Monday, July 18, 2011

How I text like an absolute baller (....kind of.)

smiley faces are death

Why you should read this: because I've scoured the web and can't find this particular insight anywhere else. Also, check out the Salon.com profile I wrote of maybe the greatest pickup artists of all time. (And their uncut interview.) OK, let's get to the texting.
Last night,
I couldn't even get an answer.
Tried to call, but my pride wouldn't let me dial.
And I'm sitting here, with this blank expression.
And the way I feel, I wanna curl up like a child.
That's Last Night by Keyshia Cole f. Diddy. The song's emblematic of what I'm feeling at the current moment.

What I'm feeling is the queasiness after sending a text that might or might not be received well. You just never know until the phone vibrates back. Texting is a difficult, valuable skill to pick up. And I'm not talking about run-of-the-mill text messaging: I'm talking about clever, these-are-important texts. Today, we're going to talk about text messaging that doesn't just communicate information, but also implies credibility, creates intrigue, and advances a compatible persona. Good text messaging should put on display your "best" self, however you tend to see it.

One rule I've picked up from Roissy is to think, "Would I still send this text, if I knew it would be displayed during a baseball game?" If the thought makes you cringe, you're doing something wrong. Erase, and think of a better way to say what you need to say.

Sure, you could just "be natural," but that's so boring. Let's pick a style! Here are a couple I like:

I have a British friend who starts texts with "Mate," writes "wot" instead of "what," and ends with a signature, "J." He uses British English incessantly, and types in full sentences.

I know this girl who smashes her iPhone keyboard and never edits; the result is texts like "Mm yah whoo?" and "thanks k hoe good d thy hav couch/futon/confused."

One of my suitemates goes, "Happy birthday little <REDACTED>" and "Alright brudda well I don't know if I'ma see her tonight but maybe tomorrow - see you tomorrow I hope and <REDACTED> too- actually you are still encouraged to come meet us"

The key to why these styles work? They're distinctive. Full sentences and colloquial British English add a drop of unintentional humor to J's communiques. Misspelled texts are rife with the implication that she's too cool or busy to really care about the response. The suitemate amalgamates highbrow and lowbrow in order to create a non-threatening-yet-cultured appeal.

Personally, I've gone through multiple transformations in my text game. Stage one was high school, where I trafficked in too many smiley faces. I wanted to be goofy and playful, so I used ":p" and ":D"; I wanted to be unique, so I used "=]" instead of ":)". This is probably why I only had one high school girlfriend. Stage two was freshman year of college, when I wrote out the words "you" and "number" but still said "oooh" and "ugh". Sophomore year, I cancelled text messaging because I renounced technology. Junior year, I don't remember much, except being unnecessarily needy. Senior year, I think I tried to be a brah, but I was never very good at it; not as good as my other suitemate at least, who was amazing: terse texts, unpredictable response times, and completely unapologetic, with subtext galore.

Now, I'm doing a little bit of everything. I've come around on smileys again, but I'll only use ":)". I imitate the sender of the text, responding with full sentences if they've sent me something fully-formed, and speeding through it if they've given me gibberish. I don't respond to every text, and usually respond in a random time pattern: I'll respond after a couple hours, then respond immediately. I've gotten much better at claiming the pith of the matter.

I'm not perfect. My style still isn't very robust, because I haven't become enamored with one particular style. I know what you're thinking -- just text the way you talk! Don't think about it! But come on. This is me we're talking about. Plus, our talking sound silly, inane, and a little pathetic, translated into text message. Here's what I mean. Below is a recent text conversation, my texts in bold.

