With the Web already affecting dating and relationships, it was inevitable that technology would move into one of the last territories of the human experience: intimacy. Recently, a Seattle couple, Jim Shell and Tracy Feinberg, started replacing the intimacy and affection they have for each other with technology.
“We’re both super busy professionals,” said Shell, “and it’s tough maintaining our relationship because we’re both so career oriented. We realized one day that we should leverage technology to hack our love life. Basically, we wanted to make intimacy and affection more efficient, so we came up with the idea of substituting real life intimacy with an electronic version.”
The version they came up with is a system of using emoticons, those cutesy round smiley and winky faces, to replace the traditional system of love and affection that they and the rest of the general population normally use.
“Basically, when I want to express some type of affection or have an intimate moment, I send Tracy an emoticon or combination of emoticons to represent whatever affectionate act we’re having. It can range from a small compliment to a kiss. It works great,” said Shell.
“We use a combination of text message, Twitter, Facebook, and IM to communicate our affection,” said Tracy, a Marketing Director for a downtown PR firm. “The great thing is the efficiency. I get these emoticons and it can mean we’re hugging or holding hands. Jim really likes holding hands, which I’m kind of meh on, but since I know he needs to hold my hand at least twice a day, I’ll send him two smileys and one winky :-), which means we’re holding hands right then. It’s perfect, because we’re holding hands but we don’t actually have to be in the same building to do it. And Jim feels fulfilled.”
Both partners admit that they were skeptical at first that the system would work. Afterall, how effective is replacing something like a hug with a series of emoticons? But they said that trust was the key, and they trust each other to feel the appropriate amalgam of emotions and fulfillment that is normally associated with whatever intimate act they send each other. This has been a big boost to their relationship, especially after they realized what it is exactly that the other partner needed in terms of affection to be happy on a daily basis.
“After we started using the system, I noticed a certain pattern to Jim’s emoticons. I realized that he needed a certain amount of hand holding, hugs, and words of affirmation to feel really good in our relationship. After I decoded that and responded with the right emoticon sequence, our intimate relationship really took off. I mean, I had no idea he liked holding my hand so much!” stated Tracy.
Shell agreed: “Tracy is very sexual and she likes to be flirted with at weird times of the day. For instance, she really likes it when I flirt with her right after her lunch break. Obviously, this isn’t feasible in real life since I work in another part of town, but I started sending her our special winky face combo that meant she was just a touch aroused . It was excellent, because there was no way for me to do that before.”
“God,” said Tracy, “it’s the highlight of my day when I get the triple winky face combo!”
Another benefit to the system is that much of the guesswork is taken out of the what can normally be a highly inefficient and sometimes misleading system of communication, that is to say, body language and actual language. As an example, Jim might have the urge to hold Tracy’s hand, but Tracy could be giving off negative, don’t-touch-me body language because of her bad day at work. This negative sub-communication might prevent Jim from reaching out to Tracy, even though deep down she wants him to. Since Jim didn’t reach out at the right time, Tracy might subconsciously retaliate by giving him the cold shoulder or withholding sex later in the evening. Then they would have a real problem.
With the emoticon system, the messages are much more clearly defined and they rarely miss fulfilling each other. Afterall, it’s much easier to send emoticons in a text message than it is to actually hold hands or give a hug.
“There was one time my phone died and I was traveling and that had the potential to suck,” Jim said, “but I called a co-worker collect on a payphone and had him leave my daily emoticon sequence on her Facebook page. Disaster averted.”
The couple have considered expanding their emoticon system to substitute for real sex, but they fear they might end up abusing it and send sex emoticons all day, which would decrease their work productivity. Although, Jim admits, they have gotten to the point where they have a special code to represent a come-on leading to sex.
“Check it out,” he said, showing me his phone, “This means Tracy wants to fuck. Isn’t that cool?”
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