I have a friend who’s also currently dabbling in the Internet dating game. She “met” a guy, they chatted a bit, and bam! The sparks flew. They’re chatting all the time, sending texts, IM’s and more. Giggles occur — you see where I’m going. Things were perfect on the interwebs. Yet as soon as they met in person, it was flop city. He went from dreamy to dud before the bill even arrived.
When you’re dating online, it’s easy to play the cat and mouse game. One message here, another there — an open-ended question left to fish for more info. It’s a tradition as old as MS-DOS. Before you know it, you’ve moved past the casual text and straight into the “gchat to get through the workday” stratosphere. It’s not a bad thing. In fact, it can be a great thing. The rapport is there! You’re learning things about this person, perhaps before you even meet them!
But what happens when you learn too much?
As I’ve found through interactions both my own and not, there’s something dangerous about getting to know someone too well before the first date goes down.
Both the beauty and the difficulty of a first date exist in the fact that you’re learning each other’s stories for the first time. Work stories, awkward date stories, even, sometimes, family stories. You’re open books, awkwardly flipping from page to page over some cheap Italian food and house red.
If you spend too much time getting to know the person to sweeten that inevitably awkward first encounter, are you setting yourself up for a bit of a letdown? What if you run out of things to talk about that run light enough on the emotional spectrum to be first date appropriate? These things happen, and “Oh yes, you told me” are words that are said far too often. It’s somewhat unpleasant knowing you’ve run out of interesting things to talk about. And I talk a lot.
As nice as it is getting the pre-screen out of the way, it can also unfairly raise your expectations for how compatible you and a potential partner can be. Communicating via profiles, chats, texts and more allows for editing. Send an email and you can put a witty spin on every word. Have a human conversation and you’ll surely end up with your foot in your mouth at some point or another. Or maybe that’s just me.
So does learning about someone based on their more polished prose leave you poised for unachieved expectations? Does getting to know someone too closely based on their digital personality give them no hope but to pale in comparison to your idealization of them? It obviously depends, but the short answer is probably.
And this is just the consensual chatter. As I’ve said, any child of the digital age has at least an associate’s degree in Internet stalking. Heck, some of my friends (you know who you are) even possess a PhD in the subject matter. No last name? No problem. And before you know it, you’ve figured out mutual friends, LinkedIn profiles, and blogs — all before you’re even offering to split the check.
If you’re murmuring the word “stalker” as you’re reading this, step off that soapbox, Judgy McJudgerson. Any modern woman should know at least a little bit about a random man she plans to meet privately. But are we doing ourselves a disservice by dissecting a person’s digital presence before we date? What if he’s a dud in the flesh, but a real catch online?
I know I’m sounding a bit old curmudgeon here, given that I work on the web for a living, but isn’t there something to be said for leaving a little up to the imagination? You don’t want to be finishing his sentences before he’s had a chance to actually say them to you. Call me old fashioned, I guess.