The concert will start at seven pm today.
where am i meeting you at 530?
I am sorry but i have to make some recordings today so i will not be able to meet long before the concert. We could meet at 6: 45 at the main entrance
ill be around there! see you soon
i'm at 72nd and 5th ave w orange backpack on bench
Sorry where? I was talking about the main entrance of the summerstage mainstage at central park
coming
Let me know when you are here
long line
Damn
I will get you at the door when you call or text me your in
in! at ejtrance

As you can tell, I don't have one style, and I'm a little too accommodating -- the "orange backpack" bit was over the top. Here's what I could have done instead, if I wanted to go pure brah:

The concert will start at seven pm today.
see you 5:30
I am sorry but i have to make some recordings today so i will not be able to meet long before the concert. We could meet at 6: 45 at the main entrance
k
Let me know when you are here
long line
Damn
I will get you at the door when you call or text me your in
!

If I wanted to be cute, I could have done this:

The concert will start at seven pm today.
can't wait to see you. meet at 5:30?
I am sorry but i have to make some recordings today so i will not be able to meet long before the concert. We could meet at 6: 45 at the main entrance
cool. have a good time recording. =) 
i'm hereeeee. 72nd and 5th.
Sorry where? I was talking about the main entrance of the summerstage mainstage at central park
Oh shoot. my b. be there soon, promise.
Let me know when you are here
ouch long line
Damn
I will get you at the door when you call or text me your in
here =]

And, just for kicks, here's what not to do. Under. Any. Circumstances.

The concert will start at seven pm today.
Yay! Want to hang out? Meet at 5:30? I haven't seen you in so long I miss you!
I am sorry but i have to make some recordings today so i will not be able to meet long before the concert. We could meet at 6: 45 at the main entrance
ooh, what recordings are you doing? and I can't believe you're ditching me till 6:45. it's ok though, you better make it up to me later. :D 
I'm at 72nd and 5th! Where are you? I don't see youuuuu
Sorry where? I was talking about the main entrance of the summerstage mainstage at central park
Thanks for confusing me. =[ Wait up, I'm coming over now
Let me know when you are here
oh no, there's a really long line. It's going to be a while, ok? Save me a spot!
Damn
I will get you at the door when you call or text me your in
I'm here! Come come come

The last response seemed a little too cloying, don't you think? I really hope nobody who's reading this blog actually texts this way.

Conclusion? The brah response works, but needs to be corroborated in real life. If you're naturally effusive, being brah becomes try-hard. The cute response is a safe bet, but it's too common. And, it's a little too puppy-dog. Best bet is to take one of these styles and customize it to fit your strengths. Remember, the key is that she can identify your texts out of the faceless horde of attractive males texting her.

Lately, I've been sending texts without any thought. Which is good and bad. If I had developed solid texting skills earlier in my life, trusting my instincts would work. Problem is, my foundation isn't stable enough to spit "natural" texts. As a result, my texting is a little haphazard.

For more, see how to approach women on the street; breaking down how to have a conversation; and what not to do on OKCupid.

(Epilogue: text received well. bar13 here I come)

2 comments:

  1. I didn't really read the whole blog, but I rather make a phone call than text because I text really slowly and I want immediate response - but I know each person has their own preference. btw - if you really want feedback I recommend commenting on the commentator comments occasionally - from what I've seen from other blogs it works-

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  2. A friend weighs in:

    The concert will start at seven pm today.
    Cool, when/where do you want to meet?
    We could meet at 6: 45 at the main entrance
    Sure, where's that? (I'm from cupertino and i know nothing about ny)
    Main entrance of the summerstage mainstage at central park
    Let me know when you are here
    Here, but freakin long line. Let me in!
    Damn
    I will get you at the door when you call or text me your in

    Guidelines for me--
    -capitalize the first word of each sentence. Because most phones autocapitalize, if it's not capitalized, that can convey you put too much thought into the text.
    -don't show interest unless she has
    -backhanded compliments are great
    -propose ridiculous things, go off on tangents, come back to original point in end
    -WRONG:
    "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."
    But it has some merit. I might reword it from a modern girl's perspective as such:
    "Better to remain silent and be thought not hopelessly in love/down to do whatever to get in my pants than to text too much and remove all doubt."

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