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The Four Commandments of Socially Adept Texting
Writer: Ghia Vitale
Illustrator: Ajah Courts
When cell phones became available to the masses, it was very, very good. Behind a screen, there are no awkward silences, no nervous stammerings, and the ability to craft your responses with care. The IRL world doesn't offer us this kind of convenience. There’s also the absence of the non-verbal communication that conveys nuanced-but-crucial meanings in our offline interactive experiences. You’d think that people would use this to their advantage, especially when contacting individuals of romantic or sexual interest. After all, making a good impression via text should be that easy, right?
This is why I have no idea what the hell happens to some people when they have a screen in front of them instead of a person’s face. I'm not talking people who struggle with spelling, grammar, tech fluency, and all of the other things that encompass expressing oneself in text. I'm talking about people who struggle with being respectful towards others.
I recently ran into the Straight White Boys Texting Tumblr and quickly became intrigued by how not shocked I was. I felt like some super secret agent accessed the complete text history of my life, made a “best of” compilation, and published it on the Internet for the world to marvel at. If this is what “straight white boys” text like, then I can say with utmost certainty that all races text like white boys. Racist notions aside, the messages sounded all too familiar. Loads of incriminating evidence and life experience clearly indicates that certain individuals struggle with not sounding like morons while having text message conversations with people they’re attracted to. I’ve definitely seen it happen more frequently (read: far more shamelessly) in hetero-gendered interactions, these people forget that the anonymity offered by the computer/phone is fleeting. In the end, their depraved words will still be traced back to them. If the recipient is someone with whom they hope to eventually reunite at a later date, their words will be taken at face value. Literally. And it's not pretty.
Of course, naysayers said the exposé unfairly targets heterosexual white men. I can certainly see how the title detracts from the epidemic of sending obnoxious, lewd, graphic, and socially inept messages to potential dates or sexytime partners. Like I said, a lot of people pull this stupid crap without considering just how repulsively inept that they sound. I've traveled far and wide on the Internet, interacting with people of all genders and orientations. In real life, I'm a sociable person and I also tend to attract quite a bit of "ooh-la-la" attention from a pretty diverse group of people. After asking everyone around me and examining my experiences, everyone agrees that men perpetrate SWB texting habits far more than women. I'm not saying that I haven't been harassed by women with unwanted dirty talk and naked selfies, but that amount absolutely pales in comparison to the number of men I've casually met outside the Internet, people with whom I've interacted face-to-face. In a matter of a few texts, they let themselves go in the worst way possible. Don't even get me started with people on the Internet who I didn't meet on any risque niche site.
Sexting is a popular practice. Out of the 96% of adult camera phone users, 49% of them receive and send sexually explicit media while 50% actually save the sexy digital stuff they receive. According to the same study, only 16% of sexters send images to strangers while 77% only sext with more intimate partners. I don't know how accurate these numbers are, but I harbor some suspicion that random sexting is a whole lot more widespread and intricate than what can be reflected by cut-and-dry statistics.
A lot of people like to sext because it laces erotic thrill with sexual validation. Why do men tend to be far less discriminate in terms of whom they're willing to digitally flash and awkwardly come onto? Experts say that they do it because that's how they would like to be treated by women who pursue them. Sure, many women enjoy sexting, but the innuendos and boob shots follow once we've established some rapport. Wait, why am I trying to justify that men do this way more than women? I've got the inside scoop. Oh, wait...
For whom the Quail Bell tolls knows it's totally whack.
At best, these wretched communications illicit hysterical laughter and at worst, disgust and hurt. Personally, I tend to LOL at these fools with my friends, but I've seen my fellow sisters get disturbed, horrified, and upset by them. It's not acceptable to just send lewd texts and images with reckless abandon. Sure, it's commendable to treat people how you want to be treated. That adage, however, forgets to mention that everyone should give special consideration to how they themselves would like to be treated. Just because someone might love to have their throat sliced and marinated doesn't mean that I'm interested in having you do that to me.
