It never fails. Somewhere in between dates 2 and 3, when the 'how was your day' text messages from the guy you've been to coffee and a gallery show with start to get a little more flirtatious, my girlfriends and I begin the countdown. We know what's coming, almost to the point where we can predict the hour, minute, and second that this phrase will appear on our cell phone screens:
'Can you send a pic?'
And no, he doesn't want a photo of you with your grandparents on your latest family vacation. This a request for all of your female glory to be displayed in megapixels wired though cyberspace.
It's incredibly intimidating to come of age in a digital world where this is a common expectation in modern dating. I imagine the great love stories through time: would Juliet have texted explicit photos to Romeo when they were kept apart? How about Scarlett and Rhett? (Well, Scarlett was a bit of a hussy so she probably would have loved to have one more tool in her bag of manipulation tricks.) Shakespeare and Austen would have undoubtedly had fun with all the miscommunications that could arise from a text exchange gone awry...
Sexting is such a new phenomenon that has caught on like wildfire and completely permeated culture since the Smartphone has gained ground, and it's hard to know how to navigate this new digital landscape where it seems like suddenly 'everyone is doing it.' And I do mean everyone. (You know when there is a Lifetime Original Movie called Sexting In Suburbia that this practice has hit the mainstream in a big way.) My generation of girls grew up watching Carrie Bradshaw work her way through single NYC, and Carrie didn't even have a cell phone until the end of the series. (If it were being shot now the famous 'he broke up with me on a Post-it' scenario clearly would have played out via text.) Carrie and her girlfriends taught us everything we needed to know about how to pull off such dating hurdles as the morning after walk-of-shame and how to spot the 'modelizers' at every cocktail party -- but left us entirely unequipped to know the protocol with sexting.
All this new technology is incredibly powerful: bringing our most private moments to the entire world is as simple as clicking 'share.' If you are in politics, this can destroy you (Mark Foley sending explicit emails, texts and instant messages to young male congressional pages; Anthony Weiner exposing himself -- literally -- to all of Twitter and Craigslist.) If you are in Hollywood, it can make you a star (young actresses Blake Lively, Scarlett Johansson, and Vanessa Hudgens have all had nude photos surface, the victims of cell-phone hacking... or were the photos in question 'leaked' by their own PR teams? The controversy rages on.) Every day another public scandal caused by modern technology seems to take us back to the apparent reality that Everyone Is Doing It.
But should you?
I think this issue requires all of us to take a deeper look at what we're personally comfortable with. If you are ready to deal with the consequences of public exposure, and you really enjoy the naughty back-and-forth, then more power to you. I just worry that the societal pressure to participate in all of this digital peek-a-boo will put many of us out of our league, and the more standard this practice becomes, the cheaper our actual idea of intimacy gets and more abstract the concept of privacy is.
Maybe some things are best left behind closed doors and away from our phones, computers, tablets. Maybe the Facebook Generation is forgetting how exciting face-to-face contact can be. Maybe we should all turn off our devices and get real. The next time a would-be suitor casually asks you to 'send a pic' -- send that photo of your grandparents and see what happens. You might be paving the way for the Reality Revolution.