull out from the dialogue without humiliation if the person rejects you.
In the USA Today survey, 33% of men and 31% of women said it is easier to ask for a first date via text, and 44% of men and 37% of women said texting also makes it easier to flirt. Guys sometimes send the same texted invitation to several women – a message along the lines of “Wanna hang out tonight?” – until one agrees to do it, according to author Ruthie Dean. The age-old male fear of rejection just disappears with this method.
Texting is probably making it easier for people to cheat on one another, especially at conventions or other situations that involve business travel. A quick text would also make it easier for a married person to initiate “a quick drink” or “an innocent coffee” with an attractive acquaintance in their lives. You would not have to deal with either rejection or the emotions surrounding cheating on your wife or husband. As the survey says, texting makes it easier to flirt and faster to get a date.
Dean believes her generation, the one born between 1980 and 2000, likes to hide behind technology because they have trouble expressing emotions. Other experts, such as Professor Barton, point out that most of us are over-scheduled and multi-tasking all the time, and we simply need to avoid long time-consuming conversations on the phone by using text.
“We don’t have to listen to what the other person says (with texting),” she believes. “We decide how we want to encounter or whether we want to encounter other people.”
In fact, respondents in the USA Today survey often told researchers that they also do not want to waste time with new people they may not like. They tend to prefer first dates over drinks rather than dinners because dinners take too long.
Some dating websites have applications that allow members to track each other’s geographical locations. In other words, you join a dating website that lets you search the membership roster using geographic location, and then you can text someone who is sitting in the bar where you are drinking. The other member can look you over and decide whether or not he or she wants to hook up with you, based on your instant chemistry and after reading your profile. In this way, technology would again become a facilitator for those who want to cheat on their partners.
Some experts in linguistics and communications now believe that texting is revolutionizing today’s dating scene the way the automobile and the telephone once did. Texting makes it easier to connect, easier to reject or be rejected, easier to manage dates, easier to save time, and easier to avoid confrontations. It’s not just speed dating, it’s dating at the speed of light. And anyone – even married people – can play the new game.
Jayson, Sharon. “How Texting Has Blown Up the Dating Culture,” USA Today, July 19-21, 2013.