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Do u want 2 get 2gether?

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Among 1,006 wireless users surveyed in February by Cingular Wireless, 12 percent said that they used text messaging to initiate contact with a potential paramour. (Cassandra Vinograd/CNS)


Among 1,006 wireless users surveyed in February by Cingular Wireless, 33 percent said they used text messaging to communicate with their date or mate. (Cassandra Vinograd/CNS)


Among 1,006 wireless users surveyed in February by Cingular Wireless, 33 percent said they used text messaging to communicate with their date or mate. (Cassandra Vinograd/CNS)

Heather Moore walked past a New York City bar last October and zeroed in on a cute guy standing on the sidewalk sending a text message. In a moment of alcohol-induced bravado, she sauntered up to him. “Are you sending me a text message?” she asked coyly.

It was a pickup line she’d soon regret.

The next day the guy, a 24-year-old real estate broker, sent Moore a text message. He sent her a text message the next day, too. And the next. The two saw each other on and off for five months. But that entire time he never phoned Moore once. When the two weren’t together, every conversation--whether it was back and forth for 20 minutes or stretched out for hours--played out through text messaging.

“I learned everything about him through text,” lamented Moore, a 26-year-old law student living on the Upper East Side. “Where he went to school, what he studied, where he studied abroad. We covered a lot, but it was pathetic.”

For Moore, the episode was another irritating bout with what she calls the “serial texter,” suitors seemingly too afraid to utter a word on the phone. Dating is just not what it used to be, Moore says, and cell-phone-toting women across the country agree. The written word has a worthy place in a budding romance, but not on a cell phone screen, they say. A line from a Shakespeare love sonnet handwritten in a card or letter works; “U WANNA HANG?” hastily typed with one finger and quickly sent, doesn’t.

Text messaging does have a role in relationships, experts say. Some people use the technology to express emotions they otherwise wouldn’t share. But when text messaging becomes the main form of relationship communication, it’s time to stop punching the keypad and put in some face-to-face time instead.

Both long-time couples and romantic hopefuls are increasingly text messaging their love interests, according to a survey released in February by Cingular Wireless. Among 1,006 wireless users surveyed, 33 percent said they used text messaging to communicate with their date or mate, an increase of 6 percentage points from last year. Twenty-eight percent reported using text messaging to avoid long conversations, and 12 percent said that they used the tool to initiate contact with a potential paramour.

Dating expert Tina B. Tessina, author of “A Guide to Modern Dating,” believes the recent surge in text messaging is fueling the demise of courtship etiquette. The fact that men are asking women out through a text message, she says, is absolutely unacceptable.

“If I got a text message like that, I would think, ‘Why don’t you call me?’ Tessina said. “We know that men are on their best behavior at the beginning of a relationship. So if this is his best behavior, what are you going to get out of him should you wind up in a committed relationship? There’s a reason why we have social conventions. It gives us clues into character.”

Tessina says there are several reasons why a man might use a text message instead of a phone call: He’s either interested and thinks texting is appropriate, he lacks the courage to call, or he has the courage but is not that interested yet.

Alex Bearman, a 26-year-old consultant in Washington, admits he falls into the final category. Six months ago Bearman broke up with a long-term girlfriend and says he is now on the rebound. For the last few weeks he’s been casually dating someone. When the two aren’t together, he says most communication plays out through text messaging.

“I keep telling myself that I can't commit to anything right now,” Bearman said. “I think the text message allows me to maintain just a little bit more distance in my interactions with her. Calling is just that much more involved and potentially revealing.”

Although texting is often used to put a relationship on hold, experts say it can also make igniting a new flame that much easier.

“There are plenty of downsides [to text messaging], but there are upsides as well,” said Thomas Plante, a psychologist and relationship counselor at Santa Clara University in California. “For some, it’s a less painful way to be rejected. It’s an easier pill to swallow when it’s through the filter of technology rather than face-to-face.”

Texting benefits can also kick in later in a relationship, Plante said. Many people--especially men--have an easier time sending apologies and sentimental notes through text than they do in person.

“It tends to be harder for men to communicate both the positive and the negative,” Plante said. “And technology might be able to help with that.”

“One cool thing about texting is it gives someone the chance to send a really sweet message at the end of a date,” said Alisa Janowicz, a 26-year-old technology marketing specialist at Hearst publications in New York. “Like if a guy texts, ‘I had a great night tonight’ or something. That’s great. It can be good for reassurance.”

Although Plante believes that text messaging has a role to play in relationships, he says the negative effects tend to outweigh the benefits. When you can’t see someone’s tears, it’s that much easier to be hurtful, he explains. Text messaging can also leave a digital trail that can come back to haunt you. Most importantly, Plante says, an overreliance on texting can prevent the development of a serious relationship.

“When it comes to intimate relationships, communication is proven in more than just words,” Plante said. “It’s the emotional, nonverbal communication that’s important. A lot can be communicated other than the actual text message.”

Moore agrees, but doubts that her serial texter has seen the light. After being incommunicado for months, he sent her a “Happy Valentine’s Day” text.

“Did he text everyone in his address book?” she wondered. “I don’t know. That’s the elusive nature of the text.”

And just days ago he sent her another text about grabbing some drinks.

She said, “Sure.”

Via text.

But this time, she says, she only wants to be friends.

“It was one of the longest relationships I had,” she says, laughing. “Too bad it wasn’t real.”