The fact is that the obnoxious texting behaviors displayed on this Tumblr page are faux-pas that should be avoided at all costs by everyone. Whether or not it is specifically straight white boys who think they're acceptable is only so relevant. By pointing out why these texts are disrespectful and inconsiderate, I hope to shed light on the subject in case our darling readers should find themselves at odds with someone who actually defends this behavior as appropriate or reasonable.
Fortunately, you have me, an all-knowing guru. Out of the kindness of my all-knowing heart, I give you four gender neutral commandments on how to text the people you’d like to date or bang at some point. This is a matter of human decency and it's sexist to pardon them by virtue of someone's gender.
1. Thou Shalt Not Blow Up An Inbox With Excessive Texts.
I have never blown up an inbox that belonged to a new acquaintance whose opinion I truly valued. Sure, I’ve done it on the behalf of others, but only to save their face from looking desperate. After all, we were both well aware of the fact that if my dear friend texted or called their love interest too much, it would make them look bad and dice any hope of further intimacy into atom-sized bits. Assuming that their crush had an ounce of social judgment, sending too text messages or calling too much would have made my friend appear clingy, inept, and possibly creepy. But as a non-love interest, I could pester that person on my friend’s behalf. Hey, I had nothing to lose… aside from my dignity once I realized that the act of plaguing them with messages verged on harassment.
Meanwhile, my disdain for digital browbeating is notorious among those who dwell in my social circle. Unless there’s some kind of pressing matter, be prepared for me to go apeshit if you bombard me with relentless calls or texts. Being horny is not a good excuse to obliterate someone's phone.
When I finally pick up, the conversation usually goes something like this:
Me: Hey! I saw that you called me seven times within the span of an hour. Is something wrong?
Friend: No, I just wanted to see what you were up to.
Me: Well, I was [insert activity here]. Why the hell would you call me seven times in an hour if you had absolutely nothing to say? Why not just let me call you back at my own leisure?
Friend: Oh, sorry.
Then they never do it again and we live happily ever after unless they prove that they didn’t get the hint. The thing is with texting is that they know their balls are in your court and they're easier to serve back.
Most people don’t bother having this conversation, preferring to silently swelter as the wayward texter persists in rapid-firing their phone. They might not yell “SHUT THE HELL UP, ALREADY” like I do, but they sure do take the not-so-subtle hint that someone is demanding their attention on a whim. A little “?” an hour or so later isn’t desperate. But when you detonate someone’s phone, it’s badgering someone with technology. Of course, since it’s not IRL, people forget how obnoxious and uncouth it is to badger people into conversation. Dammit, just because the letters aren’t coming from your vocal chords doesn’t make it any less obnoxious.
You’re probably better off just writing a tl ; dr text than blowing up someone’s phone for no reason.
2. Thou Shalt Honor Thy Sabbath and Not Flip Out When Someone Doesn’t Respond To Your Text Right Away.
Remember what I said earlier about the sender's balls being in the court of the receiver? Since texting isn't a sport, it's that person's right to return your texts whenever the hell they like, if at all. For the love of all things lovable, do not get angry if someone doesn’t respond right away. Once again, over-texting is an obnoxious display of disrespect. Getting all indignant about the fact that you have *ACTUAL PROOF* that I looked at your text message and didn’t answer right away is unimaginably unflattering. They know it's likely that your phone told you that they "saw" it. There are a million things I could have been doing that I prioritized over answering an insignificant text message ASAP.
