Love in the Time of SMS Messaging

Broad: How come you didn’t text me back?

J-Zone: Because I didn’t know you were still alive…

Broad: That’s no excuse, you still should’ve texted me back.

J-Zone: You dumb broad, are you inept?! I told you I don’t text!

While I was in Chicago a few weeks ago, I picked up a used copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera at a quaint used bookstore on Lincoln Avenue. A friend of mine had gushed about it before, and I’ve been a fan of Marquez since reading through A Hundred Years of Solitude. As much as I try to dampen my inner romantic in my writing and my worldview, I am a sucker for a well-written love story and a well-composed love song. Marquez is a master at weaving prose that plucks the heartstrings and drives amour through my tar-black veins.

The antiquated setting of this story of unrequited love has me thinking of the way love is cultivated in today’s instantaneous communiqués.

Back then, hearts almost smoldered into ash as fiery passions were left unanswered until in one ecstatic moment, when a long-awaited response laid hidden in a wax-sealed envelope. They held in their hands a sating of their desire. Tropes and exhortations, freshly chipped pieces of their soul, everything bare amongst delicately scribed prose and poetry.

Now? We buckle when our crush doesn’t text us back within seconds. And it’s not like we’re using sonnets to confess anything, a usual connection sparks to the tune of:

“Hey. Show me your titties.”

“LOL ;)”

I’m not a big fan of texting. Aziz Ansari underlines my problem with SMS blasts below:

You’re a secretary for this really shoddy organization, scheduling the dumbest shit with the flakiest people ever.

A rendezvous set up through texting doesn’t have the same kind of urgency as a phone call once did. Flakiness becomes less impactful, since we all have the means to call or text last minute to pull out of our engagements…but they become more frequent because we have the ability to shift our responsibility with a few taps of the screen.

Received at 5:34 PM, Wed Aug 14: “Sorry. Can’t make it. Something came up.”

Sent at 5:35 PM, Wed Aug 14: “But I’m on the bus already towards NOPA.”

Received at 6:42 PM, Wed Aug 14: “I’m really sorry. I’ll make it up to you.”

Sidenote: She didn’t.

Another dating maneuver I’ve grown to love is the extended radio silence that happens when someone simply doesn’t want to deal with the other person. At first, I hated it. I deserve a response to my query! I deserve closure and satisfaction!

Sidenote: People don’t.

But it’s become the cleanest way for me to say “no” since the word “no” was invented. Not for the other person, for obvious reasons, but for me!

Don’t want the emotional baggage of being responsible for someone’s heartbreak? Just ignore them. Most people will abide by common courtesy and will not break the sanctified silence that passes by hanging messages. If they don’t, there’s nothing really pushing you to respond to them anyway. If they persist, phones come with a nifty “block caller” function. It’s become amazingly easy to sweep the unwanted under the rug.

Sent at 12:30 PM, Tue Sept 17: “Feel like getting a drink on Saturday?”

Sidenote: As of today, she doesn’t.

It’s all in the game though, right? I’ve learned not to take rejection personal, silent or otherwise…but “the game” doesn’t resolve the underlying issue of connecting through a text message.

Texting is an amazingly efficient way to communicate that highlights our natural inefficiencies in actual communication. Our expectations become shifted when we know that people have their phones on them at all times, when we know that a text message only takes a few minutes to tap out. Our phones connect us all, but the dissonance between reality and expectation have made it become increasingly hard to make any kind of bond.

Of course, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I need to read a book.

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