You’ve heard about this text you can send him.
It’ll knock his socks off.
He’ll be flooded with feel-good chemicals and feel a passionate desire to be with you and only you.
Or not. Your guy doesn’t notice half your texts.
So you send the text…
While you’re waiting, you browse the net. Are texts really powerful enough to make a man crave you?
You find out that texts do, indeed, give him a hit of the pleasure chemical dopamine. It all starts with the automatic notification that he’s received a text. He hears that sound, and he’s already wondering who texted him. The anticipation gives him a hit of pleasure.
A short, mysterious text that promises something good sets off his dopamine system even further. Now he wants to know what you mean. He can’t put his phone away. He has to text you back and find out what it is, or it will drive him crazy.
Well, that’s certainly a nice effect!
But then something occurs to you…
If texting, emailing, and tweeting ALL trigger the dopamine system…
Then it’s not some “special feeling.”
It’s the exact same feeling that keeps him clicking through to the next link or trying to beat the high score on his favorite game.
Your text triggers the same feeling in him as Candy Crush. That’s kinda humiliating.
So, when you get a text back from him, you’re already over it.
That was fun, but not much different from leaving sexy notes in his coat pocket.
Sherry Turkle would disagree.
Less Talking, More Texting
If anyone knows the effect of technology on relationships, it’s Turkle.
Turkle has been studying the way humans interact with technology since the 1970s. She’s had a front-row seat at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she’s the founding director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self.
And she wants us to know we’re in danger.
We’re in danger of replacing real conversation with electronic simulations.
And it’s making us lonelier, less empathetic, less patient, and less connected.
In Turkle’s series on our changing relationship with technology, she begins with the hope that technology will create a more connected world. By her fourth book, alarm bells are sounding. Somewhere along the line, we’ve taken a wrong turn.
Instead of using technology to enhance our connection, we’ve used it to replace connection.
We’re talking less and texting more. Technology is silencing us. We don’t know what to say to each other face-to-face. It’s easier to wait until we’re no longer in the same room and pick up the phone. You can think about what to say in a text. You don’t have to risk vulnerability.
Imagine trying to have a hard conversation with a man face-to-face. You can see emotions cross his face. You stumble over your words. It’s hard to pick up your train of thought. You can’t stop now. But you’re saying all the wrong things, and you can see him shutting down on you.
Now imagine sitting on your sofa one evening and picking up your phone. You take a deep breath. You begin to compose a text. You search for the right words. It takes you 20 minutes to write that first text, but when you press “send” you feel good about what you’ve done. You’ve opened up a hard conversation without being emotional or critical. Now you’ll wait to see what he has to say.
Which option sounds better to you?
Well, it’s obvious.
Texting keeps you safe. Texting gives you control. Texting creates a barrier between your words and his reaction.
We’re losing our taste for the messiness of relationships.
Which would you prefer: sitting at home in your pajamas and typing messages to a handful of men on an online dating site…
Or dressing up and going out to a social function where you’ll have to stand around with a bright smile on your face making intelligent conversation?
People require too much of us. Technology doesn’t.
No wonder the idea of texting our way to a man’s heart appeals. We don’t have to do anything. Technology does the work for us. Just plug in a pre-scripted text and let it do all the work.
And if he’s falling for someone else’s words instead of your own, what’s the matter with that? People have been courting one another with classic love poems and songs for centuries. No one accuses them of plagiarism.
But at some point, you’re going to have to sit across the table and find something to say.
At some point, you’re going to have to talk in person about that difficult topic you broached on the phone.
At some point, you’re going to end up sitting on the sofa together with silence stretching between you.
Will you remember how to talk?
How Technology Affects Communication
We are too busy connecting [via technology] to have the conversations that count, the kind of conversation in which we give each other our full attention, the kind where we allow an idea to develop, where we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.”
Turkle found that the mere presence of a phone—even if it’s turned off—changes how we talk to one another.
The conversation switches to more trivial topics. It’s as if the phone is a reminder that the conversation could be cut short at any moment, so it’s best not to get into anything deep or important.
The more people text, the less time they make for face-to-face conversations. If you’ve been in constant contact all day long, then why do you need to make time to see each other? You’ve already shared everything that happened during your day.
A study found that the more you and your guy text each other, the less you tend to see each other … and the less you see each other, the less happy you feel in your relationship.
Texting can even invade the home. One in four people in relationships have found themselves texting their partner, even though he was just a room away.
And the way you feel when you’re on a romantic dinner date and he turns away from you to check something on his phone?
That feeling is the future.
Unless you do something about it.
“If we don’t come back to valuing conversation,” Turkle says, “we may all end up in a world without risk and without caring.”
So let’s go back to that text you were about to send in the beginning of this article. How does it compare to slipping a love note into his pocket?
When he gets your text, he’ll see your name on his screen and smile. He scans the words, raises an eyebrow, and starts to reply to you when his phone buzzes again. He can’t resist; he quickly checks this new text. His phone buzzes again. Another hit of dopamine.
He’s a popular man. Your text will be just one of the many he’ll receive today.
Your love note?
He’ll feel it in his coat pocket and wonder what it is. He’ll take it out, see your handwriting, and smile in surprise. As he reads it, his fingers brush over the words. He notices everything: your handwriting, the color pen you used, the slip of paper you grabbed. It feels like a piece of you he can keep with him.
It’s irreplaceable. Just like you.