Hardly four months into a relationship, I had a flashback to my single days while having dinner with three of my friends a few weeks ago and analyzing the phrasing and frequency of texts from men dominated the conversation. At the time it was easy to dole out hardline advice like, “He’ll make the effort to come see you if he likes you,” squarely, because my relationship had grown out of its embryonic stage long ago. (Older men move fast!)
But really I wasn’t too far from the days of obsessively glancing at my iPhone screen for new messages and dissecting every exchange I had with a man. And to hell with my smugness -- texting actually counts as a legit means of communication in dating, says Jen Golbeck, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies.
“It’s interesting how people kind of dismiss it as a fake thing. If you look back, people said the same thing when the telephone was introduced -- that it is going to destroy real conversations that we have when we are looking at each other. And it’s just not true.” It’s just made communicating both easier and more complicated with another layer. (Think instant gratification that leaves tone and intent up in the air for the receiver.)
What people say may be different via text -- most people use it to just figure out logistics in meeting up or check in -- but personality does come through, says Golbeck, who has been studying human behavior and communications for 15 years, almost like it does in a psychological Myers–Briggs test.
For example, if a guy texts you all business and no banter (says hello and gets to setting up a time to meet), he’s highly conscientious. He might not work well with you if you’re a procrastinator -- it can come off as overpowering to you. Or if you get a text from a guy right after meeting him at a party, he’s likely an extrovert, so introverts take note. “I’m an introvert so when I leave a party, I like to go home and recharge. The last thing I want is a guy to take me to bar!” says Golbeck.
Still there’s nothing clear that will reveal one personality trait or another, she says. And that’s where authors Lisa Winning and Carrie Henderson McDermott have come in with their "He’s Just Not That Into You"-like title, "He Texted: The Ultimate Guide for Decoding Guys" (Gallery Books). I know what you are thinking, “A cheesy self-help book for socially tone-deaf, boy-crazy women to perpetuate the cliché cat-and-mouse chase?”
Maybe. But it also offers loads of go-to tips for when you (or a friend) have fallen into that keeping-the-phone-close, “what-do-you-think-this-means” rut. Here, a few to keep you company. ("He Texted" only discusses male-female relationships, but these tips would apply to any romantic texting situation.)
The banter is lively. His texts make you smile and laugh.
The pace is brisk. The back-and-forth text volley is as blistering as a Serena Williams match.
A funny reply is always at the tips of your fingers.
The tone is light. He’s killing himself to sound casual so you don’t freak out and think he’s too into you.
The texts have a purpose, namely, making plans for your next date.
He goes overboard with flattery. Not to say you aren’t the most beautiful woman within a 300-mile radius of Chicago, but gushing by text is the hallmark of a player. [So true! This one makes everything clear in retrospect.]
His texts often begin, “Waiting for the bus.” That’s not a flirty text; it’s a cry for help -- helping him kill time when he’s bored. No need to answer that call. [I concur. I once had an overworked mergers-and-aquisitions lawyer who texted late on a Thursdays or Fridays, “Dinner?” He had forgotten to make plans, and I was his last resort.]
The banter is deadly. His texts make you frown and groan.
You’re out of tune. You can’t tell if he’s being ironic; you find yourself wondering, “What’d he mean by that?” “Is he for real?” and “I don’t get it.”
With as much text chemistry as anyone can have, remember, in the end it all comes down to the flesh and blood.