Have you ever heard of those people on dating sites who go out of their way to get angry and sling insults at someone who doesn't respond to their message when they’ve clearly been online? Time is a finite resource; once it’s spent, there’s no getting it back. Meanwhile, that lack of a response is a clear response and failing to heed the unspoken "no" makes the complainer look desperate and undesirable. After all, if they had an interesting and meaningful life, they would be tending to other matters that are far more important than pestering someone they've never even met. When someone you just met doesn’t respond your message(s), it could be an issue with their phone, they could suck at texting, they could be doing something else, they might be trapped in a well… or they might be giving you a socially acceptable “soft no" that deserves equal acknowledgment, not rationalization as to why you should keep trying. It is in your best interest to shut up and deal with it. When someone sends me excessive and redundant messages in pursuit of my affection, they give the impression that they have nothing better to do and little respect for themselves for allowing themselves to get so desperate. "Not caring" would mean going about the day and just waiting for me to respond.
3. Thou Shalt Not Send Unsolicited Pictures of Naked Body Parts To Thy Neighbor.
When I say “neighbor,” I mean your fellow earthlings. Once upon a time before the Internet, it was mind-blowing to find sexually explicit letters from anyone in your mailbox, on your doorstep, or anywhere else for that matter. With today's naked selfies, you can easily receive porn that you didn’t specifically request or indicate that you wanted from someone you've just met. I won’t even begin to lament the many levels of “wtf” that accompany the experience. There’s no way to just casually hand naked pictures to people who aren’t ready for it.
Now we’re expected to accept that getting casually flashed by strangers is the nature of the Internet-beast. They lurk all around the internet, often frequenting certain web-nooks like sex apps, but also dwell in more formal digital spaces like Facebook. Coming to a cell phone near you, someone slam dunks their junk right into innocent inboxes everywhere.
I’ve received so many unprovoked dick pics, I’ve can’t help but wonder if so many of my cisgendered brethren believe that “take a picture, it will last longer” applies to genitals. (In that case, not more than four hours.) My experience has taught me that even the most exhibitionistic women usually save the nothing-clad shots for a little later in the conversation, opting instead for a picture of themselves in a bathing suit or lingerie at most, but I have never received a picture of a lone vaginas or boobs like the wealth of disembodied penises that have been slipped my way over the years. It's weird if they expect you to consider talking to them as though it never happened. Oh, and even if I did already see it IRL, that doesn’t mean that I want a picture of it. This is Facebook, not Fetlife or Adultfriendfinder.
Recently, a guy I had met a few days earlier began overloading me with texts full of awkward flirtatious remarks and other lame attempts at conversation. In person, he seemed like he was socially adept and capable of good conversation, but once again, getting behind a screen brought out the worst of him. When I didn’t respond, he sent me a picture of his shirtless self that was captioned “bored.” Well, that escalated quickly. I was visiting with my relatives at the time, so when I shared the topless pic gem with them, the night ended with my cousin’s hysterical laughter and my uncle begging me to give him the guy’s number so he could curse him out. If the consensus is that sending those kinds of pictures is weird, then why bother trying to justify the act and make it seem like I’m unreasonable for getting creeped out? This “gentleman” didn’t justify it. I was actually surprised when he apologized and said he wouldn't contact me again because honestly, that isn't what normally happens. Usually, the guys try to act like I’m the prude and they’re the liberal-minded one, which is a pathetic attempt at gaslighting themselves out of embarassment.
Which brings me to my final point…
4. Thou Shalt Not Contort Every Statement Into Some Awkward Sexual Innuendo.
Anyone with a flare for risque humor knows that there’s a fine line between sexual humor being funny and creepy. Let’s say I recently met someone and gave them your number. I didn’t give them your number because I was too weirded out to think of anything else to do, but because I wanted to test the waters with you as my friend and witness. But the fire in my pants dies when the awkward texter smothers the convo with tactless, forced sexual innuendos that a word-obsessed person like myself just cannot forgive.
