Text message addicts

Can a 21st-century couple survive without texting, e-mail or even-gulp!-cell phones? One brave pair of lovebirds finds out.
Photograph: Martha Williams; Photo Illustration: Jamie Divecchio Ramsay; Models: Conor Sedam/Ford, Jennifer Wicks/Ford
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If Lindsey Mangurten and Adam Keldermans end up getting married, the stories at the wedding will probably center on how they met: Keldermans wore a killer Halloween costume—an oversized bag of groceries containing real food—and Lindsey couldn’t resist his Doritos. But the real story of their relationship might be the role technology played from the beginning and what they learned when we took that technology away for the purposes of a little social experiment.

Mangurten, 24, a member of TOC’s sales staff, first met Keldermans, 25, at a bar last Halloween. It didn’t take long for this tech-savvy twosome to engage in a hot and heavy text exchange arranging first-date details (“R U Ok with sushi?”). Their relationship progressed to e-mail, with Keldermans quizzing his lady-to-be on topics such as her favorite cartoon character. “It was our way of getting to know each other,” Keldermans says of his electronic-only courtship. After that first meeting, they didn’t physically speak to each other until the day of their first date, a full week later.

Now that they’re dating but living separately, technology is vital to their daily routine, whether e-mailing each other about their days or sending adorable prebedtime texts. But are they relying too much on instant communication, and could kicking that tech habit increase their intimacy? To find out, Mangurten and Keldermans agreed to give up their normal modes of communication. Over the course of two weeks, we took away texting, then e-mail and, finally, cell phones, too. Could a 21st-century couple hack it without their precious instant chatter?

The first few days without text were a breeze, according to Mangurten, and resulted in a pleasant surprise: Instead of her usual “good night” text, she picked up the phone, which resulted in an actual conversation. “We ended up talking for 15 minutes,” she recalls. “Adam had a bad day that day. That was one of those a-ha moments…that occasionally it’s good to talk on the phone.”

Things quickly became irritating, however, when Mangurten went out for a Friday-night dinner with her girlfriends and had trouble coordinating a postmeal date with Adam. “We would usually text to meet up [later],” she notes. “I left him a voice mail before I went out, and told him to leave me a voice mail back. I felt rude and weird when I had to check my voice mail [during dinner] as opposed to reading a quick text.… I had to step out of the room or be annoying in front of everyone. We called each other three to four times to ask simple questions that typically would have been much quicker with a text.”

The annoyances piled up once they stopped communicating via e-mail as well—especially during the workday. “A lot of the time, the e-mail [from Mangurten] is a nice breather where I can stop and clear my head,” Keldermans explains. “I missed it.” Another hassle: The pair couldn’t share e-mails with links to juicy Lost gossip. “Not having e-mail, it was just like, Ughhhh,” Mangurten sighs. “We’re big Lost ees, so if I read something I had to be like, Remember to tell him tomorrow when you see him.”

It wasn’t until we took away their cell phones that the situation really started to suck. Keldermans, who drives from Lincoln Park to Oak Brook for work, was heading to Mangurten’s Lakeview apartment for dinner but got stuck in traffic. He couldn’t call to say he was going to be an hour late. “I was definitely annoyed, as it had been almost three hours with no contact,” Mangurten recalls. “I felt like we lived in the early-’90s, pre–cell phone [era].” To add insult to injury, Keldermans forgot his leftovers when he left Mangurten’s house after dinner, but when she banged on the window to try to catch him, he didn’t hear her and therefore missed out on a delicious Italian lunch the next day.

After the two-week experiment ended, the tech-happy couple expressed relief to have their 21st-century communications back, but they expect to incorporate more “real” conversation into their repertoire as well. “I would guess we’ll probably e-mail less and talk more,” Keldermans says. Adds Mangurten, “I would say text less, talk more, but that’s because I like e-mailing more and he likes texting more. We both have our vices.”

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