We all agonize over text messages that the people we want to be with send, and over the text messages we may or may not return. There's a new dating advice website HeTexted.com, capitalizing on that confusion and insecurity, masking itself as a way to help women decipher text messages from boys with crowdsourced responses. Sounds fun! The problem is, underneath the hilarious back-and-forth texts and glimpses into other people's dating mishaps and misunderstandings, it's actually all about making fun of how "clueless" women are when it comes to men (and the site only has texts submitted by women, as related to their dating interactions with men). So it basically exploits our moments of relationship indecision, turning them into something to laugh at rather than actually helping—even though helping is what the site claims it's about.
"We set out to create a place where you could finally find some answers, advice, and usually, a game plan—all from people that are totally unbiased," explains the sites About section. Alas, those "answers" and "advice" are too easily reduced to three possibilities: "he's into you," "he's not into you" or "verdict is still out," making it a place to mock those "sad girls" who don't know he's just not that into them. It's a ready meme rather than actual advice. And while sometimes the crowdsourced responses play pretty accurately, and perhaps all of this is to be expected when people send in their text conversations for the whole Internet to see, and, yeah, some of the guys come off badly, too, there's still something uncomfortable about watching women be judged as making fools of themselves in front of men and other women.
For those unfamiliar with the site, ladies send in hard-to-interpret texts they receive from male love interests. These get posted to the Internet, where unbiased people can say what the conversation really means, as you see to the right. This process is supposed to help women through their dating travails, which often involve cryptic missives from men. The only feedback the site offers, though, are those three buttons at the bottom that determine the man's into-it-ness, unless someone sends in their questions to the "ask a bro" section, which offers anonymous feedback from one of three "bros." That is not the main draw of the site, however.
While some might answer earnestly, the whole layout prioritizes gawking. The default tab is 'OMG,' showing the most unbelievable texts first, like that one up there to the right, which got a lot of attention because it is so oh em gee obvious that this man is not into this woman. It goes the other way, too, as we also get to judge the man for acting like a stereotypical jerk-wad. The other two tabs, "most hearted" and "most commented" similarly surface the most outrageous conversations. "Still up? Wanna hang out ;)," is the third entry on the "most commented" section, for example. (Again, oh man: she has no idea.) Many of the entries across all three feature a level of cluelessness to the point that many of them seem made up. (They are not, HeTexted co-founder Carrie Henderson McDermott told The Atlantic Wire over e-mail.)
The site has been compared (more than once!) to FMyLife for good reason, as it encourages jokes rather than legitimate posts. (Though McDermott says the submissions are real, can we be sure some funny friends aren't just trying to get theirs on the homepage?) Those voter buttons aren't so much there to help people, but like up-votes on FML, to make it interactive, keep people engaged and coming back. They also act as a handy reflection of what texts are getting most traction. So we get to see what's really making the site popular. And, as a handful of the "most commented" and "most hearted" ones show, the most comical "he's not into you" texts and not the tough relationship questions are getting the most traction. Like this one:
Or this one:
The creators defend the site, saying that women do this in real life, so why not put it online? "Every Saturday morning, we’d wake up and be like 'Did he text you?' 'Are you going to text him?' I know it sounds so archaic and it’s sending back the movement 50 years, but really? That’s how girls act sometimes," McDermott told The Huffington Post's Britney Fitzgerald. On the down side, putting it on the Internet turns it into a spectacle, making the texters look like stereotypical "clueless" or needy women and creating a venue ripe for mockery ... which seems pretty archaic, yes.