You meet a special gal at a party and you really hit it off. At the end of the night, you got her phone number and parted ways.
Now it’s the next morning and your thoughts are turning to her winning smile and the fact you’d really like to see her again. What should you do? Call her? Text her?
A couple centuries ago, initiating contact would have been easy; you’d pay the lady’s home a visit, leave your calling card, and wait for her to signal interest by sending a card in return.
Even just a decade and a half ago the next step would have been clear: get the girl on the horn and ask her out. That was certainly my advice when I wrote one of our very first articles back in 2008: “Stop Hanging Out With Women and Start Dating Them.” For the mature gentleman, calling was the only appropriate course.
But the times, they are a-changin’.
Americans’ phone use peaked right around the time that article came out, and we’ve been doing more texting than calling ever since — today on an order of 5 to 1. The viability, desirability, and our overall attitudes towards texting have shifted as well, especially among the younger set. For many, what was once improper, has now become preferable.
But while phone calls are a dying institution, they’re not dead yet. The modern dater thus exists in a confusing borderland between two forms of communication (and it should be just these two, by the way; no asking women out on Facebook, Twitter, etc.!). This limbo has left men unsure of whether they should call or text to ask someone on a date.
So today we lay out the pros and cons of both approaches, so you can make the best decision as to which way to go.
The Pros and Cons of Texting vs. Calling
When comedian Aziz Ansari and sociologist Eric Klinenberg teamed up to write a book on the conundrums of the modern, heterosexual dating scene, they conducted hundreds of focus groups and interviews with those experiencing it on the ground. When it came to the question of whether to ask someone out by phone or by text, they found their panels were divided on the issue; some thought calling was the confident, mature way to go about it, while others thought talking on the phone was too awkward and anxiety-ridden a proposition for both parties.
This division mirrors the varied opinions uncovered by a 2013 survey conducted by Match.com. When single Americans were asked: “If you were asking someone out on a first date, which method of communication would you be most likely to use to get in contact?” responses broke down as follows:
As you can see, there’s a big division by age; those under 30 are 4X more likely to ask someone out via text message than those over 30. This number will undoubtedly continue to rise as even younger generations come of age; for example, according to a survey by TextPlus, almost 60% of those aged 13-17 would ask someone on a date — and not just any date, but the prom — by texting them.
Yet you’ll also notice that for the time being, calling stubbornly lingers on among the 20-something crowd: almost a quarter of those under 30 continue to ask people out over the phone.
In short, while the acceptability of texting for dates is definitely on the rise, especially among younger folks, there is still not a universal consensus as to which option to choose.
Concerning as it does not only questions of popularity, but also of appropriateness and effectiveness, it’s actually not an easy question to answer. There are indeed pros and cons to each approach:
|Method of Asking||Over 30||Under 30|
|Face to Face||28%||37%|
The Pros of Calling
Shows courage and maturity. Some of the women in Ansari’s focus groups said that men who called for dates came off as more confident and brave. This makes perfect sense given our anthropological history; calling is much more nerve-racking and takes a lot more guts than texting, and for thousands of years, and all around the world, men were supposed to be the initiators and risk-takers when it came to mating and courtship. So when you ask a woman out over the phone, you harken back to a form of primal — and highly attractive — masculinity.
More flattering and personal. The fact that you are indeed taking a risk and putting yourself out there makes the ask seem more special.
Separates you from the pack. Texters are a dime a dozen, so calling to ask for a date will certainly come off as distinctive. And in fact, women in the focus groups had found that those who called for a date did turn out to be of a higher caliber than those who texted.
Builds more comfort/rapport. Women are understandably uncomfortable with going out with someone they may have just met in passing or remember only fuzzily from the bar. Thus, some in the focus groups felt that being able to talk to their suitor on the phone helped them get a better feel for their personality/good intentions/non-creeper-ness, and made them more comfortable with saying yes to the date.
Exercises your conversation muscles. Text messages allow you to carefully craft your messages, but they atrophy your ability to make spontaneous conversation. Making calls isn’t just good practice for talking comfortably on the phone, but strengthens your ability to make unscripted conversation in general.
