As technology becomes more sophisticated, so do methods of flirtation. Flirting helps us to feel someone out, and in its most primal sense- determine whether that person is an ideal sexual partner. Deeply engrained in the human psyche, people flirt to signal amorous interest and sexual availability. And, given today’s advanced channels of communication, email, IM, SMS, hormone-driven teenagers and young adults alike are not only disclosing their intimate desires through text messages but also virtually exposing themselves through sexts (sexually explicit messages or photos sent electronically, primarily between cell phones).
Why Call When You Can Flirtext?
With over 500 billion SMS messages sent a year, flirtexting is a very popular way for young people to flirt. Self-proclaimed textperts Olivia Baniuszewicz and Debra Goldstein and authors of the book Flirtexting: How To Text Your Way To His Heart say:
When it comes to communicating, our generation has shorter attention spans and greater expectations. Gone are the days when we spent time getting to know one another over hours of intimate phone conversations. Today we say it all within 160 characters of writing space. Now when you give a boy your number, you’ll soon receive a “1 new text message” light on your cell.
Flirtexting certainly has its obvious enticements; it gives us time to think about what we want to say, it removes the pressure of having to commit to lengthy phone conversations- and it provides a comfortable physical distance that not only helps us pace the development of a relationship, but also permits us to flirt with multiple people over SMS messages.
In an age where people get married later, have children later, and like to keep options open in the search for true love- a well played flirtext can work well in one’s favour. But for those who become too dependent on texting, relationships can just as easily begin in a text as they can end in one. People increasingly avoid direct confrontations, preferring to shield themselves against too many questions, and of course having to face or dish out rejection.
‘Sexting’: Legal problem, awareness issue, or, modern-day flirting?
A survey conducted in 2008 by TRU, the global leader in tween, teen and twenty-somethings research, has caused quite a media stir concerning sexting. The survey was fielded online to a total of 1, 280 respondents- 653 teens (ages 13-19) and 627 young adults (20-26). The results found that one in five teenagers have shared nude or semi-nude photos of themselves with their cell phone or online.
Six Pennsylvania high school students are facing serious criminal charges after three teenage girls allegedly took nude and semi-nude photos of each other and shared them with male classmates via their cell phones. One of the boys had his phone turned on in class. Against school policy, when an administrator came to confiscate the phone, they found a naked picture of one of the girls. The police were immediately called in and the investigation lead to more inappropriate photos. The female students aged 14 to 15 years old, face charges of manufacturing, disseminating or possessing child pornography while the boys, who are 16 and 17, face charges of possession source.
Many people argue that these charges are too severe. Parents and educators should better monitor their kids’ cell phone use and play a more active role in increasing awareness about the possible consequences and dangers of sexting. But young people may take for granted what perils could lie ahead.
18 year old Jesse Logan had sent nude pictures of herself to a boyfriend. When he and Jesse broke up, he sent those pictures to other girls in their high school. Jesse was harassed by these girls, who called her a slut and a whore. Eventually the abuse was so bad, she stopped attending school. After a while, Jesse decided to speak up about her story on a Cincinnati television station to “make sure no else [would] ever have to go through this again”. Not even two months after the interview, she hung herself in her bedroom.
Though every generation tries to break free from constraints set by previous ones, and flirting is far from being inert, the lines of where flirtation becomes potentially dangerous can get blurred, especially when at a young and influential age. Moreover, with technology evolving at an ever-rapid speed, both parents and kids may not be fully aware of the repercussions their actions can have.
What many young people consider a modern way of flirting, is still a relatively loose concept in need of some proper stitching.