My immediate response: don't. But, because I like to be as unbiased as possible (which isn't saying much), I'll consider this question from both sides. First off, when I say "texting before a first date," we're referring to the texting that usually occurs once we received the ultimate form of validation: a match on Tinder or Bumble (or whatever app you may be using.) We follow up the match with a pretty standard statement sounding something like this: "hey, let's make this easier to talk and take our conversation to texting!" Good work, pretty smooth transition. Now comes the question that is looming in the back of all of our minds: how much should we be texting before we meet, or should we really be texting at all?
Texting as a predictor
I've heard the argument countless times that texting can serve as a pretty solid indicator of how the date may go. If someone can understand my sarcasm and my goofy jokes through text, then I have a better chance that they'll understand me face-to-face. If someone can make conversation feel "easy" through text, then chances are, this will continue when we meet in person. Of course, these are semi-reasonable things to believe. Texting can also serve as a way to determine whether or not we have some sort of intellectual connection with someone.
I have a friend whose date talked in mostly abbreviations that we all used back when we were on AIM Instant Messenger. Shortened words, "U" in place of the word "you" (in all honesty, is it that much more strenuous to text out two extra letters?), the whole gamut of text behaviors that should be banned entirely. Texting can help us "weed" out a potential date solely based on how they are able to communicate.
We currently live in a society that bases so much of communication on social media or texting, so it's no wonder that our default method of finding a connection is through the same outlet. From the side of "pro-texting," I can agree that texting can act as a way to take off the pressure of that initial date. It allows us to get to know one another on surface-level as we discover very quickly if our date is fluent in emojis (it's a hard no for any and all of you that send eggplants.) It also gives us a chance to get some of the small talk "out of the way" so that we can move seamlessly into the "real fun."
But is it always accurate?
I have certainly been in situations where texting before the date was constant; and in these cases, the conversations were actually pretty damn entertaining. Responses felt clever, which is rare for me to feel, and there was a mutual agreement that we "clicked." And then the date happened. Bless our bartender who helped me maintain my steady buzz to ease the misery of the date. Maybe that's dramatic. But, in all honesty, the conversation we had through text just didn't quite translate to "real life." The witty jokes that were the foundation of our conversations fell flat. Any sense of humor that once made me LOL in text (sorry, had to be in theme with the acronym) even lacked a giggle out of kindness (or pity.)
We can't always assume that what transpires through text is going to feel the same way when we're face-to-face. When texting goes well before meeting, we automatically set up the expectation for ourselves that the date is going to be just as good, if not better. And when it's not? We feel like we failed and we're back to square one. On the other hand, sometimes texting before the first date either is non-existent, or lacking any sort of connection.
Take this example with my current boyfriend and I: we texted at most for five minutes, and solely to set up our first date. We also briefly talked about my cell phone's background image, which at the time was a guinea pig getting showered with Brussels sprouts. Refer to this image. We also briefly texted on a random Saturday afternoon, 3 days before our first date was planned, when I had four too many drinks, and I essentially called him a "bitch" for enjoying vodka lemonades. I have no idea what sort of flirting I was attempting, but clearly our brief texting history doesn't lead one to assume that the date would go that well, or even happen at all. Also, I too, enjoy vodka lemonades. Sorry Chad.
When we assume how a date will go based on a certain text, we're setting ourselves up to potentially sabotage the date itself. Either by 1) going into the date without an open mind, or 2) canceling the date itself. If I had cancelled the date with my current boyfriend (because we actually didn't have that much of an initial "text connection"), then I would have missed out on over two incredible years with someone I grew to love very quickly.
And this is what leads me to say that we can't predict how a date will go solely on how we communicate through texting. When we assume that there will not be a connection with someone, aren't we the ones who actually create that outcome? Texting as a predictor of a connection is giving a half-assed chance to any person we meet. All we're left with if we choose to end things before even meeting is a missed opportunity and potentially a bunch of "what-if's."
So, how much texting should we do?
Remember when I said I was going to try to be unbiased? Looks like that attempt was disregarded almost immediately. Here's my honest opinion: texting sets us up for only using nonverbal communication, or rather passive communication. If we begin a relationship dependent on texting as the "foundation," then what room does this leave us to form any real connection outside of our phones? If we are using texting as a way to confirm whether or not there is a connection, what does this set us up for if we actually begin to date? I have a pretty good guess: a great deal of miscommunication, misunderstanding, and assumptions.
While I'm all for seeing whether or not there is a connection, we won't ever truly know until we see our date in person and hold an actual conversation. Texting will never fully allow us to hear a person's tone of voice, see their reactions, or sense their body language and what it means. Texting is surface level, and that is all it will ever be.
In conclusion: limit the texting to setting the first date's plan, and then confirming the date the day-of. A text in between ain't gunna hurt you, but it doesn't need to turn into a full-blown conversation. Nothing said via text is nearly as fulfilling as it is in person (or, at least it shouldn't be.)