The Disconnect

The Disconnect

There is a disconnect between generations. And while age does play into this, it is not entirely exclusive. My mother is absolutely fascinated with technology. I recently bought her an iPad as a gift and each time I drop by her house I show her something new that is possible. You should have seen the way her eyes lit up when I showed her how to speak text. Or the time after that when I showed her how she could check the status of nearby traffic. There is something adorably magical about it.

But the one thing she doesn’t really get is how to communicate. Sure, she has email (Once even responding to an email of mine five years later. No exaggeration. Five years.), but she doesn’t really know how to compose text messages in a way that coveys her personality. See, what many of us don’t seem to realize is that we have been raised with this technology as a real and valid extension of how we communicate. Up until, well really, the past 10 years we have communicated the same way we always had. But with the invention of emojis and internet slang, it forces a wedge between those who use it as a tool and those of us who depend on it to effectively flirt with others.

See, there is an accepted and expected style to what and how we communicate via text or email. The duration of our response, the length, the words, the cadence. All of this has been gone over and over by billions of people and we have reached a collective understanding of what is and what is not acceptable behavior. First rule of the internet? Know the difference between “your” and “you’re”. It might as well be the litmus test as to whether or not your words will have any validity. Now, does this necessarily mean that you are stupid or uneducated? A friend of mine with a doctorate sent me an email a few months ago that read, “When your coming to town, give me a call.” People, this man has a doctorate and is a professor at an Ivy League school. He is not stupid by any means. But if he was in the middle of a flame war in some fandom community, his lack of grammar skills would have rendered him powerless and a clown at best.

What I’m getting at is that we have an accepted form of communication and that we are constantly looking for deviations in that communication that will reveal potential red flags of a person’s intentions. Maybe they’re too eager and four texts in a row shows desperation. Maybe their careless usage of describing negative situations as “gay” shows how rude and insensitive they will be. And maybe by asking for nudes within the first few minutes of meeting someone on an online dating site demonstrates how that person might only be looking for sex. Maybe they are red flags and maybe not. But these are the impressions we get and we are constantly validated by others in our community who understand “the code”.

A friend of mine who is 26 recently went on two dates with a man in his 40s. While he wasn’t her usual type, she decided to take him up on his offer in hopes he would be different from all the typical guys she has dated. She turned out to be right. Less desperate and more confident, she was intrigued with him. Tonight, she texted me and mentioned that in the middle of a non-flirtatious conversation he blurted out, “Send me a pic of you in lingerie.” And while yes, she is absolutely the type of woman who finds herself in hotel rooms wearing lingerie and would be more than happy to send him many pictures, it was the clumsy way he went about asking like he was a teenage kid. She said that it rubbed her the wrong way but he was older and didn’t text the same way we did. She expressed how forced it felt and that he didn’t even try to lead up to it with mild seduction but she decided to cut him some slack and sent him a mildly scandalous picture.

His response: “:) sweet dreams”

She called me immediately, “What the fuck was that? ‘Sweet dreams’?!”
I tried helping her understand that he was older. Explaining the disconnect. That he communicated differently. That he should have responded in a more positive manner.

See, the problem that so many people don’t seem to understand is that when someone sends a naked picture of themselves, they are trusting you with their vulnerability. Even the hottest people on this planet have insecurities and when we send revealing pictures of ourselves we are basically saying, “Be nice because this is as good as I can look so it would be really cool if you made me feel comfortable about trusting you.” And it just works in everyone’s favor. I mean, if I send you a picture of my cat and you responded with, “Oh my god, that’s the greatest cat I have ever seen. I could stare at it for days.” Guess what? You would end up with nightly pictures of my cat for the duration of our friendship. But if you responded, “Ew. That’s a cat alright.” You would never get a cat picture again. Truthfully, you’ll be lucky to get a text back ever but that’s besides the point. My point is, clumsy guys continually shoot themselves in the foot and ruin everything because they don’t understand the comfort level that needs to be nurtured. If you positively reassure someone, they will usually respond in kind. And guess what? That usually means YOU GET MORE NUDES! But if you’re lifeless and unimpressed, well, let’s just say no one likes to date a wet blanket.

A smiley face. Her first attempt at being vulnerable and sexy and he gave her a simple smiley face. She said while it wasn’t a deal breaker, it was definitely a bit of a let down. And that’s what this comes down to – being responsible with a person’s vulnerability. If you’re getting to know someone and they open up about past abuse or their fears or they show you their vulnerable side, if you want to have any success with dating you absolutely must learn to give the appropriate amount of care to that trust. And yes, while maybe things would have played out different if it were in person – they simply weren’t. He was over there and she was in a hotel room all by herself. Being vulnerable with a man she thought was different than the rest. But now she is rethinking everything about him because of his lack of enthusiasm when all he had to say was, “You are absolutely stunning.” But he didn’t. And now she is sleeping in a bed without him and slowly losing interest. Harsh and callous, maybe. But it hurts when you cautiously take a risk by literally and figuratively exposing yourself and, in turn, you feel the disconnect. Because there is little passion in a smiley face text.

About author

Christopher Gutierrez

Christopher Gutierrez is the author of several books on love, sex, and relationships. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Deep End, in addition to running Deadxstop Publishing. Since 2006, he has given hundreds of speakings at colleges, coffee houses and universities all over the world.

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