Texting Is Nature’s Most Dangerous Form Of Communication

How to handle being friends with benefits and texting: If it’s not broken, don’t text it. Also, the polite way to internet stalk a crush.

I have a “friend with benefits” I’ve been seeing for a while. We get together every weekend and have a lot of fun! But sometimes I feel like I should text him once or twice during the week to say hi, so he doesn’t feel…used? Do I need to do this, or do you think he’s ok with not speaking until we make plans? For the record, I have no problem not talking during the week; I don’t have time or the desire for a relationship, which is why this situation is working out just perfectly! I just don’t want to hurt his feelings!

Well, just so you know, according to the films No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits your friend with benefits is mere moments from falling in love with you. It’s going to seem all progressive because the GUY is the one wanting more than just sex (Hollywood is often edgy and forward-looking), but then it will turn out that you’ve been pining for him all along too. Then you’ll be soulmates with an endearingly awkward “how did you meet?” story! There can be no other way, because if there were, you’d think at least one of those movies would have ended differently.

Until then, I want you to write this mantra in lipstick on your mirror (i.e. the gentlewoman’s Post-it note): If it’s not broken, don’t text it. Your situation is “working out just perfectly.” Why risk upsetting whatever cosmic sex balance you’ve achieved by adding texting – nature’s most dangerous form of communication – to the mix? He won’t respond and you’ll get annoyed, or he’ll respond incorrectly and you’ll get annoyed, or your needless check-in texts will annoy HIM, or one of the two of you will think the other is more interested than you really are. There is a (small) chance it could be fine, but things are ALREADY fine.

I appreciate that you don’t want your friend to feel used, but if you’ve expressed your intentions (or lack thereof) and he’s on board, you’re not using him. You HAVE told him that you’re not interested in a relationship, right? Ugh, there needs to be a mail-order catalog for these situations. “Send our rugged F.W.B. gift basket to hit that perfect ‘I like you, but not too much, but I appreciate you, but not like THAT’ note.” I think it would have, like … matches, batteries, a screwdriver, and a bottle of milk in it — items that are useful, but a little confusing. Maybe? Ah. Don’t weekday-text him, know that your arrangement’s days are numbered, and wear a thousand forms of birth control.

Is there a polite/appropriate way to ignore friend requests, particularly on small networks like Path, where it’s REALLY OBVIOUS you’re ignoring the request?

One of the shittier things about life is having to make good people feel bad. If the request isn’t coming from a mortal enemy, and if you aren’t a sociopath, you are going to feel bad when you have to ruin someone’s dreams of being your internet friend on your social network of choice. Take comfort in the fact that, at the very least, this means your empathy is still in working order. It’s not working SO well that you’re about to accept a harmless fake friendship with someone you barely know, but whatever, it’s there.

No really, I mean it: don’t feel bad. It’s YOUR Facebook/Path. Accept that there is no gentle way to deny someone’s offer of friendship; there is either the cold-but-fair way (what you’re doing, which is pretending another person does not exist), or the overtly hostile way (throwing breakable items at that person, lighting his/her shrubbery on fire, letting poison frogs loose in his/her attic, etc.). The best that can be said is that you aren’t being explicitly hateful. In my opinion, the best way to deal with friend requests you don’t want (assuming, of course, that you’re the kind of person lucky enough to have this sort of problem) is to have a policy and stick to it. Don’t want to be Facebook friends with total strangers? Fine. Trying to maintain privacy from your work associates? Totally reasonable! You might still feel that perpetual, lonely hollowness of someone loved by many but close to few, but at least you will be consistent.

Am I allowed to use the internet to learn about my school crush? Can I Google him? And is it creepy to monitor his blog, or is it just resourceful?

When I was a kid, we had to learn about our crushes the old-fashioned way: by befriending people with last names next to our crushes’ in the alphabet last names so we could hover near their lockers, or by watching their basketball games and deciding that what we saw there was really all we needed to know about their characters. Then Diaryland showed up and pretty much ruined everything.

Who am I to tell you that you cannot pore over the blogs and Facebooks and Twitter accounts of your semiannual true loves, if you find them? Of course you may Google. Of course you may research. I’d like to tell you not to go overboard, but who among us has not felt that fever of discovery and let it carry us over the edge? I don’t technically know what it feels like to have mad cow disease, but I would bet it’s something like finding your crush’s Diaryland for the first time. (Sidenote: if your 2012 crush has a Diaryland, he is not who you think he is. He is a misinformed alien hybrid sent to spy on the human race. Take heed!) You may read it all several times over, and you may read your favorite parts to your friends over the phone.

The important thing to remember — and this is a reminder for ALL of us, for people of all ages, for the writer of these words especially because she’s a repeat offender in this arena — is that nothing you learn about someone from the internet alone counts for very much. It’s probably all true, in the abstract sense – true the way Instagram pictures do represent the objects in them. You’ll need a harsher, fairer light too — something fluorescent, like the hallway lights over his locker.

FWD: Halp! is a weekly advice column on how to behave like a person when using technology. Would you like said advice? Email your questions to Katie.

Katie Heaney is a writer and volunteer text message analyst living in Minneapolis. She thinks you should have good manners, even on the internet.

Illustration by Cara Vandermey

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