I love texting. I love it so much, especially for dating. As an introvert, texting has pretty much solved all of my modern-day social problems. I can connect with whomever I want without making eye contact or even putting on pants. I can leave any conversation without an awkward goodbye. And if I ever mess up and say anything too revealing or embarrassing, I can just blame the other person and block them. Unreasonable? Maybe. Effective? Very.
Texting isn’t all great though. I’ve been unsuccessfully dating for a year now — any dating app you can name, I’m on it. But after a year of fielding inane questions about being a female comedian and the constant demands that I tell a joke to prove I’m funny, I’ve had to face the possibility that maybe texting isn’t serving me in love. Maybe this technological advancement, instead of enhancing the dating process, is actually undermining an age-old ritual built on eye contact, pheromones, and in-person chemistry. Or maybe I'm just bad at using emojis. Finally, after reviewing the graveyard of dead-end conversations that is my Tinder inbox and iMessage history, I decided to give up texting for a week, cold turkey.
These were the rules: I could respond to messages on apps but then I would quickly give the guy my number and ask him to call me if he wanted to chat. J. was a cute grad student and that’s all I knew about him by the time I picked up the phone. I had high hopes that we would have an instant chemistry that would easily carry the conversation. Unfortunately, J. must have failed chemistry but majored in condescension. I asked what he was studying and instead of answering, he insisted I guess. When I guessed STEM, he proceeded to interrogate me on whether I knew what each letter in STEM stood for. Every time I tried to subtly hint that I needed to go, he would ask why and then try to fact check me. Finally, I had to pull the classic oh-no-I’m-going-into-a-basement-without-reception-and-also-please-never-call-me-again move.
Scarred from that adventure, I decided to go straight for a date (this wasn’t technically cheating). After a short back and forth on Tinder, H. asked if I wanted to meet for a late-night artisanal sandwich at a moody gastropub. When I sat down, he eagerly informed me that I swiped on him on both Bumble and Tinder, so I must really like him. You can imagine how awkward it got when I admitted I had no recollection of the contents of his profile.
“But I’m the guy with the horse,” he said, offended. (I did check his profile picture later and yes, he was petting a very adorable miniature horse.) H. was pretty disappointed when he realised I wasn’t desperately trying to track him down across multiple dating platforms. Surprisingly, the date did not pick up from there. Zero for two.
The week brought more of the same: I must have received around 100 messages through various apps. Most were just hi or your standard offensive proposition, but I did give out my phone number to a handful of people and went on a total of three dates, including one at a super sketchy Tim Hortons. Very few people took me up on the offer to talk on the phone. Two guys on two different dating sites texted me for days to ask “do you still want me to call?” clearly hoping I would change my mind.
On the plus side, not texting did free up a significant chunk of my week. I suddenly had time to finish my copy of the neurology book The Male Brain by Louann Brizendine and go for long hikes in the mall. However, I felt very lonely. My friends and family didn’t want to talk on the phone; they all preferred to just wait out the week (wow, what a burn). And, since everyone made it clear they would rather just leave me alone if they couldn’t text me, I felt that calling them would be too much of an imposition. It made me wonder how something that so recently felt so essential to communication, was now practically a social taboo. By the end of the week, I missed the comfort and ease of texting, and more and more started to resent the effort required to speak to people or meet them in person.
So, when P. messaged me on Bumble asking to meet on Sunday night just when my self-imposed texting ban had lifted, I almost declined. I was sick of dating at this point, plus I was trying out jokes in the back of a pool hall on a crappy open mic night. “It’s late,” I texted, “and I’m not really dressed well or wearing makeup.”
“That’s perfect,” he answered. “I’m not wearing makeup either.”
This response made me laugh so I agreed to meet up. As soon as I saw him in person, I could sense it. The thing that you can never feel no matter how long you message with a person. He did look like his pictures but somehow I found him more attractive. He also had a surprisingly quiet voice that made me lean in to hear. He was sensitive and well-spoken in a way I wouldn’t have guessed from his bio, and it wasn’t until we were sharing a mango pudding in Chinatown at 2 a.m. that I realised for the first time this week, I didn’t even miss my phone.
While I am very relieved to be off this experiment and back to telling all my friends “omg we should meet up!” and not following up, I'm glad I did this exercise. I’ve learned that straight-up asking someone for a phone call or to meet for a quick date does speed up the process of getting to know him or her, and is especially effective for figuring out if you won’t like him or her. And given that we’re all popular busy people, this can be a really important option. As for P., we’re still texting. The other day, I sent him a weird embarrassing joke, and just as I realised I was going to have to block him, he surprised me by calling — yes, CALLING — to say hi. Too bad I didn’t pick up.