Dating Sucked Before Text Messages. Now It's Even Worse.

Illustration for article titled Dating Sucked Before Text Messages. Now It's Even Worse.

Everyone thinks love times were simpler in past eras, when you got married to the first guy you looked at the second you turned 16 after exactly three dates, one side-long glance, and an accidental hand-brush. But if Jane Austen has taught us anything, it's that it has never been simple to like a person, not even once, since time immemorial. That said, it really does seem like the number of devices/mediums/methods through which we try are not doing us any favors.


What it all boils down to — this era of technological proliferation that lets us tweet/facebook/instragram/snapchat/text our way into everyone's heart, or at least their heart's waiting room — is we've got all this new access, and that feels exciting and limitless. Pro: Isn't it great that now you can meet guys in the tri-state area instead of only that one dumbfuck in your actual town? Con: You just loaded up on dudes from the tri-state area.

But really, this access is just the illusion of access. The illusion of access creates the illusion of intimacy. Not that there isn't real intimacy formed from digital love — I think there is. But the mix of the two — the seeing of the person IRL, sleeping with them, hanging out + the constant exposure to their digital residue, gets us all coated in weird digital residue that makes us feel like the other person is right there all the time and should be reachable. You never get off the digital leash anymore.

But worst of all, there are no good rules for how to conduct yourself, whatever your intentions. The whole act of pursuit is ordered around a kind of pacing that both people are simultaneously setting as measured by frequency and content. Who hasn't had an intensely communicative period of contact with a Digital Almost in messages/emails/texts, only to have it suddenly shift to a slower pace?

Sometimes, though, that pace dwindles down to nothing. And there is probably nothing more maddening than this moment to lots of people: when someone is no longer doing the engaging they were doing before and you aren't sure why.

Did you do/say something? Did they meet someone else? Are they really busy? Did they decide they don't want to get pizza on Thursday night and then catch a movie?

It's called the slow fade apparently. Wherein after a date or a few dates or just some chatting, you just stop communicating with someone and slowly evaporate from their life, like the wavy heat of a highway mirage, no explanation offered. Heinous and terrible, or totally OK?



Don't slow-fade me motherfucker, just break up with me like an adult who can type a sentence that says you are not that into me and I will be fine, says this XOJane piece:

Thursday rolls around, you make loose plans for Saturday night, on Saturday at like 7 when you still haven’t heard anything you send out a message, no reply. On Monday you get a “Sorry about this weekend, I got super busy,” text, “No worries! Let’s try for next weekend” you say, “For sure,” the object of your affection replies. Then… nothing. (The prolonged slow-fade is when this process occurs multiple times over the course of several weeks to months. It’s also known as: “Bitch get a clue, it’s not happening.”)

You can’t quite figure out what happened because… nothing happened. It’s almost like your paramour ceased to exist. You don’t want to follow up with a “What happened to you?” because that might seem desperate but mostly, because you know exactly what happened. You got slow-faded and it effing sucks.



Whoa whoa whoa, counters this XX Factor piece, the slow-fade is a totally legitimate way to end things, feelings monster.

So what did happen to that guy, anyway? Does it matter? He could be too busy, afraid of commitment, lost in a k-hole, or dead. Those are his personal issues, and they’ve got nothing to do with you. All you have to know is that it’s not happening, and it’s nothing personal. Or it is intensely personal, in which case: Do you really want him to spell it out for you? The vast majority of explanatory break-up texts are just more lies shot out into the cloud in an effort to protect us all from the statistical reality: Few casual flings materialize into lasting romantic relationships, and there’s no particular reason why that’s the case.

No text message is going to definitively resolve those “million and a half” reasons why your crush might not have been into it, and maybe that’s for the best.


My Point:

Sadly, both of these positions are 100 percent correct. Yup-city.

  • Wouldn't it be awesome if people could bluntly lay it bare that they just aren't that into you and will now be no longer responding to your messages unless you make them feel really guilty, and even then, probably not?
  • Wouldn't it be awesome if we were all so completely secure in ourselves that if someone who seemed legit into us suddenly disappeared, we would require no explanation, take the bullet of silence, and simply reconstitute ourselves into a fresh new person like a shapeshifting T-1000 and move on to the next tri-state area?

But dating has always been a mindfuck like this. You have no idea ever if people are how they say they are, or if the things they want are what they say they want, or if when they move closer to you in their car and brush your thigh as they fumble to plug their iPhone into their aux cable in the front seat it means they like you-like you or just like you, or just want to fuck you, or would date you for realz, or are actually really into your sister.

You have two options:

  • If you don't care, ditch at will.
  • If you do care, wait it out, be ready to not care.

People are weird and mind-changey, and they don't know what they want, and BIG POINT RIGHT HERE they rarely have the emotional literacy to explain it to themselves, much less into a chat bubble.


I don't know about you, but I prefer to gleefully plow over the dead chat logs of my Digital Almosts and never look back. And who could blame me? We did this to ourselves.

Which is why I must conclude that the slow fade is ONLY cool when you're dealing with another slow fader wherein both slow-faders feel the same, that is to say, not into each other at the exact same time and walking away like fuckin' champs. It's the digital simultaneous orgasm. I'm sure it exists.


Every other situation that isn't that is going to be weird for someone. In fact, we shouldn't even call it dating anymore. We should call it Weird for Someone.

Try it:

Hey, I'm so excited, I've got Weird for Someone plans this Friday. Gonna see a movie.


Sure, it's awkward, but so is nearly every facet of dealing with people. Then change the name of every potential hookup you're chatting with in your phone to Digital Almost. Fill that plow up with gas. I prefer the one-pass plow myself. And never, ever forget how tenuous it all is. Good luck out there!


But people were nonstraightforward and did the slow fade long before text messages were a thing. Ie, phone convo: do you want to hang out this weekend? eh no, I have plans. Next weekend? I'll check and get back to you.

As far as rules for texting and dating, if you don't be an asshole and don't be creepy you're pretty much set.