Electronic communication is a blessing and a mindfuck, particularly when it comes to relationships. I know I’m way behind the times on this one. My past relationships never relied on things like IM, email and text messaging to move forward. It was always phone, phone and in person. Well, when Glenn and I were dating cross-country, there was a lot of email and IM between weekend visits, but we were also on the phone constantly. As in, $300 phone bill constantly.
So this whole lunch boy thing is a new experience for me. We do almost all our communicating via computer and cell phone, and it’s got me to thinking about whether technology is aiding or abetting our ability to get to know each other. For one thing, it’s much easier to say things over email or IM than it would be to say them in person. That’s good, right? I’m all for the good communication. But it does mean that you don’t have to look at the person’s face when you say something, or hear the inflection in their voice when they talk to you. And that means it’s really easy to lay things on the line, put your heart on your sleeve or say things without really thinking about them first.
What does it say about two people when they’d rather talk electronically than on the phone or in person? To me, it says that email and IM make it easier for me to maintain some emotional distance while still staying in touch with him and having him be a daily part of my life. Periodically I go through moments where I want to cut off all communication and hang him out to dry because it feels like I’m being taken for granted or he’s not making a decision as fast as I want him to. For this I have to thank my mother—again. She of the drama queen tactics and martyrdom guilt trips, whose outbursts were carefully calculated to get us to do whatever she wanted. I take full responsibility for the times when I actually give into this urge—that’s my fault, not hers—but I also have to acknowledge the source.
1. Email is good because you get these little electronic surprise presents in your inbox, and it makes the day go by so much faster. But it also sucks because when he doesn’t email, I sit there staring at the screen and wondering what the deal is, and feeling like a loser for noticing that the horrible little Outlook preview box hasn’t appeared in the lower righthand side of my screen for hours and hours. Then the day drags and I wonder how I got to be 30 years old and I’m still waiting for the boy to “call”. Wasn’t I supposed to get past that like 10 years ago?
2. IM is deadly (and not just in the inappropriate sense). It eats up hours and hours. And it’s such a game. Do I want to sign on? And when I do, if he’s already online it becomes a staring contest—who will ping who first? Who will have hand? Then there’s the fact that it’s easy to talk about everything and nothing. Suddenly I find us talking about stuff that I would never consider discussing with anyone else so early in a relationship. And the next second we’re talking about how I flunked algebra in high school and how his room service sucks. It’s easier than the phone and harder at the same time. Plus, you can save the conversations for posterity (and possible future blog material). So evil, I know. C—I can feel you cringing from here.
3. Text messaging is similar but more dangerous. Literally. You try typing a message on the phone while driving, knowing that you’re being stupid but also knowing that you have to respond tout suite. It’s bad when I send a message and he doesn’t reply, but it’s good when I get off the plane and have three messages from him waiting for me, welcoming me home and asking how the flight was.
All this is probably ridiculously passe, but it was on my mind. Still,I wonder what happens when we actually have to talk face to face, when we can’t hide behind a computer screen and take as long as we want to think about a response. Will it still fly? Or is the relationship blooming only in an electronic sense?