Texting Isn't Love: The Fake Intimacy of Today's Dating Culture

TEXTING ISN'T LOVE

When Connor promised to sweep me off my feet, I didn’t imagine that it would be with a marriage proposal on our first date. He arrived at my door with an engagement band, a red rose, and a basket of good intentions; missing, though, was everything that falls between meeting in person and standing at the altar.

Connor and I were a “cake mix” couple — just add one date! — a casualty of technology. Our introduction led to copious amounts of texting, a back-and-forth maelstrom that quickly created a false sense of intimacy. Borne from our textual chemistry were deep conversations about families, values, and interests. It was as if we had covered a year’s worth of get-to-know-you ground in a concentrated couple of days, and, admittedly, I was in love with the idea that a man could be so enamored before even laying eyes on me. There was little chance that the heightened romantic frenzy buzzing between our smart phones could survive outside of its digital bubble.

Now consider a dusty and seemingly dated alternative: Connor calls me after receiving my number from a matchmaking friend. We exchange pleasantries, a couple of bon mots, and make plans to have a meal the following week. The little contact we have between our first chat and dinner serves only a functional purpose as a way to determine a restaurant location and meeting time. We begin to learn about each other over Italian food at a neighborhood trattoria, a natural unfolding unmarred by any pre-determined expectations. I can almost see the “Josh & Connor” foil-stamped cocktail napkins and custom wedding invitations in my head.

Where’s Cher when you actually want to turn back time? Connor was bright, personable and cute, and, if I had it to do over, I’d take the dirt road to a realistic romance as opposed to a high-speed freeway to yet another dating crash-and-burn. The 0-to-100 nature of our texting tragedy ultimately made us both question our intentions and feelings, putting a fatal kibosh on what might have been a long-term love affair.

My history from 2012 through 2015 B.C. (that's Before Connor) saw a number of similar dating fails, albeit none weighted down by the gravity of a premature knot-tying discussion. That's not to say there was a complete scarcity of viable suitors, but many wanted to know everything about me by text and phone before even agreeing to coffee, let alone lunch or the lifetime commitment cemented by dinner. I couldn’t get real-life traction with anyone. Online sites and mobile apps helped cultivate this modern-day, anonymous answer to speed dating, and I fell into their webs.

Samson, a clean-cut businessman, traveled extensively for work. He was upfront about his schedule when he initially reached out on Match.com, making clear that he would like to learn about me through a series of communications within the phone app. He opened up about his previous relationships and talked extensively about the activities he’d like to enjoy with me upon his return to Los Angeles — not excluding those of the bedroom variety. We had an undeniable rapport and senses of humor that appeared to be complementary.

Samson’s cyber seduction continued for nearly three weeks, and both of us were greatly anticipating our in-the-flesh date. Our messages had created a shell of familiarity that, we reasoned, had basically gotten 10 dates out of the way. We were so certain, in fact, that such dense substance rested beneath the candy-coating that we planned to spend our inaugural evening together at his home — assuming we stopped kissing long enough to make it through the front door.

Unfortunately, anticipation quickly gave way to a sobering disappointment that splashed my face with startling frigidity. Only seconds after Samson and I embraced in an awkward hug, I knew that we had projected too much emotion onto this “relationship.” The feelings and chemistry that were conjured behind our laptops and iPhone screens were nearly nonexistent in person. Josh and Samson, as a couple, simply didn’t translate to the real world.

Before you remind me that dating is a series of disappointments until one particular date isn’t, consider the 21 days that Samson and I spent texting and speaking. We invested hours — not to mention hope — in what we both wanted to have a happy ending. In a more traditional dating circumstance, there may have been some butterflies and excitement, sure, but the risk of a crippling fall would have been diminished without the opportunity to climb so high in the first place.

Neither Connor nor Samson carry any more blame than I do for participating in a faulty dating ritual that is markedly contemporary, and we’re certainly not wrong in hanging on to the romantic notion of finding partners. We do have a responsibility, however, to take insights from our almost-relationships and bridge them to the process of looking for those that will hopefully last a lifetime.

Following the wedding-that-never-was to Connor, I considered closing my online dating accounts and relying on more traditional social situations to find potential mates. I thought long and hard about my lifestyle and whether or not depending on friends for set-ups or meeting someone while out and about were realistic in terms of opportunity. Then, it dawned on me: I didn’t have to leave the game entirely; I simply had to become a more prudent player. I could avoid hurt and disappointment by altering my approach and dating old-school style.

I still get a twinge of excitement and a lump of hope in my stomach each time I see that I’ve received a new message from someone with an appealing online profile. Before I even read his note, I allow myself to think ahead for one moment, thrilled about the possibility of my future husband being on the other end of that e-mail. I allow a few brief notes to pass politely before securing a dinner date and then remaining a mystery until we’re sitting across from each other.

JOSH SABARRA
JOSH SABARRA is the best-selling author of PORN AGAIN: A MEMOIR, and his work appears regularly in Gay Times and The Huffington Post.  He is a veteran marketing executive and television producer who has held positions at The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Studios, Miramax Films, New Line Cinema, and Lifetime Networks. Josh  resides in Los Angeles, where he is the president and CEO of his own public relations firm, Breaking News PR. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSabarra.

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