Second date: MySpace or yours?
MSN Messenger. You knew it was useful for keeping in contact with old friends, finding plans for Friday night, and procrastinating for hours on end. You might not know its covert function as a dating tool.
The popularity of instant messaging has created a whole new level between meeting someone and getting their phone number. Suddenly, asking for a number is too forward. Why not take advantage of the more neutral ground offered online?
This built-in buffer has some positive aspects. It allows people to get to know one another on a more casual level rather than dealing with nerves, personalities, and the chemistry-killing potential of dead air. Messaging leaves plenty of time to think of something witty to say or to cut and paste a conversation to your friends for consultation. It allows you to set yourself as away if you want to devote yourself to someone special, appear offline if you're avoiding someone, or block any drunken regrets.
But MSN has its own built-in awkwardness. What if you're on the other end of the MSN applications? Are we going to start counting the days between meeting someone at the bar and adding them to MSN, or the minutes between when we're added and messaged? Are we going to worry she or he might delete us if things happen too fast?
Phone calls have a definitive beginning and ending. Even if contact is never made, you probably forget soon after. But once you join MSN lists, the memory is a permanent one, at least until someone gets deleted. It's a daily reminder of rejection, heartbreak, unrealized potential — who knew MSN was such a big player in the game?
Not only that, but you have less control on MSN than you think you do. Sure you've got your clever MSN name and your photoshopped display picture, but if you have My Space you're probably not that meticulous. Your crush is checking out your embarrassing lists, reading your unedited blogs, and looking at photos of you at your worst. So much for presenting a carefully crafted image tailored for your crush (that is, unless that image has permeated your entire online existence).
At least with the phone you can hide your narcissistic tendencies by existing as a voice rather than presenting every other facet of your life online. What happened to the good old days of swallowing your pride, asking for a number and calling the next day for the purpose of actually hanging out with the person again? Phone calls are a step in speeding up the process so you can actually hang out with someone in person, whereas MSN has the potential to stagnate in the getting-to-know-you stage.
Instant messaging is clearly useful in getting to know someone better, but the difficulty in translating typing into real-life contact makes it a dangerous decision in the dating game. As elaborate as emoticons are nowadays, they just can't replace the real thing.