I know it’s not terribly cool to admit when the internet is a big part of your life, but the internet is a big part of my life. Whether they admit it or not, I’m pretty sure it’s a big part of the lives of almost everyone I know. And not just “big part” as in we spend a lot of time online, but “big part” as in, it matters. It’s important. It affects who you are and how you live. You can’t just write it off and say, “Oh, that’s not real” any more. It’s real. These words matter. They impact us big time in all areas, including romance.
Dating in the internet age is a strange thing. Although the internet has been up and running for a couple of decades now, there still isn’t a general consensus about how to navigate social media and the internet while dating.
Curious people (myself included, at times) often search for each other on Facebook immediately after meeting and Google one another instantly after finding out a last name. If a web savvy guy wanting to know more about me searches “Jessica Thompson” with the correct keywords, he’ll hit the internet jackpot.
I’ve blogged, tumbld, podcasted, and pinned. While writing under my real name I’ve admitted I like when men cry and that writing takes priority above all else in my life, even dating. I have posted photos that would certainly be used against me were I to run for political office and my tweets aren’t family-friendly.
It is uncomfortable to have a potential romantic interest dig up all of these things early on. Instead of allowing me to share information about myself naturally over time as we gradually build trust and get to know each other, he sees things early, prior to having “earned it.” I assume a guy finding these things feels as if he’s getting to know me better, but in actuality I am not there. He is finding out old, possibly out-of-date factoids about me and drawing conclusions that might not be accurate. My ego worries that having so much personal information available could prompt a suitor to incorrectly judge me and subsequently reject me prematurely.
(Side note: Despite my anxieties, I will continue to use the internet in the way I do. Using my real name and being emotionally candid reflects my beliefs in honesty, openness, transparency, and accountability. I wish more people did the same. There must be men who agree!)
The internet poses dating problems beyond the initial, potentially awkward reconnaissance work. I once had a friend call me in a moment of despair, shouting, “He hasn’t texted me back yet, but he’s posting on Facebook?!” Her crush’s priorities became clear to her in a harsh, instant way.
Being Facebook friends with someone you are unsure of your romantic status with is tricky–you can’t exactly convince yourself that the object of your affection is too busy to call when you see him checking in at bars and restaurants with other people. Facebook’s “suggested events” can feel like a twisting knife at these times–you see clearly all the cool things he is planning on doing, the places he has not invited you.
Still, social media provides opportunities to subtly reject potential partners without having to spell it out in a painful conversation. If you “like” all of my photos and comment on all of my status updates and I’ve never returned the favor, I’m just not that into you. If you follow me on twitter and I don’t bother to follow you back, you’re probably not my future boyfriend.
Once in a relationship, social media is still a factor to contend with. Just as committed partners of yore complained of romantic gestures dying down as a relationship progressed, modern-day lovers sigh wistfully as they notice likes, favorites, and retweets from their significant other dwindle. “You liked her profile photo, but not mine!”
Finally, what might be the most difficult question of all–how to handle social media during a break-up? Personal attacks poorly disguised as general status updates are certainly immature, though I see them regularly enough. To delete or block someone after a break-up seems cruel and implies resentment or an inability to handle things. Still, to continually see what’s going on in your ex’s life greatly could impede the healing process.
I’m curious to hear about your experiences at the intersection of dating and social media in the comments. Just remember–if you use your real name, your future significant other might find your comment some day.