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We had been chatting and flirting a little the whole night, so I asked her to come in for a drink. At the time, I was subletting a pretty nice house up in the Hollywood Hills. It was kind of like that house De Niro had in Heatbut a little more my vibe than the vibe of a really skilled robber who takes down armored cars. I made us both a nice cocktail and we took turns throwing on records while we chatted and laughed.
Eventually we started making out, and it was pretty awesome. I wanted to see Tanya again and was faced with a simple conundrum that plagues us all: How and when do I communicate next? Do I call? Do I text? Do I send a Facebook message? Do I send up a smoke al? How does one do that? Eventually I decided to text her, because she seemed to be a heavy texter. I waited a few days, so as not to seem overeager. I found out that the band Beach House, which we listened to the night we made out, was playing that week in L. You wanna go? Maegan Ayers and her then-boyfriend, Nathan Socha, faced a dilemma in the fall of They had found the perfect little condo for sale in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain: on the ground floor, just a mile from the A nice, firm ask with a little inside joke thrown in.
This was the moment of truth. I braced myself and watched as those little iPhone dots popped up. The ones that tantalizingly tell you someone is typing a response, the smartphone equivalent of the slow trip up to the top of a roller coaster.
But then, in a few seconds— they vanished. And there was no response from Tanya. What happened? A few more minutes go by and Fifteen minutes go by My confidence starts going down and shifting into doubt. An hour goes by Two hours go by Three hours go by A mild panic begins. I start staring at my original text. Once so confident, now I second-guess it all.
I asked too many questions. What was I thinking? Oh, there I go with another question. Texting conditions our minds; we expect our exchanges to work differently than they did with phone calls. Modern romance is stressful—especially when it Buff guy girlcall me to texting, which is on course to be the new norm for asking someone out. In only 10 percent of young adults used texts to ask someone out for the first time, compared with 32 percent in We deed a massive research project during andwhich involved conducting focus groups and interviews with people worldwide, and also interviewing eminent researchers who have dedicated their careers to studying modern romance.
We learned a lot about finding love today, including what to do once you fire off a text or receive one. One area where there was a lot of debate was the amount of time one should wait to text back. Several people subscribed to the notion of doubling the response time. They write back in five minutes, you wait 10, etc. This way you achieve the upper hand and constantly seem busier and less available than your counterpart.
Others thought waiting just a few minutes was enough to prove you had something important in your life besides your phone. Some thought you should double, but occasionally throw in a quick response to not seem so regimented nothing too long, though! Some people swore by waiting 1.
Others argued they found three minutes to be just right. There were also those who were so fed up with the games that they thought receiving timely responses free of games was refreshing and showed confidence. But does this stuff work? Why do so many people do it? Are Buff guy girlcall me of these strategies really lining up with actual psychological findings? In recent years behavioral scientists have shed some light on why waiting techniques can be powerful. Psychologists have conducted hundreds of studies in which they reward lab animals in different ways under different conditions.
So basically, if you are the guy or girl who texts back immediately, you Buff guy girlcall me taken for granted and ultimately lower your value as a reward. Texting is a medium that conditions our minds in a distinctive way, and we expect our exchanges to work differently with messages than they did with phone calls. Before everyone had a cell phone, people could usually wait a while—up to a few days, even—to call back before reaching the point where the other person would get concerned.
Texting has habituated us to receiving a much quicker response. From our interviews, this time frame varies from person to person, but it can be anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to even immediately, depending on the communication. When we met in Boston, she explained that unlike cards, horse races, or the weekly lottery—all games that make gamblers wait for their turn, for the horses to finish, or for the weekly drawing —machine gambling is lightning fast, so that players get immediate information.
She drew an analogy between slot machines and texting, since both generate the expectation of a quick reply. Your whole system is primed to receive a message back. When you are texting someone less frequently, you are, in effect, creating a scarcity of you and making yourself more attractive. Then, out of nowhere, the guy went silent. Even people in relationships experience this anxiety with texting.
Her responses had been pretty immediate, and it seemed like her pause was an indicator that something was wrong and that I should have been going to the hotel or something. All of this change in my perception of her feelings and my own mood was purely because of the temporal differences in texting. If the effect is this powerful for people in committed relationships, it makes sense that all the psychological principles seem to point to waiting being a strategy that works for singles who are trying to build attraction.
The next day you text them. Two respond fairly quickly, and one of them does not respond at all. The first two women have, in a sense, indicated interest by writing back and have, in effect, put your mind at ease. Did I screw something up? This third woman has created uncertainty, which social psychologists have found can lead to strong romantic attraction. The team of Erin Whitchurch, Timothy Wilson, and Daniel Gilbert conducted a study where women were shown Facebook profiles of men who they were told had viewed their profiles.
One group was shown profiles of men who they were told had rated their profiles the best. A second group was told they were seeing profiles of men who had said their profiles were average. As expected, the women preferred the guys who they were told liked them best over the ones who rated them average. The reciprocity principle: We like people who like us.
When you think about people more, this increases their presence in your mind, which ultimately can lead to feelings of attraction. Another idea from social psychology that goes into our texting games is the scarcity principle. Basically, we see something as more desirable when it is less available.
When I was dealing with the Tanya situation, one friend gave me the best advice, in hindsight. A few months later I ran into Tanya. Apparently at the time she was questioning her entire sexual identity and was trying to figure out if she was a lesbian.
Well, that was definitely not a theory that crossed my mind. We ended up hooking up that night, and this time she said there would be no games. I texted her a few days later to follow up on this plan. Her response: silence.
Aziz Ansari is an actor and comedian, best known for his role on Parks and Recreation and the Netflix series Master of None, which he created, writes, and stars in. Modern Romance is his first book. Eric Klinenberg is a professor of sociology at New York University with an interest in urban studies, culture, and media.
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To snag a man, let him do the chasing