I’d just spent the night with a woman I’d wanted for what seemed like forever. It was February (around Valentine’s Day), though we’d met a few years prior. We weren’t exactly friends, but we were well-acquainted enough to catch each other at a few parties. I finally finally asked her out, she said yes, and after a few false starts we both consented to our spending the night together. And it was good.
That morning was spent in the glow of having banged it out triumphantly. All she had to say was, “I’ll text you,” with a gleam in her eye, and I was floored. At first I gloried in it. And then all I could think was, “Shit. Am I ready for this?”
When considering the notions of interface design, data, and how we as humans are plugged in more than ever, the paradigm shift that new media have engendered is staggering. Put simply, most of us don’t have the time to think about it, save to ooh, ahh, and ask how much it costs.
In the realm of mobile, we get swept up in the tactility, the sensuality of it. So, duh, sexting. It’s only natural; according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 15 percent of adult cell owners received a sext and 6 percent sent one by spring 2012. Nevermind the teenagers sending dirty pictures to one another.
There’s only one problem: We are not fully equipped for the shit our phones can do with regards to sex. Not in 2013.
A Message Not So Simple
I was in trouble before I even walked into her apartment.
The trouble here is that I use a smartphone. A Windows Phone, specifically, though any smartphone these days will do. But, in my experience, Windows Phone is the absolute worst for sexting because it exemplifies all the things we’re not quite ready for when it comes to our digital sex lives: a unified messaging system, an interface that puts the user front and center, a place in the cloud that’s sometimes hard to reckon with. All of these things will have to be considered if we continue sexting the way we do, no matter what phone we choose to buy.
Take messaging. After our first night together, my lady friend and I would sext wantonly day and night. It didn’t matter if we were at work. It didn’t matter if there was company around, or if family was over. We were at it. This is all grand in the world of SMS (provided you have an unlimited texting plan). But a unified messaging scheme changes all that. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a unified messaging scheme means that a Facebook message can be read in the same thread as a text, or whatever other messaging platform wants to be shoehorned in someday. And that’s great. Wouldn’t it be nice to read your AIM, Gchat, Skype, Facebook, and text messages all in the same place?
What it meant for me was a slip of the thumb and a message resembling “I wanna fuck you for all the neighbors to hear” flying directly to her Facebook at work. Not so great.
Designed for Dicks
With Windows Phone, you have interface design that’s up there with the greats (Here’s looking at you, WebOS). Its Live Tile array can be built around you in a way that other interfaces can only dream of. My Home screen is customized just to my liking. It’s cozy.
Meanwhile, my phone happens to have one of the nicest cameras on a smartphone, though most manufacturers have begun to catch up with zeal. At 8.7MP, it can handle the average food pic bound for social media, as well as some pretty impressive shots in low light. It also plays well with the occasional dirty picture sent to the waiting lady, as well as those taken mid-coitus. Because, really, when you have the technology at your disposal, you want to use it.
However, put the two together, and you end up with a Photo Live Tile showing high-res images of your nether regions for all to see at 10 in the morning. Sure enough, one day after saying our goodbyes, I sat at my desk at work and laid my phone down, casual as you like. Not moments later, my phone displayed her ladybits, saying good morning. That Live Tile had to go.
Of course, having the option to save to the cloud helps matters immensely, doesn’t it? In truth, I needn’t have any photo on my phone whatsoever. Everything gets saved to my SkyDrive automatically, and I can access them whenever I want, however I want. I now have an online record of every single picture I’ve taken of my genitals, her genitals, our genitals doing things together, et cetera. And that record, depending on my diligence (or laziness as it happens), is here to stay.
The idea that every single nude picture you’ve taken is stored away for later viewing might be discomfiting for those not in control of it. Especially when it’s generally seen as prudent practice to delete said pictures after a while, lest the parties involved wind up on some Hunter Moore-esque site of ill repute. The cloud complicates matters by turning what might have been innocent fun into bona fide data management. Looking at my SkyDrive now, there are tons of dirty pics I flat out forgot I took just lying around waiting for misuse.
Even with proper data management, the hacker bogeyman is a specter that never fully goes away, no matter how many times people tell you to switch to 2-factor authentication. Or it might simply be that sharing your naked body with a faceless corporation leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
In the end, Windows Phone hasn’t made me switch to another OS just for the sake of my libertine sexting habits. No mobile OS should do that. Really, it’s forced me to think about how quickly the rules of sexting will need to adapt to changes modes of communication. We’ll all need to think a great deal more about data and design if we intend to keep showing our genitals to each other between hookups.
Or we can all default to Snapchat.