Imagine that you’re hanging out with a friend and your significant other texts you a picture of an adorable puppy. What do you do?
A.) Ignore whatever your friend is saying and respond immediately with an equally adorable and equally random puppy picture.
B.) Apologize to your friend then respond.
C.) Pick up your phone, show your friend the picture, explain to her why it’s such a cute story, then respond.
D.) Your phone’s in your bag and you didn’t notice.
The answer is D, but that’s rarely how such scenarios go these days.
Sure, my friend might apologize before answering the text, but the sentiment is clear: Romance and the possibility of sex come first. Once she picks up that phone, our one-on-one drinks are over. We’ll no longer be discussing philosophy, politics, free will or what’s so great about pajamas with pockets without getting interrupted. I am now third-wheeling with my friend and her Significant Avatar.
When my friend and her special person are at the beginning of the relationship — and both parties are still acting like middle-schoolers — a text exchange might be the bulk of our friend-date agenda. I might give advice on what to text back, how long to wait, which emojis to send, and she’ll listen. Then she’ll craft a perfect response, and I will feel like a necessary fixture in her life. Working through this puzzle together strengthens our friendship. It’s like a team-building exercise, the cellphone equivalent of an elaborate ropes course.
But once the “will they-won’t they” stage is over, my role as relationship guidance counselor is also done. With the couple’s status solidified, they can text without supervision. I have nothing to do but watch and wait until she’s done.
A 2013 study found that women reported higher relationship satisfaction when she and her partner exchanged affectionate texts. However, that doesn’t excuse texting in the middle of a friend-date.
There’s an expectation that friends will always be there no matter how long we’ve been off the grid, perhaps because of the sheer number of movies and TV shows that have presented the fantasy of the effortless friendship. Platonic relationships require similar care and keeping as romantic ones.
And friend dates aren’t all that different from romantic ones: Two people are setting aside time in their busy schedules to be together.
If we wanted other people present, we would have invited them. So silence your cellphone, please.