Shortly after Abby Norton met someone she liked on Hinge, the 24-year-old editor went on a two-week trip abroad. Given the different time zones, she and her potential suitor struggled to establish a texting routine while she was away, although on average there were a few texts per day.
Once Norton returned to Minneapolis, US, where she lives, the two hung out in person, but the texting still felt unsatisfying, remaining at “a couple of times a day, despite being back in the same time zone”.
This left Norton with a lot of anxiety. “It came to a boiling point one night when I found myself crying” after not hearing from him for “a day or two” — mainly, she said, because “it occurred to me that I probably had internal issues to work through that had brought me to this point of insecurity and great anxiety.”
So she decided to enlist the help of a professional in the newly emerging field of text-specific dating courses. She took a class called Texting Communication Cure Crash Course offered by licensed therapist and dating coach Kelsey Wonderlin.
Wonderlin is one of the multiple dating coaches attempting to provide clients with the written communication skills necessary to take matches offline and into the real world — and then keep them going. Among the questions, they attempt to help their clients answer: what’s a great first message to send on a dating app? How do you flirt in a way that’s not too creepy? What if they simply don’t respond?
With almost 1,80,000 Instagram followers, Blaine Anderson, a dating coach in Austin, Texas, US, has always found that her videos about texting have been a hit with her mostly male audience. This, in addition to her personal experiences receiving weird or too many messages on dating apps, inspired her to launch a course called Texting Operating System in August, “to eliminate guys’ stress and anxiety from communicating with women via messages or text,” said Anderson, 33.
According to Damona Hoffman, a dating coach based in Los Angeles and New York, US, and a host of the “Dates & Mates” podcast, many people get stuck in what she calls “textationships”. Texting has become its own phase of dating, she said, and her programme, The Dating Accelerator, which costs $1,297 and combines live coaching sessions and video lessons, teaches people how to avoid it.
Despite the widespread use of dating apps, experts like Hoffman, Wonderlin and Anderson believe that our society as a whole still significantly lacks digital communication skills. The reason, according to Wonderlin, is that there isn’t one place where people can go to learn how to start and maintain a healthy relationship. Instead, many are forced to figure things out on their own.
Anderson said, “Distilling our complex and nuanced feelings into crisp SMS messages is hard, which makes it easy to inadvertently say the wrong thing.” Anderson’s two-hour video course is divided into seven modules that cover common dating scenarios, from taking a conversation offline to landing a second date. The course mainly focuses on the psychology behind different messages and provides several texting templates.
Wonderlin’s video course covers different types of texters — The Dry Texter, The Animated Texter, The Compulsive Texter, The Absent-Minded Texter. The course then teaches participants how to prevent a spiral when someone sends a one-word response or doesn’t respond right away.
Dan Leader, a 36-year-old engineering manager in Detroit, US, signed up for Anderson’s class in December “because I wasn’t turning many matches into dates, and when I was getting dates, they weren’t leading to second dates,” he said. Since taking the course, “I text now with purpose and intention,” he said.
“I ask questions to get to know the person and so they can get to know me. Then I make a clear plan to set a date at an appropriate time. I no longer feel the need to keep the conversation going with small talk.”