03/17/2014 04:08 pm ET Updated May 17, 2014

How to Use Your Phone as a Weapon for Romantic Gain

One of the perks of writing a book on how social media and my iPhone have changed my life is that I got some serious skillz in that field as a byproduct. So I decided to write a blog about this very topic. You can find the blog here. I also wrote a longer version, which I'll share here. And if you want to check out my upcoming book Unfriending my Ex: And Other Things I'll Never Do, you can see here on my website:


I am plagued by the read receipt function on my iPhone. Well -- at least I used to be before I taught myself to use social media as a weapon, rather than allowing it to become my Achilles heel. All too often we put our best foot forward in relationships only to give it back at the first unanswered text or the first time we notice a suspicious (hot) "new friend" on our significant other's Facebook page. Quickly we go from the sexy, confident and intriguingly mysterious to the insecure stalker we all know and hate. And then we're single again. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Except there is if we got there because of social media.

Wasn't Facebook supposed to be the thing that connected us to our high school crushes again so that we could live happily ever after with them? And wasn't Instagram supposed to let us show the whole world how hot and amazing we are and what a great life we have with all of our amazing friends and amazing vacations? And aren't I supposed to be thanking my iPhone for making it so easy for me to flirt-text that girl I've been crushing on for three months without having to actually embarrass myself in person? I am pretty certain that at some point I was fed these beliefs, or maybe I dreamt them because, at first, my social media seemed to be making me feel more connected, more confident, wittier and sexier. Oh -- and I totally met up with my crush from eleventh grade. (She looked terrible, by the way.) Yes, social media was working its wonders. Unfortunately, that was short lived. One day, like everything that seems too good to be true, social media started working against me.

It started making me feel very insecure. My brain began to dream up strange and suspicious questions about my girlfriend's Facebook page.

Who was that girl who just "confirmed" her friendship request? And "CONFIRMED"! that means my girlfriend asked her. I've certainly never heard of her. Did she just meet her? She looks hot. Oh god, she really looks hot. Hotter than me. Am I ugly? Did my relationship just end? Well, I've got nothing left at this point so I might as well confront my girlfriend about it.

And so I would. And it would turn out to be her distant cousin. And my girlfriend would look at me in disgust. Great. Now I look like fucking Ray Pruitt (see: Beverly Hills, 90210). Get ahold of yourself, Kim. And I'd feel insecure, so I would turn to Instagram and start scrolling.

Oh look there's my best friend, Kelly, hanging out with my other best friend, Annie. Wait a minute... Why wasn't I invited to this? Is that Sarah in the background? Didn't I text her to hang out last night? Well, I guess my friends hate me. They probably spent the whole night talking about how annoying I am. I wonder if I am actually annoying. I must be. God, I suck.

My train of thought is interrupted when Kelly texts me to grab dinner and I forget the whole thing. Until I see her and I remember, again, and start being super self conscious of everything I say to avoid at all costs being annoying. But she never actually thought I was annoying. And this is my life.

Well it was (you probably think I'm about to tell you how I fixed it, but we're not there yet) before the read receipt came into my life and essentially sucked dry the last drip of my ability to be consistently confident in my relationships. You see, the read receipt is the worst invention (if we can even call it that) to grace humanity since -- well since the R function on Blackberry BBM, which also ruined my life, which is why I switched to iPhone, and now I have nowhere to go. And, yes, I read that article that Android users have better sex, and, no, that still won't be enough for me to go to Android.

I can't fully capture in words the agony of seeing that someone has read my message and hasn't written back. They know their read receipt is turned on, and they know I know they've read my message. It's pure cruelty. But what really leads me down the ugly path is when I see someone has read my text, not responded and then when I check my Instagram/Twitter/Facebook I see that they have just posted a mundane photo or comment about the weather or traffic or a kitten (nothing worse than losing to a cat). Are you kidding me? This is a clear affront. No, it's worse. It's an attack! Once I texted a girlfriend to say that I saw that she had changed her status on Facebook, and how I wondered why she did not respond to my text, given she had read it and was clearly not busy, hanging around her phone. Well of course she didn't respond to that because wtf kind of person texts what I had just texted? What a loser I was becoming.

And then it hit me.

