WNT 2 GT L8D? Why text-messaging encourages quick hook-ups

There’s a brilliant sex column in this week’s New York magazine that argues an interesting point: SMS text-messaging encourages New Yorkers to have more quick hook-ups, because it eases the emotional risk thereof. To quote:

It’s just the right level of intrusiveness: Your target gets the message even in a noisy bar, but unlike a phone call, it won’t wake him up from a snooze in front of The Daily Show. You can successfully express interest, but texting’s short format allows you to maintain an air of aloofness. And text rejection is much easier to get (and give) than struggling through an awkward booty phone call.

“It’s by far the best way to set up a sex date,” says Kate, a 34-year-old designer in the East Village. “No worrying if your voice sounds needy or desperate or neurotic. In texts you can be blunt, erotic, funny — all the things you want to be.”

Texting isn’t just easy — it’s sexy too. By its very nature, texting is quick and dirty, so you can get away with MY PLACE OR YOURS? and nothing else. Plus the very private can happen in public — call it exhibitionism for the shy.

New technologies, of course, are always harnessed most aggressively at first for the purpose of porn: The photograph begat nekkid 19th-century pictures, moving pictures begat more of the same, and the first corporations to launch voice-mail technology en masse were phone-dating services like Lavalife. I’d been waiting for someone to start offering porn via SMS texting, but I clearly was missing the point. The value of texting is in mediating relations between two live people — not delivering static ASCII smut.

(I should probably point out that for this posting I’ve used a photo of a mobile-phone that appears to be so ancient it predates the invention of SMS, and possibly of electricity.)

(Thanks to Emily Nussbaum for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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