The Cons of Calling
Can be awkward. Both the men and the women in Ansari’s focus groups said that making phone calls filled them with true dread and anxiety. It’s understandable: phone calls put both parties on the spot; you’ve got to respond in real time, and sometimes your brain spits out stupidities that you’ll later agonize over and regret. And of course, most folks aren’t well practiced in calling these days, and are thus even more likely to trip over themselves.
Can seem too forward. Given that texting allows the recipient to respond in their own time — a pace of communication people have gotten used to — a phone call can now seem too intrusive and aggressive.
Rarity can be misread. Calls have become so rare, that a ringing phone is often jarring and associated with an emergency or something going wrong — not an association a suitor wants attached to him. Calling for date may also be so unusual, that it’s read as weird or off-putting to the recipient. This also assumes that your call will even be answered, something that doesn’t often happen these days unless the phone number on the screen is a known contact.
The Pros of Texting
Easier and less anxiety-inducing. The obvious advantage — calling is nerve-racking and more risky; texting is much less so and is thus far easier to execute.
Allows both parties to be comfortable. Texting is not only easier on the sender, but also the recipient. Rather than having to respond in real time, texting allows a woman to gather her thoughts, and reply on her own schedule. Since she’s not put on the spot, texting also makes it easier for her to think of how to kindly turn you down! There’s a lot less pressure on both sides.
Allows for the creation of more thoughtful messages. Since you’re not put on the spot, you can take your time thinking about what you want to say and how you want to say it. This gives you space to potentially say something more genuine, humorous, thoughtful, etc.
The Cons of Texting
More generic and impersonal. Since texts are easier to send, the gesture seems less special and flattering. A woman doesn’t know if you’re just casting a wide net of texts out there and seeing who writes back. (You could be calling a whole bunch of women too, but the nerve-racking and personal nature of a call makes this much less likely.)
May show shyness. Since calling takes chutzpah, a text could be read as a lack of confidence and a desire to hide behind your phone. A woman who is unsure about you, may also feel that texts don’t adequately allay her concerns about the man behind the screen.
More potential for misunderstanding. Texting is not a forgiving medium; unlike face-to-face encounters, you can’t use body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice to convey your meaning. Even over the phone, pause and tone allow you to get a sense of how the listener took what you said, and you can consequently backtrack and correct yourself if they’ve misinterpreted something. With texting, humor, sarcasm, and certain wordings and punctuations can be read the wrong way, leading to misunderstandings.
As you can see, there really are two sides of the coin when it comes to whether you should call or text to ask a woman out.
For the old school gentleman, it may be easy to dismiss texting as a wimpy, impersonal, new-fangled technology not fit for such communications. I admit I used to feel that way, but I’ve come to see that both technologies have drawbacks and disadvantages, and there’s really nothing inherently more natural or timeless about holding a brick to your head than twiddling your thumbs. Both fall short of the charm of face-to-face interactions, just in different ways.
When it comes to demonstrating virile initiative and courage, calling wins, hands down.
When it comes to civility, it’s really a toss-up. Phone calls are more personal surely, but they’re also quite intrusive — demanding the recipient drop everything to have an unexpected conversation. In some ways, texts are more civil, allowing the recipient space to respond without pressure. In this, texting your crush is actually much more like the calling cards of yore, than the rather more presumptuous practice of phoning in your interest.
Okay, So Should I Call or Text?
Now that you’ve reviewed the pros and cons of each approach, you may be feeling more confused than before. While there are no hard and fast rules, here are a few guidelines that may help you make the decision:
- Your date’s over 30 (maybe more like 35)
- You have a friendly, pleasant-sounding, charming voice
- You feel confident talking on the phone
- Your date seems like a more conservative, throwback type of lady who would appreciate the old school gesture
- You think your date’s unsure/less familiar with you, and talking would put her more at ease
- Your date’s under 30
- You don’t have a great-sounding voice
- You’re shy and awkward on the phone (though you can work on that part!)
- Your date’s shy and would probably like getting a text
If you’re still on the fence, you can always split the difference and put the ball in her court! Call, dimes-to-donuts she won’t pick up, then leave a nice voicemail and ask her to either text or call you back. Now she can decide which medium she’s most comfortable communicating with.
Ultimately, the very best rule is simply to do whatever it is that actually gets you to ask for that date; making some move always beats making none, and feeling the sting of regret.
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Last updated: July 7, 2016