As my mother's daughter, I can have a rather risque sense of humor. Like most people with this mental disposition, I quickly learned the importance of discretion. There are only so many appropriate times and places for sexual humor. That is why I have no patience for someone who tactlessly bombard someone else with sexual references when it’s clear the recipient doesn’t like it. Nervous laughter doesn’t count. Actually, that’s a glaring sign of doing it wrong—so wrong, that the person doesn’t know what to do but pacify you with a little giggle and hope that you’ll stop. Also, note how telling an overtly sexual joke aloud at a casual event (not a business event) is much different than making a sexual innuendo in reference to a single person alone. While the former is more open and still might rattle some nerves, the latter approach can more easily be perceived as unsettling, even threatening. Freedom of speech doesn’t free you from listeners’ reactions. Yeah, the world at large needs to mellow out, but that doesn't make it their job to just "loosen up" their boundaries just so you don't make them uncomfortable.
When faced with an unwanted textual advance, we often ignore it and go on with the rest of the conversation that isn't sexual. If that part of the conversation exists, anyway. Example:
Person: heyyyy good morning sunshine! whatcha doin
Me: Hi there! Nothing, just making some toast.
Person: I’d love to shove my loaf in your toaster.
I don’t respond because I pity this person for embarrassing themselves and I want to remain attracted to them. Within the next few hours, I’ll receive something like this:
Person: How about I toast your buns? :-* ;) B-)
Then… (You probably saw this coming… )
The Next Day...
Person: Rise and shine!
Me: Nm chillin in the woods
Person: I've got some woods here too ;)
(I’m not saying that women haven't sent me off-putting messages like this, but at least 97% of them have been men.)
Remember when Alice Mercier revealed the unwanted sexual advances that Josh Mattingly sent her? For those who don’t know, Josh Mattingly is the founder of IndieStatik. “Alice Mercier” is a much-needed pseudonym undertaken by the female game developer who he sexually harassed. He had much more power and influence in the gaming industry than she did. She had only met him twice, and he sent her the message just moments after she accepted his request. In such a close-knit industry, she knew that it was important to remain friendly with other game industry professionals for the sake of advancing her career. He messaged her in reference to “official” business about a game that was coming out, peppering the conversation with inappropriate sexual offers and come-ons. When she didn’t respond to his sexual statements, he made them more explicit and obvious. If you read the interaction, you'll see that she was politely sidestepping his unwelcome escalation and instead confining the conversation to official business. When I showed the conversation to other people, the consensus was that her nonverbal rejection was obvious to men and women alike.
Not surprisingly, people automatically attacked her for not being direct or shutting him down. But her silence speaks volumes. Mattingly’s persistence in the face of her obvious covert rejection made his behavior harassment because he disregarded her lack of interest in engaging his sexual references. Despite his blatant disrespect and deplorable lack of professional conduct, she felt the need to speak out under the guise of a pseudonym to save face and avoid taking the blame for ruining his career. So what if he was drunk and horny? There are plenty of other drunk and horny people on the Internet who aren't his co-workers. There were plenty of alternative avenues he could have taken before making her The Chosen One.
Remember that essay where I confessed to once being a female Nice Guy? Well, I was also an awkward texter for a long time. I had already blossomed into a fine young woman at the time and I was certainly not ugly. In my mind, I thought I was being a total champ when I sent a text describing the toppings I wanted to lick off of the recipient's body. Pop culture would have you think that men would be all over that, right? Wrong. Usually, my forwardness was off-putting not because I was female, but because I was displaying a blatant disregard for social protocol. Since I tend to be attracted to intellectuals, my tactlessness would eventually come to overshadow their interest in me. I mean, sure, a lot of them were happy to have evidence that I was actually into them, but my way of going about it was totally unsexy and uncalled-for.
Silence isn’t giving someone the freedom to fill in the blank with whatever interpretation they wish. This is a thousandfold when it comes to sexual matters. No answer is a response, one that isn’t a yes and one that doesn’t grant a license to project your desires onto them. Unless someone is totally receptive to sexual innuendo and responds positively, the only acceptable action is to cut it out. Gender is not a sufficient justification for pardoning bad texting behaviors.
#Real #Sexting #Texting #Relationships #Love #Dating #Flirting #CyberEtiquette #CellPhoneEtiquette #DigitalAgeRomance
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