Digital damage control

So it’s the day after a random hook-up with a new someone, and you want to make contact. Your goal: express interest while keeping your self-esteem protected from the sting of rebuff. Your hope: a date maybe, a repeat hook-up or the establishment of tap-able back-burner ass.

There are many different technological possibilities, from texting to Gchat, and each of these has a different potential for flirtation, emotional disclosure or creepiness. So I have compiled my own personal guide for the appropriate selection and use of these different media forms.

These are your communication options, in order of intensity:

Phone call: If you exchanged numbers (in person, not via Facebook) and you’re looking for a date, a phone call is a bold and charmingly old-school gesture. But if you’re just after another casual encounter, voice-on-voice coordination is inappropriately intense. Unless it’s a drunk dial, which is just embarrassing.

Text: There are four options with the post hook-up text:

1. You can mention some cool thing you’re doing (a movie, a concert, an exhibition, etc.) and ask if he or she is interested, which will bring your relationship into the ambiguously dating stage.

2. You can refer to something funny that happened the night before, like “your temp tattoo wiped off on my pillow,” which will bring your relationship into the banter stage.

3. You can wait until 10 p.m. and text “plans for the evening?” which will bring your relationship into the “let’s try to get ourselves into drunk proximity again” stage.

4. Or you can wait until after midnight and text “what’s up?” which will stabilize your relationship at the emotionless physical stage.

E-mail: Inserting yourself into someone’s yale.edu world is very dangerous and must be done with care. You definitely need to explain somewhere in the e-mail why you’re sending an e-mail, like “I’m in Bass (so no cell) writing a crappy paper and desperately in need of something to look forward to. Hang out tomorrow?” If you manage to justify the e-mail medium effectively, then the message can seem both original and endearingly earnest.

Facebook message: Facebook messages always have a vibe of intensity. You’re using a Web site whose main function is to advertise your popularity, but are choosing instead to make private one-to-one contact. It feels secret.

The one exception is the Facebook message that you can choose to send along with a friend request. If you are not Facebook friends with your hook-up, then a request accompanied by a pithy, playful note is an excellent opportunity for both flirtation and aloofness: “I think we probably qualify as friends now,” for example. I would never say that, but you get what I mean: feisty reference to sexual encounter with an air of studied casualness. Fight the temptation to send just a wink face.

Skype: Did you add him/her on Skype? Why did you do that? Skype is for your mom and your boyfriend on a semester abroad in Beijing.

Gchat/AIM: If your hook-up happens already to be one of your contacts, then you have stumbled on a glorious playground of innuendo and inside joke development. A phone call, text or Web message all require deliberate contact-making, but when it comes to online chat you message someone simply because they’re online. It would be rude NOT to say something.

Also, every word doesn’t have the weightiness of a text or e-mail because you’re speedily scripting it in real time, as opposed to obsessively redrafting it in your darkened bedroom. Online chat has zero minimum emotional disclosure, which is why it’s so popular with us coddled, self-involved Generation Yers. But there’s also great potential for a lot of emotional disclosure, as well as sexual disclosure — things you would never ever say aloud to this person’s face ever ever, like: “my prof totally noticed my hickey it’s practically BLEEDING thank you.”

Facebook chat: Are you on drugs? Because I imagine being on drugs on Facebook chat would be hilarious. If you’re not on drugs, you have no excuse for chatting to your hook-up on Facebook. Unless it’s after 3 a.m. Then you can say something about how late it is and how sleep is for the weak or something.

Twitter: @hookup #followfriday me @SAE tonite? #probablyinappropriate

Google Buzz: You don’t want to be hooking up with anyone who actually uses Google Buzz.

Facebook wall post: This is both the least intense and most intense of all communication media today. It’s the least intense because it’s on public display, so it’s probably stripped of any significant content. It’s probably a reference — to a past conversation or something on your profile — and a large amount of mental energy is required to construct a reply. There’s also an interval between posts of at least a few hours, so it usually ends up as a prolonged and titillating game of meaninglessness.

But the medium is the message, especially when it comes to wall posts. The content of the message is the very fact of wallposting. You’re broadcasting your new and ambiguous relationship to your entire network, flooding hundreds of Minifeeds with your nascent courtship.

Everyone you’ve ever known since high school, including other potential hook-ups, will see that you and this rando person have developed a delightful rapport. Anyone who really likes you will check this wall-to-wall on a daily basis. Yet you wall-post away despite these glaring eyes, tossing your feelings into the vicious, judgmental dentate of the social universe. In this day and age, with our morally bereft casual sexing and fragmented faceless cyberscapes, isn’t this the closest thing we have to love?

Comments

  • SY ’12

    Hahaha. Brilliant!

  • BtL’10

    This is the best thing I’ve read in the YDN in a long time. Spot on. I think “brilliant” is an appropriate description.