Online Dating and Electronic Communication: The Waiting Game

What am I doing right now?  I mean, RIGHT now?  I’m waiting on a text.  Nope, not waiting for someone else to text, as you might think.  This might shock you a little bit, but I’m waiting to respond back to a text from a girl I’m interested in.

Why?

With everything being so instant in our modern society, you might think it’s a good idea to respond to someone communicating with you as fast as possible.  The dating game, however, is so counter-intuitive that it’s absurd.  I’ve begun to realize that if I think I should do it, it’s probably not a good idea.  For instance, when one of my friends texts me I respond immediately.  Even if I don’t have a conclusive answer to their query, I’ll at least say something like, “I’m not sure, let me get back to you.”  This lets them know that I’ve received their message, and more importantly, that I respect them enough to put their mind at ease about the details.  The dating game, however, is just not so.

You’re Superficial.  Get Over It.

What’s the first thing that you notice about someone?  Is it their grand intellect?  Their quick wit?  Their ability to weave a basket underwater in record time, and then not brag about it?  Of course not, you can’t see those things when you first meet someone.  I mean, if we could see those things I think the dating game would be a lot more interesting, but that’s another hypothetical for another time.  No, the things you first notice about someone are their physical features.  Go ahead and say, “that’s shallow and superficial,” and see what any average Joe or Jane (or Jamila) would say.  It’s human nature to notice these things first, and one of the reasons that I’m thankful for having eyes.  Not only is it human nature to notice these things, but as well to decide a certain amount of like or dislike about that person – whether it is preconscious or a concerted effort.

Once you’ve moved past the initial phases of dating, then someone’s inner beauty (or ugly) becomes apparent but that’s only after you’ve moved on past the initial phases.  In this cultural climate of instant gratification, electronic communication is viewed not as forward momentum moving a relationship into its next phase (as I view it), but as simply more ground to cover in the very first stage of the dating game.

I Text, Therefore I Am

To the younger crowd, electronic communication is like an extension of the first physical meeting.  This, of course, is ridiculous but I didn’t make the rules.  If I did, I would make it illegal to text a love interest until “such time as it becomes apparent that arbitrary judgments will not be made by the party receiving the electronic communication; further, until a minimum number of face-to-face meetings and phone calls have been hereto made evident, to be set by the partner with the most damn sense.”  (Section 4, article 1.c. Common Sense Dating Laws).  Maybe that would make things easier.  As my dating law books are as yet unwritten and let’s be honest, who would care to read them, we’ll just have to go with the regular ol’ madness of dating without common sense – or as I think of it, completely opposite to common sense.

As aforementioned, I text my friends back immediately and out of respect.  What does a woman or a man (excluding me) think about this “respect?”  Desperate. Needy.  Clingy.  Those are the conscious thoughts.  Unconsciously, they’re thinking, “that was too easy.  I want a challenge.  Next.”  Ridiculous?  Yes.  Frustrating?  Yes.  Outside of the realm of common sense?  Well, you’re starting to get the idea.

You are what you text, and when I say “text” I’m including communication in the online dating realm.  If you send a text the day after meeting someone?  Desperate.  Respond within twenty minutes of a text from someone?  Desperate.  Don’t say the exact right combination of words the person is looking for?  Well, that’s just blasphemous.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  We live in a culture in which people can gratify every desire they have immediately.  Curious about something?  Answers in seconds online.  Want to see a music video or a movie you missed catching?  Download it in minutes.  You can get the answer to any question you have – from your phone.  It’s almost disgusting, the degree to which we do not have to work for anything.  Let me get back to my original point, because I could go on for days about my advocacy for delaying gratification in all its forms.

Okay, so what are the implications here?  The point is that, regardless of your gender or the gender that you’re interested in, if you are just as accessible as random bits of information, then why would they be interested in you? 

Uh…For Real?

I know.  You’re thinking the same thing that I thought when I realized this truth: “but dating is dealing with real people, and ultimately, with concepts of love.  We’re not just pieces of information!”  Unfortunately, in this cultural climate, we are just pieces of information.  Scour a dating site, any dating site, and you’ll see thousands of people that you can instantly communicate with.  Why does someone need to talk to you when they can talk to thousands of other people?  On an even larger scale is porn.  Porn is instant sexual gratification.  I would prefer not to go into the details about how this monster affects society, but suffice to say that the negative consequences of porn – whether you watch it or not – are monumental and affect your dating process.

So, back to the point.  I can’t tell you that this is going to get better.  In fact, it’s only going to get worse.  If you’re over 25, you probably understand the merits of face-to-face communication and the value of working hard for something that you want.  It’s worth it to contact someone you’re interested in, and then work hard for their affections.  It’s just good ol’ fashioned dating.  That’s what I’m all about.  If you’re reading this and you’re under 25, however, this is simply NOT the way that your peers date, even if you do.