If the nuances of social media and texting were so powerful against me, then that would mean I could harness their power and use it to my benefit. Dating has always been a kind of game, but now we had weapons in our pockets that we used thousands of times per day. I felt like a superhero. I had never realized that I was armed and ready to launch a social media revolution of my own. And now that I was single again (obviously), I had a clean slate to use my new powers. Before I knew it, I was a fucking pro.


Rule #1: Date 1-3. Get 'em hooked.

My friend Molly once told me that being "in love" is not an actual feeling, but a state of mind. In other words, people fall in love with the idea of being in love and the idea of the person they are "falling" for, not the actual person. At first, I dismissed her opinion as overly cynical. (I'm in love! Don't take that away from me!) But then I started thinking: If this were true, then virtually any person must be able to make another person believe in the "idea," and, in turn, begin to "love" them. On date one, two or three, before friending, following and "like"-ing each other throughout the world of social media, find out a few details about the person (via the Internet of course). The trick here is to be subtle. If their interests on Facebook include being a fan of Animal Collective, don't mention that. It's too obvious. But -- if they Instagramed a photo six months ago at a Holy Ghost concert, get to know the band (if you don't already) and mention something about Holy Ghost by subtly working it into a conversation. Oh yeah I love the cocktails there. I think last time I went was after a Holy Ghost concert or something -- it was fun.

Or -- maybe they tweeted linking to an article by Jeffrey Toobin. Perfect! In the midst of conversation, look down at your phone and say under your breath to yourself, "Ah, I've got to remember to buy tickets to see Toobin speak next month," and then look back up as if you forgot where you were and apologize for disrupting the conversation. "Wait, you like Jeffrey Toobin?" they'll say. Mission complete. Now that your date knows we have great taste in music and like Jeffrey Toobin, they're already imagining picking out schools for your kids together and where the two of you will buy your first home. They're hooked. Is this all a little shady/fake/manipulative? So are pickup lines, the photos we post, the things we say when we want someone to like us. So why can't we use social media further toward that end? We can.

Rule #2: Date 1-10. Use one avenue, not three.

For some mysterious reason, many of us have tricked or convinced ourselves into thinking that if we text and email and IM and message someone on social media, it only amounts to one mode of contact in our recipient's head. 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 1? Is your life a George Orwell book? No. That is four messages, you psycho. We all check our phones 150 times per day. Your recipient has gotten all of them, and while perhaps he or she was busy before and planning to find a free moment to text you, is now dreading responding at all. You'll probably be broken up with soon -- and it will only come one time, not four.

Rule #3: Always. Stop the abbreviated disclaimers.

A few years ago, my friend Keryn told me that I needed to be more careful with the ends on my text messages because they made me look like an insecure loser. Ok, maybe she didn't say "loser," but she was thinking it. She told me, for instance, that it seemed that whenever I wasn't sure if my joke was funny, or if I thought she was mad at me, I would always insert a "ha," or a "lol," after my sentence. I feel like you're annoyed at me today, ha. Or: That girl is basically Margaret Thatcher on stilts, lol, lol. Ever since she said that, I have noticed other people doing it, too, and Keryn is right; it always comes off as insecure and sort of lame. So read over your texts and if you feel the urge to end them with a disclaimer like ha, lol, hehe or any emoticon denoting laughing, then you should either get some confidence and send the text on its own -- or don't send it at all.

Rule #4: Date 4-7. Oops, sorry, wrong person

Ok now you're somewhere between date four and seven and you are starting to realize that Holy Ghost is actually awesome and you cannot stop reading Jeffrey Toobin articles. Great, now you're hooked too. You've already spent the night together, but for whatever reason (likely because you are starting to like them and thus beginning to analyze their every move) they seem less... into you. (She didn't seem as excited to see me last night as the other times. Did I stay too long this morning? She said she had plans tonight, but didn't mention meeting up later. Great, I guess it's over.)

But it's not over. One of the most dependable aspects of the human psyche is that we are drawn and addicted to mystery. Insecurity breeds desire. We want what we can't have. So now you've moved through your day, it's about 1pm and you're texting back and forth with your new girl (or boy). Your plan should be as follows: In the middle of the conversation, send a link to a new restaurant, wait fifteen seconds, then type "Ah, sorry, not for you." Typing something like "Eight is fine, see you there" is too obvious. But a simple link seems innocent enough. Even if the person doesn't ask you about it, they're wondering why you're going, when you're going and whom you're going with. Around 9 p.m. that night, they'll want to test the waters and send you a text. Don't answer it. Have a good night and go to sleep. Goodnight. Nice job.

