If you’re working a 9-5 or some nontraditional equivalent and your job requires that you use the internet, you’re spending approximately 33% of your day online. A lot can happen during those eight hours. We Get To Know People. People we already know, people we’ve met once, people we’ve never met at all. No matter how tenuous our offline ties are with a person, we’re able to draw conclusions about their character based on what we observe during that 33% of the day. We begin to bond with people we hardly know, and they don’t even need to participate in that bonding beyond setting up a profile — they’ve laid out their personalities on a virtual picnic blanket and are inviting us to come eat it up (WHO’S HUNGRY?) As a result, we sometimes develop Feelings for strangers despite having no tangible evidence that our sentiments will translate offline.
It may feel unnatural to allow a digital comp card to dictate your feelings for someone, especially if those feelings are romantic in nature. But if you bother to look beyond the surface, you can gauge authentic information that your maybe-crush hasn’t intended to offer up. Conduct these simple tests to determine whether or not @Mike1111 is THE ONE (one one one).
The 3 AM Twitter Test. One of the most valuable things I learned last year is to cleanse my Twitter stream of any and all tweets sent between the hours of Midnight and 5 AM. Breakfast time is like clockwork — wake up, check the stream, feel momentarily shocked/ embarrassed/ indifferent, delete. Lather, rinse, repeat. I’m serious. Come to my Twitter page on a Saturday morning. It’ll be all, “Here’s an article I wrote!” “Something bitchy about a stranger!” “Inside Joke!” But the misspelled, emo, liquor-soaked tweets? Good as gone. And if you think no one else is doing this in the name of self-preservation, you’re delusional. You can’t judge someone based on their daytime feed, it’s like trusting someone’s OkCupid photos or their Facebook interests. Revisit their timeline in the middle of the night and reassess your crush in the cold, harsh light of 3 AM. You’ll be having this Gchat in no time:
You: Looks like you had an interesting night… heh
Crush: What do you mean?
You: Were you not hanging out with a bunch of hookers — like, literal hookers — in Long Island City at 4 AM?
Crush: What? You’re crazy!
You: IDK, thought I read that on Twitter.
Crush: <link to freshly purged timeline> Where does it say that? The last time I tweeted was 7 PM, from Eataly!
The Ugly Picture Test. Everyone has at least one unflattering photo of themselves online. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the one you find by accident and have the kneejerk reaction of, “…good god, this picture changes everything. Are they really capable of making that face? Who would upload this photo? That’s… mean.” If you haven’t found a picture of your crush that qualifies as The Ugly Picture, you haven’t looked hard enough. The Ugly Picture might be from 2007, maybe an asshole friend uploaded it, but it’s there and it’s awaiting judgment. Look very carefully at The Ugly Picture; allow yourself to inspect it for five minutes or so. If you’re ever going to like this person, you’ll have to rationally acknowledge that it’s just a photograph, that one singular photograph should not derail your entire impression of them. Your potential crush is a person who sometimes takes both bad and good photos — they are not a fantasy. If you can’t deal with that realization, you’re not equipped to meet this person in real life, where everyone is at least 10% less impressive than they are online. At least. If you fail The Ugly Picture test, do your crush a favor and stick to salivating over Ryan Gosling slideshows.
The Google Outlier Test. Anyone who puts enough of himself online to cause a warm calm to overtake your nether regions probably has his fair share of Google hits. But idly scrolling through Pages 1-5 ain’t enough. That’s where all of the recent, impressive results live. You need to find the links even Google is ashamed of. The Model Mayhem profile of 2004. The lowercase LiveJournal poetry. The abandoned MySpace band page. You know. The Outliers. Read up on your crush’s past life to gain perspective on where they came from, it’s the best alternative to meeting their family or you know, like, asking them outright.
Of course, you could also just grow some balls and blindly move this thing offline where there are no font choices and profile photos to hide behind. But where’s the fun in that?