Texting Creates the False Illusion of Connection

Excerpted from my new book, From We to Me, which is in progress.

A dynamic I have noticed over the last several years of dating is the strategy of conducting a relationship via text messaging. I was using this strategy unconsciously for several years, and then woke up one day and realized something significant: texting someone is not being in a relationship with them. (duh)

Putting a screen between you and another person—like texting or online dating—adds emotional distance that clearly serves as a self-protection strategy. You think you are ‘getting to know’ someone because you are texting them and they are texting you. You can keep the relationship going on the back burner without using a lot of flame, but simply making quick remarks like ‘lol’ and ‘how was your day’ and ‘good night’ and ‘muah’. This interaction is comforting when you feel lonely because it makes you feel like someone cares about you. Keeping the interactions to primarily text means you do not have to invest much of yourself, you get attention to feel special, and you feel safe because you can always just choose not to respond to a text message if a person upsets you or you get bored. You can even click Delete or Block and instantly remove this person from your life, which streamlines breaking up so you can feel less awkward and guilty about it.

The problem is this: texting as the primary vehicle for communication is not having a relationship. Texting denies humanity its natural desire for physical contact, hearing the intonations and vibration of speech, watching facial expressions, making eye contact, and generally being in the person’s presence. Holding hands, hugging, kissing—being touched is necessary for cultivating intimacy in a relationship. You can only touch a person when you’re physically in proximity with that person. If you’re only using texting to conduct your relationship, you’re missing out on the gold, the gems, and the diamonds.

Perhaps while you are recovering your self-esteem following your divorce it makes sense to keep several people texting you to help you see your good qualities and make yourself feel better. Just be aware that texting as a means of relationship communication is not effective, and will eventually need to be abandoned in favor of phone-based or in-person communication. Consider the people that are your best friends—how did you build the relationship with these people? Did you build a relationship with them using text messaging? More than likely, your closest friends spent time with you in person and shared experiences which created the friendship relationship. Perhaps you text your friends, but it is only a part of the communication that takes place between you. Dating works the same way.

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