Rosie Gizauskas | Contributing Writer | Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Why Messaging Culture Is Fucking Us Up

Why Messaging Culture Is Fucking Up Our Relationships

The Debrief: WhatsApp, schmwhatsapp - the instant messenger could actually be wreaking havoc with your relationships

Remember those heady days before WhatsApp? Waiting for potential dates to reply on text - and even, gasp - sometimes making phone calls to people, if you really quite liked them. Yes, these are actual THINGS that used to happen before those dreaded two blue ticks took hold of our lives and refused to let go. 

While messaging culture is quick, simple and constantly entertaining, it’s got its obvious downsides - like all the endless groups your friends keeping making, which kill your battery by 11am each day. From **Friday night drinkies!!** and ‘Megan’s Hen Do’ (the one that’s not happening for another six months, fucksake…), at at least you can mute that shit if needs be. 

Yep, WhatsApp is generally an easy, fun thing. But when it comes to dating, it could actually be screwing us up - from the initial stages of dating right through to those in long-term relationships. 

Would you date ten guys at once in real life? 

The answer is a firm NO, unless you’ve got nothing to do all day/have balls of steel and no actual feelings/are actually the female version of Spencer Matthews. But what a lot of us do do when we’re single (or not so single, if you’re a douche) is message multiple guys or girls at the same time. Whether you met them at the pub or, more likely, on Tinder, it’s not uncommon to have a good four or five (or ten, if you’re a pro) “yeah maybes” on your WhatsApp contact list at any one one time. I know I’ve done it. 

There’s the funny guy that you message if you’re feeling like you need cheering up. Or the one you know will always be awake at 1am when you’re drunk and in need of some attention. Sound familiar?

You might be on the sofa on Friday night feeling like a massive single loser, but a few WhatsApps and you’ve got instant attention - even if you have no actual intention of meeting up with any of them. It’s a comfort blanket thing, says behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings.

'This is damaging to a degree, psychologically,' she says. 'It’s a bad habit. And when you try to break the habit and form a proper relationship, you may have forgotten how to redirect your messaging in a way that involves significance.

'While you might view messaging multiple people as not putting all your eggs in one basket, it could actually be damaging, and could be stopping you from forming actual close bonds with one significant person.'

There might be plenty of fish in the WhatsApp sea - but they’re all going to start tasting the same if you’re eating them day in, day out. It might be time to put that phone down and start actually chatting to that guy at the pub. 

Revealing too much, too soon 

WhatsApp and other instant messengers can throw a spanner in the works when it comes to opening up too quickly to potential dates. While messaging late into into the night with someone from Tinder, or someone you kissed at a house party can be exciting - it also leave you open to revealing things you might normally keep private in a relationship until trust has been properly established. 

Whether we’re talking about a traumatic life event or sending someone photos of your boobs, it might be better to keep things a bit more secret until you’re sure you can trust the person you’re chatting to. Or, er, the multiple people.

Anna, 26, a fashion designer found her confidence 'destroyed' when she opened up to a guy she’d met on Tinder. 

'We ended up talking and exchanging photos for for a good six months before we eventually met up as our schedules just didn't seem to work out - and in this time we Skyped and I’d see him fully naked before we met. It was a really weird experience. He never contacted me again after we slept together. 

'At first I was a bit upset but as time went on I realised how stupid I was to go along with it for such a long time. I guess I just liked having someone to message and someone to flirt with but at the end of the day I was just getting used.'

Dr Elle Boag compares instant messaging culture and dropping bombshells before you actually know the person people to walking around naked in front of somewhere you’ve only just met. Which most of us don’t do. 

'As a culture we’re getting into the habit of needing spontaneous gratification from a partner and an immediate need to reveal everything to people. Even if you’ve been together for a while, the immediacy and intimacy that WhatsApp creates can affect the way a relationship would progress naturally - speeding things up too quickly.'

Call me a grandma, but isn’t the excitement of dating all about getting to know that person? If you’ve already revealed everything over instant messenger, what are the chances that you’re both going to stay interested in each other long term?

The blue ticks of doom 

Even for those in an established, comfortable relationship, those little blue ticks that signal a WhatsApp message has been read can cause all kinds of drama. 

Dr Elle Boag says: 'The blue WhatsApp tick is the worst thing that’s happened on the app. It can actually destroy a relationship. If your partner doesn’t respond in the time that you perceive to be normal, paranoia can creep in. This paranoia that your partner is up to something that’s not focusing on you can niggle. And the more niggles you have, the less chance that the relationship will survive.

'WhatsApp isn’t necessarily reflective of the truth. Your partner might be busy, but WhatsApp can create a Chinese whisper situation. Someone else might be with your partner when they failed to reply and tell you that they weren’t actually that busy. It’s all in the head. And it can be very unhealthy.' 

And remember, your boyfriend or girlfriend is probably looking for those blue ticks, too - and then there’s the dreaded 'online' or 'typing…' status. Don’t get me started on when someone starts typing and then stops. It’s like an EastEnders cliffhanger with no resolution.

One ex and I chose not to use WhatsApp at all (well, it was BBM at the time, we’re talking circa 2010, but same difference) and stick to good old fashioned texting instead. There’s far less paranoia that comes with it, so that might be an idea - and turn iChat off, too. It might just stop some of the WhatsApp-induced jealousy and crazy stalkerish behaviour that can go on inside an otherwise healthy relationship. 

Now, it’s time to check my phone… but I’m only going to message my best friend. Promise.

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Follow Rosie on Twitter: @RGIZZA

Picture: Ada Hamza

Tags: Tech