I would like to know who the women are who prefer Facebook and texting to talking on the phone or in person as a principal relationship tool, because I seem not to know any such women in real life. Obviously, anecdotal evidence isn’t proof one way or the other of a trend, but I have never heard any woman rejoice that the object of her affection uses Facebook or texting as the primary means of communication. It’s much more common for a woman to complain that a man texts her all day long, or that he asks for dates (or, more commonly, “hanging out or sumthin…sometime“) via Facebook. (Forget MySpace. That’s so 2005.) When did the telephone become anathema?
It’s easy to understand why Facebook and texting have risen in popularity for communicating with the opposite sex. We are a risk-averse culture used to ease and convenience. Facebook and texting provide both the minimization of risk and effort. Instead of having to get into the same physical space as another person, we can now communicate with a few clicks of the thumbs and fingers from any distance. The other person doesn’t have to see us – no more need to submit ourselves to the critical eye of another evaluating our face, body, clothes, smile, hair, eyes, posture, how we hold our arms, where we are looking, and whether we have any sweat stains under our armpits or something stuck in our teeth. What a relief! Instead of having to be ready to respond to conversation on the spot, we now have the power of self-editing and thinking up all the witty responses that in real time we only think of well after the fact. We can be cool in a text! Texting rocks! Even better is that we can take or leave the conversation at will. In person or over the phone, you have to respond to the other person’s mood and emotions promptly and deftly in order to avoid social stigma. With Facebook and texting, you can just ignore someone if you don’t feel like dealing with him or her. You can respond instantly or respond never. How did people not come up with such a genius arrangement sooner?
The problem with such advantages is that eventually, if you want the relationship to progress, you’re going to have to spend real-time time with the other person. For a generation addicted to Facebook and texting, it’s hard to think of something more foreign, unnatural, or terrifying. You’re going to have to be in the same physical space as the other person. You’re going to have to talk to each other face to face. You won’t be able to walk away. You won’t be able to self-edit. You’re going to have to let the other person know you as you really are…you’re going to have to be you. But isn’t that what we all want, really, in a relationship? To find someone who loves us for us? To be able to rest in that person’s presence and replenish ourselves so we can march back out and face the rest of the world? You just can’t reach that kind of intimacy when you’ve only got 140 or so characters to work with at a time. Extending this limitation to marriage — who wants to be in a marriage where your thumbs are constantly glued to a keyboard and your eyes are staring down at a screen rather than at each other? I can see it now:
HUSBAND: took out da trash
HUSBAND: u look nice
WIFE: hahahaha no i dont
HUSBAND: yes u do
WIFE: how do u know
HUSBAND: im lookin at u rite now
HUSBAND: yup u look hott
WIFE: ok fine
HUSBAND: im watchin american idol
WIFE: i know these ppl cant sing
HUSBAND: hey want 2 do it 2nite?
I’m not knocking Facebook and texting as communication tools, per se. They can be useful (like confirming plans) and can even enhance a relationship (women live for the written word, and a sweet, unexpected text from a loved one can be like receiving a tiny love letter in the mail). The important thing is to use them judiciously. They are accents in a room, not the main furnishings. The main rules still apply – men, be bold and brave; women, be graciously receptive.
And talk to each other.