Instant Romeo: Text messaging gave me too much courage!
Technology and teenage years :*(
I was nervous; too nervous to talk. She looked especially fetching on this brisk winter evening, and it had been a while since I last took notice of her. We had a sweeping romance back in our elementary years, but we were in high school now. Things were so much more complicated.
This time, the butterflies in my stomach were fully developed adults and making quite a racket. I couldn’t even muster the strength to manage small talk. I just conceded to admire her from afar. Like a chump.
If this situation had taken place only 5 years earlier, this would have been the end of the story. I would have never interacted with her that night. Like every other shy boy throughout history, I would have indefinitely kept to myself and lingered on the fringes. But, this was 2001, and a recent innovation had other plans in store for me.
As a matter of fact, teenagers all across the land were about to experience adolescent angst in a new and precarious way.
AOL Instant Messenger was both a gift and a curse. Before AIM, the only way most kids could contact their friends was by making the dreaded phone call to a landline that parents always answered first. Yuck! Some of my friends could brave the process, but this was enough reason to make the rest of us avoid the whole situation all together.
Pathetic. I know.
All of us were experienced in the separation anxiety that occurred on weekends and holiday breaks. We were used to being disconnected from our buddies while at home. We accepted it. But, when AIM burst onto the scene in a blaze of glory, the repressive chains on our social lives were shattered into oblivion. The fun never had to end! We could chit-chat until our hearts were content.
Five, Ten, Twenty friends at a time. We could even meet a few new people while we’re at it. Awesome! This was finally gonna make things better for teens. And much healthier. ;)
Let’s jump back to that winter evening when modern technology was just about to intervene in the timeline of my life.
That night, when I got home, I was able to do something that so many introverts before me could have only dreamt. I had the chance to undo what had already been done by my sheepishness. I could recapture an opportunity. All I had to do was log on and wait for her…
With each creak of an opening door (as was the custom sound effect signaling a friend was now online), my heart skipped a beat. Was it her?
What about now?
The process was taxing, but after many false alarms, the time finally came. She had signed in, and it was worth the wait — a magical moment.
It was time to send a message.
Me: How’s it going?
Her: Good. I had fun tonight.
Me: Cool. I did too.
Things were looking sweet!
It was exhilarating. Sitting in front of that screen, I wasn’t so scared anymore. It was excitement I was feeling instead of fear. This was exactly the boost I needed. I was ready. I felt… suave.
Round two. Game on. A Romeo was about to be born.
This new line of communication became a major part of my life. More specifically, my love life. It would prove to be a central part of how I related to anyone that I would normally be too timid to talk to in person. Most often though (nearly always), it was the same girl to whom I’ve already been referring.
Embarrassingly, similar scenarios to that winter night between her and I would repeat themselves countless times throughout the next… well, it went on for a while. Whether it was a dinner with friends, a party, a dance, a movie night or just a casual hangout, I would find myself retreating to the computer as soon as I got home to relay everything I meant to say when I was actually with her. And every time, she was there to read it.
She had a romancer to come home to… digitally speaking. The best kind :/
I imagine it’s rather apparent why this was an unhealthy habit. Amongst many other things, it prevented me from ever developing a proper way of interacting with a girl that I cared so deeply about. I became dependent on text messaging, and it didn’t stop there. I would eventually extend this pattern into e-mail letters. They were long, emotionally driven, melodramatic declarations of love or heartache (depending on the situation). And sometimes… I would even write her… poems.
Yes. I was that guy.
Ladies and gents, this is what can happen when a hopeless romantic hides behind a keyboard. So, do with that warning what you will.
Now, regardless of my most earnest efforts, our romance for-the-ages came to a close several years down the line. And when she delivered that final blow to my fairy-tale stricken heart, I confronted her… with a text message.
Cuz why not? Shouldn’t it end the same way it all began?
So, everyone experienced the introduction of instanteous digital messaging in their own ways. Whether through AIM, over e-mail, or on a cell phone, most of us have said things we may have never communicated otherwise. They may have been words we look back and laugh at, or ones that we heartily regret. But, without a doubt, it changed the dynamic of our development during our most moody and vulnerable years.
For myself, I can’t help but wonder if it made me too outspoken. Maybe some things were meant only to be thought, not said — no matter how deeply I felt them and especially not if I was unable to say it to them in person. As someone who is naturally timid, I was predisposed to mishandle the platform of courage the internet gave to me. With the way I handled myself in that relationship, I ended up adding unnecessary emotional weight and baggage to something that didn’t need it.
Without that platform, I may never have had the chance to be romantically involved with her. But with it, I think I missed out on a friend. Those memories could have been even better than the ones I got.
Graciously, the woman I’m married to today actually witnessed some of the gaffes of my previous relationship firsthand and still managed to respect me — believe it or not. Our unassuming friendship became the cornerstone of the full life we now build together. She has opened up my world and expanded my vision. My spouse is a beautiful soul that gives me more courage and strength simply through her presence than I ever found in all my time spent hiding within the security blanket of typed out thoughts and a button labeled “send”.
There’s a lot more wonderful things to do out there than wait around for a text response to come in. My wife’s love taught me that. I trust that person is out there for you too.
I hope you’re already with them.
An AIM Survivor. A miracle.