Notables to Self: I Am Not What I Text

Benjamin Mann is a young professional currently living, working, and dating in Toronto. More of his writing can be found at  

So a few months ago, I caved and signed up for Tinder.

I had some serious reservations about the impacts an app like Tinder might have on our romantic ecosystem so I always avoided it out of principal. But after writing a piece about finding love in Las Vegas, I realized that if I was willing to hand out vodka-sodas like I was operating some soup kitchen for bimbos, I should be willing to play Hot or Not while I defrost a chicken breast.

Since signing up, I’ve been matched with about 30 women. Of those 30, I messaged with and digitally met about 25. Of those 25, I have gone on to actually meet 2. For me, Tinder introductions, which are based entirely on a flagging of mutual attraction, have about an 8% date rate.

I have also recently met several women in person with whom there was an exchange of conversation, flattery, and then contact info; the ‘right swipe’ of the real world, if you will.

As with Tinder, the live introductions were followed by texting/messaging. Despite the inherent ambiguity of intentions that comes along with organic encounters, I’ve gone on to re-meet almost all of those women. For me, live introductions have about an 80% date rate.

Admittedly, there are a few things going on here and there are all kinds of reasons why people forfeit initial attractions – especially with more exposure to other people telling you you’re hot. But when Live-Before-Text yields such a convincing statistical advantage over Text-Before-Live, I can’t help but come to a key conclusion:

Thumbpatibilityhas become a socially credible factor in partner assessment and, as a result, people are blowing some good romantic opportunities for some bad reasons.

If we think about it, we all know how misleading and unreliable messaging can be for overall judgment. As young professionals, we’ve all had that remote colleague who just seems like a nightmare over email. They send three word messages without punctuation, ask questions without context, and actually respond to critical threads with, “OK” and “THX”. Because of their irritating email practices, you start fantasizing about sneezing on their laptop and convince yourself that when you finally meet, you’ll need a monk in the room to keep you from choking them.

And then you meet them. And then you like them. You realize that they just kind of suck at email, and then once you get past that, you realize that they’re actually pretty good at their job.    

The simply fact is, not everyone has impressive texpertise. And not everyone likes burying their chin in their cleavage to thumb out a fluid, thoughtful response to a half-assed question or some snoozer story about a traffic ticket or a cute niece.

More importantly, how many marriages have been on the brink of divorce because they just ran out of things to text about? When was the last time you ever heard anyone talk about how happy they were because their partner was so in touch with their emoticons?

Think big picture, not .jpg.

Want to know just how bad we’re getting?, one of the most popular online dating sites in the US, crunched a bunch of data to figure out how users could optimize their chances of landing a date. You can get to the full analysis through my Love Gone Cray column, but here’s a taste of what they discovered:    


The worst part is that it’s getting ingrained; we probably don’t even realize how unreasonably fussy we’re being.

Of course what someone texts, or doesn’t text, is relevant. It’s a bonus when someone can cheer you up between meetings with eight or nine thoughtful words or a solid Wayne’s World quote. And it’s annoying when you’re having a bad day and someone takes 4 hours to respond to a simple question.

Texting can also uncover extremes; poets, comedians, and aggressive racists generally bubble to the surface rather quickly. And if more than 40% of someone’s messages include a spelling error or an autocorrect flub, you can safely assume they’re an idiot.

But most of the time, texting gives us only a very minor, very calculated taste of a personality.

I get it. We’re busy, we’re restless, we’re picky and we’re addicted. Our phones know about traffic, give us stock updates, and keep tabs on just how slutty Miley Cyrus is. Why shouldn’t it be able to tell us what someone is like and whether or not they’ll make us happy? Well, I hate to break it to you, but despite leaps in technology, the screen resolution on our phones isn’t that good.

If you only get one message this week, I hope it’s this one: the only way to really know what someone is like is to spend time with them.

Real time. Not thumb time.

Worst case scenario, you waste a few hours here and there. But at least you’ll be examining the characters that actually matter.




Imagez:, someecards, tumblr

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