In 2008, Kristen Feigenbaum had been exchanging emails for about a month with Jordan, a man she had met on Match.com. The two were finally getting to the point where they were comfortable setting up a first date, and so, one Monday, she excitedly responded to his last message by suggesting they meet up that Thursday.
When Wednesday came around and she still hadn’t heard from Jordan, Kristen was mystified. After all, they had been emailing each other every day up to that point.
“I was like, ‘Wow — a month of buildup to this? What in the world did I say that was so offensive?'” she says.
Upon rechecking her Sent messages folder, she discovered she couldn’t find the email she thought she had sent. Although a small part of her was nervous her message had actually gone through, and Jordan was just deliberately ignoring her, she decided to email him again — just in case.
They were married less than two years later.
“To this day, it occasionally comes up,” she says. “We both think its funny that something as stupid as an accidentally deleted Sent message could have been the difference between us being where we are now and having never met at all.”
Although not all technology-induced communication glitches in the dating world end quite so adorably, we’ve all been here at one point: You send someone a carefully crafted email/text/voicemail/telegram that took you 20 minutes to compose, hit Send, and soak up the immediate waves of excitement and anticipation, at least for a few minutes. But eventually you realize you’ve hit “refresh” on your inbox and powered your phone off and back on again a few too many times. A panicky feeling sets in that’s quickly replaced by the sinking feeling that maybe you’re being dropped right now.
At some point, the niggling voice in the back of your head comes forward: Maybe my text didn’t go through (Or “my email was down” or “my carrier pigeon died mid-flight” or “my voicemail didn’t record properly. Wait, no one uses voicemail anymore.“)
This little voice is what we as People Who Date have been conditioned to suppress at all costs: Following up gives the other person the upper hand, and also, it makes you look kinda desperate, we were told. This may have been just as dumb in the pre-smartphone era, but back then, we didn’t have to deal with tech that legitimately messes with our communication lines. Now, often the technology we use to communicate with the people we date is communicating some unwanted subtext of its own, which can result in anything from a fight to a missed connection to the perception of being stood up.
Take the recently publicized phenomenon of iMessage purgatory, in which some Apple users who attempt to switch an iPhone for an Android or Windows phone are losing the ability to receive texts from other iPhone users. (Even though to the sender, the iMessages look like they’ve been delivered.) When you’re in a relationship, something like this is annoying, but easy enough to figure a workaround for. But it becomes much trickier when you’re afraid of sending the person you’re just dating too many iMessages in a row, even when those iMessages are actually disappearing into the ether without your knowledge.
Or consider my friend Frankie (some names have been changed), who just last week discovered the existence of her Facebook “Other” Folder — the separate inbox where Facebook tucks away the messages it’s decided don’t belong in your regular inbox. Sifting through the mostly junk messages, she was shocked to discover a message dated September 2011 from Paul, a guy she had casually dated four months earlier, before he abruptly broke off all communication with her. The message simply (and cryptically) said “BFFs?”, sent shortly after they had run into each other at a bar and gone home together. Frankie didn’t write him back — not just because three years have passed, but because she’s now in a serious relationship — but if she had gotten his message at the time, she says she would have written him back. “But probably with little more than a ‘?'” she adds.
A recent conversation I hadwith a male friend sums up the dater’s conundrum perfectly:
“It seems desperate and needy to be like ‘not sure if you got my message…,'” he says. “Unless I didn’t get the message.”
Which lends itself to an infuriating, modern-day catch-22: How am I supposed to know whether you didn’t get my message unless I ask you whether or not you got my message? For single people who can no longer tell the difference between types of radio silence (are your messages not going through or are you being straight-up snubbed?) following up isn’t desperate — it’s just practical. And practical is sexy. Not to mention it takes two minutes, and you’ll feel infinitely better after getting an answer, whether that answer is “Sorry! I never did get your text” or “Sorry! I don’t see us working out.”
And if you needed one more reason to not hesitate the next time you pick up your phone or sit down at your computer, here’s part of the message Jordan sent in response to Kristen’s follow-up email:
“I’m saying to [my friend Amy] that I was confused. This girl Kristen and I were getting along so well and she seemed really cool, and suddenly she stopped responding to me, and I guess this is just part of the weird and unnatural world of Match…So no, I didn’t ditch you.”
But don’t come complaining if your communication issues involve voicemail. Seriously — it’s probably your fault if you’re still using voicemail.