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Love in the time of cell phones
Fatema H Kagalwala
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October 23, 2006

Let's assume you're back from a date and found your partner very interesting. You think he or she reciprocates the feeling. Now, you want to touch base to take this forward. Should you call or send a text message? How soon should you call?

Remember, bad mobile communication habits could sometimes send the wrong signals. For instance, if you type your SMS in capitals, it could sound as if you are shouting. Here's a reality check on cell phone communication dos and don'ts in the age of mobile telephony.

The first call

You have just returned from a date, you like his or her company and you want to convey it. But a phone call even before he or she has reached the taxi stand may come across as a little too urgent. It is polite to enquire after your date and say you enjoyed the meeting, of course, which is why an SMS should do the trick.

When you call, talk

After that all-important first date, the future hinges on the first few phone calls. Initially, it always helps to keep the conversation interesting and impersonal, yet engaging. The greatest killer of all conversation is the question, "So, what else?" Avoid it. It may be an indication that you didn't connect, after all.

Also, avoid giving missed calls at all costs; you don't want to be known as miserly and cheap, do you? If he or she doesn't respond to your SMS or return your calls, maybe he or she just isn't interested. Sometimes, you just have to take the hint.

Flirting via SMS

So, things have moved beyond a few calls. Flirting via SMS can add some spice to your new liaison. Wit, and a dash of humour, always helps. Of course, this could be fun as well as dangerous. Jiten Gajaria, a 28-year old software professional, says, "You are trying to impress, but you cannot see the person's reaction." It's a bit like walking on the edge, yet thrilling for the same reason.

Siraj Syed, a communications expert with more than 30 years of experience, comments, "Flirting is perceived as attention without intention. Matching wits can be fun but, at times, being too direct could be perceived as frivolous and may give the wrong impression -- that you are not looking for anything long-term."

Do it with a smiley

These little emoticons add a personal touch and help express your feelings on SMS. But, it is important to know your limits. Not every message needs to begin and end with a smile. Nor is every message without one construed as dry. Your tone matters a lot. It should be polite and friendly. Well-chosen words communicate far more clearly than a couple of smileys can. Besides, some might find it too sugary and 'uncool'.

Be original

Another way to add a personal touch is to send real messages. Forwards, poems or love songs may say what you have in mind but, at the end of the day, an original thought tells the other person you have the capacity to think. You don't have to take a writing class, but speaking through another poet's tongue should be avoided -- unless you know for a fact that the other person really enjoys it.

"It's safer not to send pictures or graphic images in the initial stages either," says Siraj, "as it could suggest that one is trying to get too familiar."

Keep it short and neat

It isn't called Short Messaging Service for nothing. Initially, it may be safe to keep your messages crisp, because you are not yet in the 'sharing zone'. You don't know the other person's level of patience either. Huzefa Merchant, a 25-year old Mumbai-based businessman says, "Simple one-line conversations work best. The wittier, the better." Long-drawn messages can be tedious to reply to, besides being boring to some. "It may even tend to give the perception that one is trying too hard to impress," adds Siraj.

But, there are times when long messages show concern. So, bend the rules when you get more comfortable. Another little thing we tend to overlook is typographical errors and spelling mistakes. To some, shortening words adds to the 'paciness' of the SMS. For others, this can be very irritating. If your spellings are bad, use the mobile dictionary to brush up. Preferably, avoid bad language.

All said and done, the rules vary for everyone and to each his own. Keep the basics in mind though, at least until your relationship finds a foothold. The rest, as they say, is destiny.

Share your tips and experiences with SMS and dating.




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