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We were having a drink in the pub when I referred to him, to his face, as my boyfriend. In retrospect, it was clear that our ‘relationship’ was no such thing, that he wasn’t willing to give me what I wanted and deserved.But I’d missed this fact entirely because I’d read what I wanted to into his messages – and because we were in constant communication. Plenty of couples owe their entire relationships to technology.To my mind, I was never that pitiful caricature of a desperate woman, waiting by the telephone for him to call; we texted, Facebooked or emailed every day. Anna Williams, a 29-year-old writer, met her boyfriend on Twitter.
‘I think he was a little tired.’ Such disappointment shouldn’t come as a surprise, says Emma Weighill-Baskerville, a psychotherapist and relationship specialist.
‘The person may not fulfil the fantasy created through literary communication alone – this is only one piece of an individual.
We’d made vague plans to see each other that night. Like me, you are probably so used to keeping your options open – and not deciding what you’re doing on a Friday night until about 6.59pm that evening – that the idea of ‘dating’ seems pretty foreign. Increasingly, we ‘hang out’ – and not necessarily as a twosome. The social psychologist Ben Voyer warns that while texting and online messaging are perceived to be easier than face-to-face contact or a telephone conversation, in the medium to long term they can make things more difficult. Your guess is as good as mine.) ‘Face-to-face contact is much richer.
Actually phone someone up to ask them out and agree on a date at some point in the future and put it in my diary? We have more visual and audio cues to help us form an impression of someone.’ Of course endless texting will never offer the same insight into someone’s personality as even a single face-to-face conversation.
If I’m bored or lonely, there’s always a temptation to reconnect.
Perhaps among all those frogs there was actually a prince?
Yet it’s so easy to get carried away with texting or instant messaging.
Having just counselled a friend through an ambiguous ‘relationship’ characterised by furious text conversations and the occasional meet-up, I then found myself helping another friend decide what to wear when she met up with a man whose activities she’d been obsessively following on Facebook for months. ‘It wasn’t as thrilling as I’d hoped it would be…’ admitted my friend afterwards.
I might be missing out on love, but I’m never short of intrigue, and right now intrigue seems more fun. In fact, I can’t remember the last night out with my single friends where we all stayed until the end, or where we weren’t joined by a special guest at some point.
Some of this intrigue even becomes actual, real-life, human interaction and perhaps… But mostly I’ve found myself in a perpetual state of limbo – stuck somewhere between first encounter, a hook-up and a full-blown relationship. Twitter, Facebook and Google have turned the dating world upside-down, changing how we meet people, what we know about them before we do – and introducing a new layer of ambiguity into single life that generations before us never had to contend with. ‘Drinks with the girls.’ ‘Want to meet us at my local? I schlepped all the way across the city – only to spend the next three hours with Paul and about six of his friends. And it isn’t simply a case of women being on the receiving end of the latest incarnation of male dating fecklessness. But in the world of endless options, where nothing seems permanent, and you never have to interact with anyone face to face if you don’t want to, me actually picking up the phone, telling someone how I feel about them, or even asking them out for dinner seems like too big a risk.
Emma Weighill-Baskerville believes we risk becoming emotionally stunted by our reliance on texting and instant messaging.