Although relationships are of the flesh, in our day and age of digital reality and instant communication, if you are dating, you will be texting. And although your relationship is built around the face-to-face time you spend with your partner and texting is merely a way to communicate -- like the Pony Express was back in the day -- there are do's and dont's to texting the person you're seeing that I've found helpful. So, here are the 10 Commandments of Dating Text Etiquette:
1.) Do not drunk text. This seems like an obvious one, but it bears repeating. I've done it; my friends have done it -- and the worst is when we don't remember we've done it until we get a sobering response the next morning. When you're "full of spirits," you might let your guard down. You might think something is funny that really isn't and you are more likely to cross boundaries that shouldn't be crossed. You can try the Drunk Text Savior App or delete certain numbers from your phone when you know you're going to be partying. Remind yourself that whatever you drunk text is likely going to annoy, or even worse, anger the recipient, and you will end up looking a fool. We all get drunk from time to time, but as a general rule of thumb, when you're partying, give your texting finger a vacation.
2.) When you get a text from the person you're seeing that rubs you the wrong way, put the phone down. You may be feeling hurt, confused, upset. These may be legitimate reactions to the way the text was phrased or the content of the text itself. Respect your feelings. Allow them to settle. Do not, I repeat, do not, "machine gun" text. Get a second opinion from a trusted friend, or if the text really bothers you, reply with something neutral and then bring it up to your date in person.
3.) Keep it brief. This is especially important for women who are dating (and texting with) men. Men are pretty simple creatures when it comes to their phones. They're what my friend Jeremy calls "Swipers." That is, they swipe through texts for pertinent information rather than sit there trying to "read between the lines." One guy I was seeing mistakenly thought I was drunk when I texted him something about how incredible the burrata was at the new Italian place in my neighborhood. "It was such a long text, I just figured you were hammered, so I didn't repsond." My text was three lines. Brevity is key; acronyms even better. This is not your novel.
4.) Do not be passive-aggressive. Passive-aggressive behavior via text is just as unacceptable a form of communication as it is in real life. Of course it's easier to be passive-aggressive when you're not face-to-face with the person, but once you hit send, you can't take it back. Then of course, there's the obvious: Texting rather than speaking your true feelings is the ultimate passive-aggressive move.
5.) Do not define a relationship over text. Do not make any declarations about a relationship over text. This goes for starting or ending a relationship. Text is not an appropriate medium for these types of discussions.
6.) Sexting: OK, you may think, everyone does it. But does that mean you should? Only you can answer that question. With words, sexting can be very exciting (hey, I'm a writer). Verbal sexts engage the imagination and can be a way of connecting with your potential partner in a thrilling way with relatively little commitment. It should feel organic, never forced, and if you feel uncomfortable, just stop. Just as in real life, sexting is your choice, as it's your phone. When it comes to pictures, be more prudent. Once an image is "out there" -- it's "out there." Think: Can you trust this person? Are you a public person? Could this make/break you? I know plenty of guys who routinely pass around their phones to their friends to check out sexy photos from other women.
7.) Never go through your date's texts. This is a major disrespect of privacy, and just like you can't read you're bestie's diary and then complain about what she wrote about you, you can't go through his texts and then confront him without showing that you violated his privacy. If you have suspicions of "inappropriate/incriminating" texts, ask your partner. If you still have suspicions, trust your gut and get rid of the person. Living in a state of distrust is no way to be happy.
8.) Don't fish for compliments. No one wants to read, "How much do you want it?"/ "Didn't you think I looked hot tonight?"/"I have no game with women right now." These types of messages come off as needy and insecure. On the other hand, do offer compliments if you truly mean them. There's nothing insecure about being honest about how much you appreciate something about a person, or something that person did. That's rad!
9.) Instaflirting: You may be familiar with the joke, "How much does a hipster weigh? An Instagram." With the fastest image/text feed of any social network right now, Instagram is quickly becoming a dating site, not just a way to show the world what you ate for lunch. Facebook is a much more comprehensive world; Instagram is all about immediacy, detailing where a person is, what he or she is doing, is wearing, etc. Plus, you can set tags or handles to push immediately to your phone, so it's essentially a tracking device. I once found out that a guy I was seeing was back with his ex-girlfriend when a picture of the two of them eating dinner came up on my feed. This might not be socially acceptable behavior, but with social networks like Instagram infiltrating our daily lives, it would be silly to ignore its implications in our romantic encounters. (And don't forget to follow me at @jddoe!)
10.) Get rid of texts that hurt you. When you break up or even after a bad fight, texts are the relics of something that has caused you duress. Why relive the pain? You need to fill your day with positive affirmations. Re-reading mean texts is masochistic. There's no need, especially when the solution to feeling better is so easy: DELETE.