social philosophy

A critique of ‘Five infuriating first texts’.

My sister shared this article on Facebook feed.

The article summarises five annoying messages to get while dating. It doesn’t say so, but a lot of this seems to be related to online dating.
They are:

  • ‘Hey’ messages.
  • Flaking/Logistical planning.
  • Endless back and forth.
  • Bad grammar/spelling.
  • Are we hanging out or going on a date?

It wound me a up a little, so here’s my reply.

Firstly, while it doesn’t explicitly say so, the article seems to fall into the ‘guy messages first’ narrative.

Both the examples given are where the guy is messaging the girl:

Ansari was not impressed: “I’ve spent hours talking with women and seeing the kind of ‘first texts’ they get from guys,” he writes, “and trust me, it’s infuriating. These were intelligent, attractive, amazing women and they all deserved better.”

For an example of how to avoid hang-out vs. date ambiguity, Ansari writes about a woman who met a guy at a loud party: “After I left he texted me, ‘Hi [name redacted], this is [first name, last name], we’re going on a date.’ His confidence, straightforwardness and refreshingly gentlemanly approach (vs. skirting around ‘let’s hang out some time’) made for an incredible first impression and had a lasting effect.”

Ansari actually does explicitly reinforce the ‘guys make the first move narrative later on”

“The lack of clarity over whether the meet-up is even an actual date frustrates both sexes to no end,” Ansari writes, “but since it’s usually the guys initiating, this is a clear area where men can step it up.”

Point by point:

1. ‘Hey’ texts. 

You know what else is annoying? Crafting out a clever message only for it to be ignored anyway.

Hey texts serve a decent purpose, it’s a ping to see how interested they are in talking to you. Is it really so hard to say ‘Hello’ back?

Or are you waiting for a sonet before you’ll even consider talking to this person?

Now, I’m not suggesting that ‘Hey’ texting everyone in your online dating pool is a good strategy, but it’s certainly not the mark of an uncreative, uncaring person like the article suggests.

Also – if you are are receiving hey texts, perhaps it suggests that there isn’t much on your profile to go by.

Also – it looks like they’re counting ‘How are you today?’ and ‘What are you doing today’ messages as hey texts. These kinds of messages are indicative of someone who is genuinely interested in you! They’re an opening to all sorts of conversations!

For example:

“Hey, what are you up today?”

“Oh not much, I went out mountain biking last night, and I’m sore all over!”

“Ow, haha! That’s cool that you mountain bike, that sounds fun! What are you plans instead?”

Here, we learn a fair bit about the other person, we learn that they mountain bike (apparently pretty hard), and what they like to do in their chill/recovery time. This is all about learning who the person is.

2. The secretary problem. 

I agree that this can be problem.

Reality is, that sometimes we are pretty busy and it is a matter of sorting the logistics out. I get the feeling that for some people, this kind of conversation feels too transactional, and not an organic, romantic experience, and so they want to avoid it.

The solution is straight communication, make a date and commit to it.

The problem is, especially with online dating, is that someone might be juggling three other potential dates, one that they prefer over you. So they don’t want to commit to a particular in case the preferred one wants to have a date then.
I’m a little suprised that flaking out wasn’t explictly mentioned, but I guess they were trying to keep the subject about text messages.

3. Endless back and forth. 

This simply isn’t a problem for me. I’ll exchange some messages and banter until I’m both satisfied that

a) I’m interested in the person enough to want to meet them.

b) They’re comfortable meeting me.

And then it’s matter of asking if they want to meet up.

If they’re evasive about it, I’ll quickly get bored, and quit. Simple. Well, at least that’s the ideal. 🙂

4. Bad grammar/spelling. 

Can’t fault this one. Spelling and grammar is a key social indicator . It reflects their education and it’s quite reasonable to be turned off by someone with bad spelling/grammar.

5. Are we hanging out or going on a date? 

I don’t even get this one, but perhaps that’s a reflection of my general approach to dating, which is encompasses a plausible deniability philosophy.

That is; if I say ‘Hey let’s go have a drink’, I’m not saying ‘Hey, let’s measure up each other for romantic suitability and the prospect of entering into a financial partnership and raising kids together’, or alternative variety. Instead, I’m suggesting that we quite simply hang out, and have a good time, whether that’s talking about our day, playing board games, or talking about our deepest desires and fears.

I think making a distinction between a ‘date’ and a ‘not date’ adds all sorts of expectations. “Is he going to kiss me at the end of the date? Is that what’s expecting? After all, he did say this was a date”.

Similarly on the other hand, if you make it clear that “This is not a date”, then that precludes any kissing or leading on to romance. (Now – this strict ruling out of possibilities might be useful for other situations, for example where you’re wanting to be friends for different reasons, or reconciling after a break up to be friends).

Really – if you’re meeting up for a drink, yes of course the prospect of romance is on the cards, but that’s not the explicit intention. You don’t know each other well enough yet!

It’s hopefully enjoying some good quality social time with a fellow human being. And perhaps there’ll be some romance, but let’s not embarrass ourselves or make anyone feel uncomfortable by bringing that up, in case it doesn’t work out.

Now ok, on this point you could argue that actually explicitly saying ‘I’m interested in you romantically/sexually’ if sexually attractive, certainly some people would find that. Other people would feel uncomfortable at that. So I’m not saying don’t explicitly mention the d word. I’m saying that it’s perfectly reasonable to go about dating without using it, and we’re intelligent adults who can read between the lines.

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One thought on “A critique of ‘Five infuriating first texts’.

  1. I don’t think the five first texts were infuriating in the first place – more of sad. They speak of how dating has devolved into something casual and noncommittal. I agree with most of what you’ve written, but fervently hope that “plausible deniability” gets replaced with more “deliberate” dating soon. Let’s revive romance, people! Call a date a date and go out because of that spark. The world needs more “kilig” (Filipino term for that warm, tingly feeling when romance is in the air). 🙂

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