The (Absurdly Detailed) Playbook

Let me give you a real life scenario with breakdowns on key gameplay, that literally just happened.  I texted a girl I met the other night (after waiting three days, of course), “Hey there, what’s up?”  Okay, here’s the play:

  • Non-committal.  I didn’t immediately ask her to get a drink with me, as I would like to.  Instead, I put forth the vibe that I don’t care either way.  Why?  If I’m interested then she loses interest.  She’s won the game before she even started, and she is then completely disinterested.
  • Four words.  More than that and she again gets the vibe that she has nothing to work for.  “Oh, he sent me a dang book over text.  It’s pretty obvious that he’s interested.”  Again, boom.  Game’s over before you even get a chance to get warmed up and get your game on.
  • Against what I’ve learned in the dating game, I asked a question.  I have to maintain some part of myself that I feel has integrity, and leaving the table open for a woman to feel she is wanted (to respond) is territory that I cannot avoid, if I want to maintain my self-respect.  I must say, when someone sends me a text, especially after a few texts into the conversation, that leaves me zero room to respond I get frustrated.  Leave the table open for discussion.  And here’s what I say: if someone doesn’t leave the table open for discussion – bye.  I have no interest in fighting for your affections if you’re putting up walls.  I’ll play the game, but I refuse to make a fool out of myself and so should you, dear reader.

So, as I expected, she texted me back 20 minutes later telling me she was at work.  She ended the text with “what’s up” so I knew she was interested in getting a text back.  That’s where you caught me when the story began.

I waited 10 minutes and sent her another text.  Concise – to the point: “Nothing, just trying to take it easy on a Saturday.  I hope you had a good Thanksgiving.  I’m wondering, would you like to get a drink with me next Saturday?”  The playbook:

  • She doesn’t care about what I’m doing, she barely even knows me.  No novella there.
  • The “I hope you had a good Thanksgiving” line was risky.  It comes across as wimpy and lame, and could be deadly.  This potential risk is especially compounded in my case, because I’m a white guy texting a black girl.  We white guys are already viewed as wimps, lame, scared and ineffectual, and to send a potentially lame text like that could only confirm her suspicions.  Why did I do it?  Because I actually cared how her holidays were.  Again, maintaining my integrity is more important to me than being cool.
  • Get to the point.  “Drinks next Saturday?”  I already knew what her response would be before she texted back, another 20 minutes later.

She stated that she would have to check her calendar, as she doesn’t normally plan things a week in advance.  Well, I don’t really either, but having a grown-up job has taught me the merits of planning.  I sent another potentially risky response.

“It’s generally not my norm, either.  If you’d rather, we can go somewhere tonight.  I didn’t know how you felt about people jumping at you with last minute plans, though.”  On to the play-by-play:

  • It’s not my norm to plan going out that early, this much is true.  Does it make me seem pandering in this case?  Maybe.
  • You might think I made myself available by stating that I’m down to go out the same night.  In my younger days I would have thought so, but again this is risky.  She could think that I’m pandering.  Do I care?  No.  Again, it’s a risky move, but I’m maintaining my personality and so I’m alright with it.  The addendum about not knowing her dating style sort-of takes care of this, because although I’m presenting a level of caring about her desires (which is viewed as a negative, believe it or not), I don’t want anyone who doesn’t want to be cared for.

She texted back that she would see whether or not she was available – the non-committal response I was expecting.

K? Really?!

I just responded: “K”.  Let me tell you how out-of-the-ordinary this is for me.  I’m a bit OCD when it comes to grammar and spelling.  I don’t think I’ve ever sent a one-letter response to ANYONE, much less someone with whom I am just getting acquainted.  At the VERY least, I’ll text “okay” to someone.  Fully spelled out, none of this intentionally misspelled “okkayyy” mess.  Though I have a slight issue with it I’m playing the game here, people.

Let Me Wrap This Up

I could go on about this even more than I’ve already rambled, but let’s wrap this up.  Here’s the takeaway:

  1. Modern people have the attention span of a fly.  As much as I dislike the situation, it’s not going to change and so I have to be prepared to cater to that if I plan on getting a date.
  2. Change yourself?  No.  Make yourself more concise?  Yes.
  3. If someone doesn’t respond to you immediately, don’t stress about it. If they don’t respond to you that day, don’t lose hope.  There is a measure of “playing the game” that must be understood in this high-pressure climate of dating.  In fact, hopefully they have jobs and responsibilities that they’re taking care of.  Let them do so, and respect that.  There is, however, a line.
  4. If someone doesn’t respond until four days later and they have given you no indication that they intend to, chuck up the deuces.  Maintain your integrity and self-respect enough to see that they have no intention of respecting you by responding.  In fact, they have denigrated you by their blatant disrespect.
  5. YOU know that you have something to offer to this person, but they don’t know that yet.  Don’t throw your self-worth at them just yet, though.  There will be plenty of opportunity for them to realize how amazing you are, later.  It’s okay to play it (a bit) cool in the beginning, and in fact it’s absolutely necessary.

They’ll be interested as long as you don’t come off as desperate.  Once you’ve gotten their attention, it’s time to show them how amazing you are.  The play is, just get past the courting phase and you’re in the clear.

And if you’ve read all the way through this article, congratulations!  Most people wont, simply because it is long which proves my point that people are just not willing to work hard for anything – even if it is working for self-improvement.  In summation, if you have to wait a bit for communication so be it.  If you find yourself questioning your self-respect because you’ve been waiting so long, move on to the next.

Good luck out there,

- Teach

The Man Myth