Rule #5: Month 2-5. Don't bring it up.

Now you've been dating for a couple of months. You're friends on Facebook, you quit Tinder (or said you did, anyway), you follow each other on Instagram and Twitter, and maybe you're even in each other's profile pics. The jig is relatively up at this point. Insecure comments and questions are becoming comfortable now and the magic of the beginning and showing only our best qualities is, well, kinda over. On a daily basis, you peruse their social media and find between two and five posts per week that make you feel insecure.) Who is that girl? Is that an inside joke? That comment is sort of flirtatious, isn't it? ISN'T IT?) Great. Now you are really starting to exhibit some unattractive qualities. Time to call for reinforcements.

First of all, if you have lots of self-control (I don't), then take the plunge: Hide their feed, delete the apps from your phone, delete their social media presence from your life. If, however, you have no self-control (that's me), then keep looking/torturing yourself, phone a friend if you have to and be unattractive and annoying to them, but do not under any circumstances bring it up with your significant other. No one looks crazier than when they become the social media detective, dissector and interrogator. I cringe to even think of it. Just stop yourself. Never bring it up.

Rule #6: Always applicable. Don't be a transparent show-off.

This is a quick one. You're feeling insecure. Maybe you just had a blow-out fight with your significant other. Maybe they're seeing one of their exes tonight. Whatever the trigger is, you find yourself wanting to take to social media to show them just how awesome you are and what a great time you're having without them. NO. I have never seen this work. Not once. It's obvious, it's transparent and it only makes you look desperate. I call these types of photos the "I'm laughing!", "I'm flirting!" and "I'm out sooo late!" photos. They translate to "I'm insecure", "I am afraid of being alone forever" and "I am having a terrible night without you." They should be avoided at all costs.

Rule #7: Month 4 and beyond

Now we arrive at the one that started it all, what used to plague me and now is my best friend: the Read Receipt. Many of us don't turn it on. In fact, many of us don't even know we have it or how to use it and will never learn its true power.

Here's how it works: If you have an iPhone, go to Settings → messages, and turn on your read receipt. This allows others using iMessage text to see when you've read their message. Seeing that someone has read your message and is not responding is a feeling we all know and spend our lives hoping not to experience again (although we will). Of course, we can always use the read receipt to receive a message, not respond for three to four hours, and generate a certain level of anxiety in our sender. However, my favorite way to harness its power is in the midst of text fight.

These fights are like no other. There is a quick-fire of responses back and forth and little thought goes into each electronic dagger. Because neither person is actually listening to the other, it is nearly impossible to win a text fight via solid argument. You must win it via method.

Here's the plan: In the middle of a text fight, go into settings and turn off read receipt and stop writing. The person on the other end will wonder: what is she doing? What is more important than dealing with this? Does she not care? Why doesn't she care? Stay strong. Don't respond. And just like that, the fight will either be over. Either an anxious phone call will make its way to you or the fight's speed and chaos will be broken as the other person begins to text: Where are you? Hello? And then: Look I'm sorry.

Either way, you've won the upper hand. It's over. Victory.


Reading this over, I sound like a real fucking asshole. Which brings me to my final point. These rules are to be followed with humanity and humility. Like the prep school kid's family that hires an SAT tutor, we do these things not because they are necessarily fair or right or because we agree with them, but because in order to succeed, we must be on a level playing field with our peers. We must use every resource at our disposal. So are these rules my secret sauce? They could be. They look pretty good from where I'm standing. But then again, I would never give up my best secrets.

In 11th grade, my friend Ashley and I both wanted to go to Williams College. She got a head start by hiring a tutor in 10th grade, taking the SATs in 10th grade and earning a near perfect score. My mom, hoping I would do the same, asked Ashley's mom what tutor she used only to find Ashley's mom elusive and instead of giving us her tutor's name, she offered the names of a few "others" she had heard were top of the line. We never found out the one she used. Ashley got into Williams, I got wait listed and ended up at Wesleyan. That's life. You never give up your secret sauce.