Studying psychology doesn’t have to be dull. Many students pursuing a clinical psychology degree are putting their expertise to use by examining the science of social trends, phenomena and how this affects the human mind. The rise in text messaging, particularly in romantic scenarios, is currently a hot research area. Many of the best clinical psychology programs at universities around the world are integrating modern social trends in with standard research operatives, allowing students to use their expertise in tangible, relevant ways.
Simply put, “texting” refers to the exchange of brief messages between two or more mobile phones over a phone network. Usually the messages are short and to the point. This simple, but popular and contagious form of communication is spreading like wildfire, and people are using it more and more each day to stay in touch with family and friends. Recently, however, a new phenomenon is taking place in the world of romance and relationships, and texting is involved.
Based on the definition of texting, it sure doesn’t appear to be a very effective or romantic means of expressing one’s feelings to another human being. However, more and more people are texting “love messages” to their significant other. In some cases, the messages are very different from what someone might ordinarily say face-to-face to a romantic interest. So why are some couples choosing texting as a form of romantic communication?
Psychiatrists believe that by texting, people gain the courage and perhaps the nerve to speak their mind more honestly and forthrightly because of the distance between them and the person receiving the message. This distance makes people say or reveal what they are actually thinking or feeling at the moment without the pressure of another person staring at them or waiting for a comment or response.
Dr. Alan Manevitz, psychiatrist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, is now integrating texts into treatment methods. “Texts allow us to capture people’s voices in the situations they’re in, right when they’re in them,” Manevitz explains. “Then when they come in to the office, we talk about what’s happened, but I’m already aware of it through their texts in the preceding week.”
Texting relationship expert Michael Fiore also believes that romantic texting can put the “sizzle” back into any relationship. He claims that romantic texting is intimate and alluring—adding a bit of fantasy to the sometimes boring, realistic world that can often be monotonous and without spontaneity. He says it’s a way to put one’s feelings out there without inhibition or resistance.
However, Fiore warns that men and women require different types of romantic texting. Women enjoy messages with meaningful words or perhaps a poem or a clever witty saying. Men, who are more visual, prefer to be reminded of something specific from the rendezvous such as a certain smile, a sexy outfit, or a photo of a romantic setting. With texting, couples can play these exciting mind games with one another, setting the stage for another amorous encounter.
Aside from legal restrictions on texting while driving, there are no set rules for texting, at least not on a cultural level. People sometimes craft their own expectations of what is okay to text, or how frequently to text, but much of this is personal. Adding a little romantic texting gives couples a new outlet to exchange some clandestine words of endearment that otherwise might be masked behind insecurities or embarrassment. Just the same, psychologists studying romantic texts tend to agree that while romantic texting might occasionally enhance a relationship, the blood and guts of any successful relationship involves open, face-to-face contact and communication.
As the popularity of texting continues to grow, etiquette gurus like Emily Post may include etiquette rules for romantic texting with actual text examples or terms or expressions that are appropriate and acceptable with today’s or tomorrow’s standards. For now, though, it’s up to individuals to decide what to say and how to say it to their spouse or partner via texting, as well as to determine what the romantic texts say about each other and their relationship. Psychologists are beginning to understand the inroads of this new technology and its impact on interpersonal dynamics, though much remains to be learned.