OnDating: In Love With Texting

By Ellen McCarthy
Friday, October 24, 2008

If you're reentering the dating world after some years off the market, you might want to make your first stop the cellphone store.

And do yourself a favor: Get a phone with a keyboard, plus a plan that includes unlimited text messages. You'll need it.

A recent study by AT&T reveals how heavily modern romance relies on digital missives. Eight percent of people who text say it's their primary method of communicating with a significant other. E-mail was the major method for only 3 percent.

Furthermore, 67 percent of folks surveyed said they flirted via text, and 68 percent have used their phones to send love notes. Wouldn't Shakespeare be proud?

Anyway, get your thumbs warmed up -- this stuff isn't going anywhere.

"Texting has become a necessary dating skill, and I think it's only going to become more integral," says Nicole Beland, a features editor at Women's Health, who wrote a texting etiquette manual.

Her big texting Do: Learn how to do it, already.

And the Don'ts: Don't pick a fight via text. (Guarantee you don't win.) Don't over-analyze. (If you're asking friends to help interpret, you've gone too far.) And for crying out loud, please don't abbreviate like a 12-year-old girl if you're old enough to have a 401(k).

"It's like dad trying to be cool," Beland says.

The advantage of texting, she adds, is its immediacy -- "you're able to share small but important moments." The biggest drawback is the huge potential for misunderstandings.

"You're trying to communicate in haiku, basically. And some people are really good at it. Other people are not so good," she says. "So there are limits."

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If you're looking for non-digital interaction this weekend, consider hitting "Ghosts of a Chance," a scavenger hunt at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on Saturday afternoon. It's free and should bring out lots of interesting souls, from this world or beyond. http://www.americanart.si.edu.

Got texting horror stories or D.C. dating tips? Send 'em along todating@washpost.com.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company