It's Called Dialing, and It's a Classier Way to End Things Than With a Text (or Lack Thereof)

The Internet has been abuzz lately with writers asking the none too ironic question: Are we addicted to technology? It makes sense that summer is the season of technology’s existential crisis; after all, it’s much easier to rationalize your computer or phone addiction when you’re using it for “work,” as opposed to jogging three miles from the campsite in order to spend 15 glorious minutes on Facebook.

But while much virtual ink has been spilt over technology and the self, little has been said this month about how it impacts our relationships with others. As far as I can tell, technology allows us to go one of two directions in that regard. It can help us maintain a friendship with someone who, years ago, we probably would have drifted apart from (à la your friend who’s been working in Shanghai for the past three years). On the other hand, technology adds an additional layer of distance between ourselves and those with whom we have the most actual “physical” contact, like our romantic partners.

That’s right, I’m calling out texting. Specifically, how convenient, comfortable, and shady it is to “phase out” a new (or-not-so-new) sexitimes buddy via text.

In another article, much could be said about how texting allows us to reach new heights of flakiness with our friends. But there’s a level of closeness we share with friends (and partners) that makes it totally acceptable to pick up the phone when they go M.I.A. and ask: “Seriously, are you dead?”

When it comes to romantic flames, the pervasiveness of texting as a handy “getting to know ya” tool (you have time to appear ultra witty, look up that band they referenced, run a spell check…) has transformed phone calls into a significant relationship “step.” In the early stages, you’re stuck with messaging, and for whatever reason, “Hey are you friend-zoning me?” (or any variation of the same) sounds completely normal over the phone, while in text, it reads desperate or psycho-stalkery.

Those of us on the other end of the iPhone are aware of this, and boy does it make texting god’s gift to phasing people out. Whether you’re tired of a tryst, or that first date was not what you thought it would be, just stop responding. Leave your partner in confused agony as they transition from hopefully telling themselves you won a surprise cruise to somewhere without cell service, to total self-loathing because “that thing they must have done to repell you”? — it could have been anything. If you’re extra-smooth, leave three to four days between responses so communication dies a slow, rattling death without ever being officially cut off.

It’s just so easy, and because it’s easy for us, we convince ourselves it’s easier for the other person, as well. It’ll happen so gradually, they won’t even feel it, right? The truth is, I would much rather hear the old-fashioned, “Suzy, you’re a great gal but it’s not working out.” For starters, it’s ripping off the BandAid. Second, it lessons the disposability one feels when phased out. Third, even if “I think you’re a great gal” is a total lie, when you get that confirmation, you’re less likely to fret over what the hell little thing you did wrong. You’re still a great gal, it just wasn’t clicking.

I wish I could say I’ve never slowly smothered a budding relationship with electronic silence, but that would be a lie. I’d like to do better though, because every person who deigns to go out with my weird self, every relationship, no matter how brief, deserves to end with dignity and in the kindest way possibly (unless, of course, they were a total wack-job/ jerk). We excuse our tendency to phase people out by blaming it on our own bleeding hearts—no one likes to hurt someone else! Hearts, shmarts, when it comes down to it, texting is making it easier to objectify those able to show enough vulnerability to get naked with us. That vulnerability should be rewarded with respect, not written off with silence.

Image: Jose A. Perez via Flickr