A survey purportedly shows that women are having sex more quickly because of the influence of Facebook and texting. Even if that's true, it shouldn't necessarily freak us out.
According to the poll, conducted by noted scientific journals Shape and Men's Fitness, 40% of women say text and Facebook messages make them have sex with a new paramour sooner than they once would have. Psychologist Dr. Belisa Vranich has two possible explanations for this: first, ""The texting and all the social networking that's happening . . . creates anticipation. If your goal is to have sex, [texting] is actually helpful for that because it makes the correspondence between people sort of more titillating." And second: "It [also] gives the false impression that you've actually been together for a longer amount of time, so it's actually OK to have sex quicker. You may have gone out once or twice, but since there's been so much exchange, either in texting or Facebook, it feels longer. It actually feels like its been longer than just two dates."
I'm always suspicious of the argument that communications that take place electronically somehow aren't Real — I bet the Olds of centuries past said this about letters. And really, if you've been texting or messaging with someone a lot, you may well know more about them than if you've only had one or two interactions. Yes, meeting in the flesh is important (obviously), but once you've done so, it's not odd that additional communication via other media might give an added sense of closeness and trust.
The bit about titillation is a bit more intriguing. Lisa Friedman also mines this territory in a short Times piece on her (equally short) Facebook dalliance with an old boyfriend. She described the way "each note produced a thrill in my body, like a quick shock of static electricity. It was exciting. It was fun. It was a little addicting." Anybody who's seen an entire afternoon get sucked down a Facebook vortex knows this feeling — and it's all the more intense if it also contains an erotic charge. For the married Friedman, that charge was fleeting — the end of her essay sees her returning to her flesh-and-blood life with her husband. Nonetheless, she clearly witnessed the power electronic communications can sometimes have.
There must still be people who come off badly online, who are more charming and witty and winning in person than in a little box popping up on your screen. Yet the sheer smallness of those boxes has a way of shutting the bad out, of letting us see what we want to see. It's easier to read genius and passion into a few well-crafted texts than into a two-hour dinner with all its potential awkwardnesses. And for many people who grew up with the Internet, it can be easier to open up through a keyboard than to do so face-to-face. Of course texting, Facebooking and the like are titillating: they make it easier for us to see the best in people, and easier for us, in a certain way, to be our best selves.
These best selves aren't actually fake — our texting personas are part of us, however much we might later disavow them — but they aren't the whole story. Relationships still need real-life interaction to flourish — and all the fits and starts and awkwardnesses of in-the-flesh communication can ultimately be richer than a carefully curated online affair. But if texting and Facebooking really have sped up seduction (a claim for which we'd certainly need more evidence than a single magazine poll), we shouldn't be surprised, or too concerned. They are far from the first technologies humans have cooked up to impress each other, and they certainly won't be the last.
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