Between personal experience and listening to the stories of others, I believe that I have reflected on and dissected every scenario of postmodern courtship my generation could possibly be faced within our technology-riddled world today. I am not, however, saying that this makes me an expert in any way; in fact, I find it more confusing than ever. Having been out of the game for a while now, I rely only on my friends’ tales of triumph and woe as they battle the man pool armed only with their carefully built cyber identities and of course, the Dirty Shirley (R.I.P.), which they undoubtedly had to buy for themselves. Some describe the experience as completely exhausting, longing for the times our mothers cling to when they spew unrealistic notions like, “If a man doesn’t offer to pick up you and your friend’s tab then he isn’t a gentleman,” or, “Only ‘fast’ girls kiss a boy before he’s officially taken her to dinner.” What? You’ve had a guy pay for your dinner BEFORE drunkenly making out, then texting for a month without any inkling of a “hang out” invitation, then not hearing from him for another two months, then hopelessly Facebook stalking him, then forgetting about him, and then finally having him reappear six months later? Are you a magician? Others call the whole thing liberating, going so far as to describe it as the greatest game they’ve ever played.
No matter how you look at it, it cannot be denied that the dating game has changed completely since our parents were out there man-hunting. It has been sifted through the giant colander of social media and text message, being sure to weed out the need of any form of commitment or even basic social skills, leaving the weird, confusing Narnia that our generation must trudge through in search of a mate. These social media platforms serve as weapons for both sexes, carefully bridging the gap between personal TMI of the potential love interest and, as previously referenced, blatant lack of commitment. It seems to me, though, that they can be simplified into three modes that matter above all others:
1. Text Message
This was always my favorite sword in my scabbard (I had to look that up. I didn’t just know what a sword holder was called.) It is such a delicate art and one that must be approached with thoughtfulness and a bit of healthy fear. It is something far more complex than the “where you at” it comes cloaked in. Every response must carry the perfect balance of wit and mystery. The overuse of one of these elements can completely ruin everything you’re trying to achieve. I learned this the hard way when I had someone respond to one of my HILARIOUS texts with, “Listen, can you just not? I have to be witty all day and I don’t need it from you too.” The mystery comes with the element of,“I don’t care about you at all,” while still maintaining, “There’s a chance you can have me.” It’s not as difficult as it seems unless you do something completely ludicrous like say “LMAO” or “:).” However, there are some risks that don’t exist in the world of face-to-face contact. For instance, a misplaced emoji or autocorrected word can ruin everything that you’ve built for yourself. So basically if he were to text you, “Going to the bars tonight?” you’d need to say something artful like, “Don’t know. You?” only 30 minutes later. Do you see what I did there?
There is so much power and yet so much problem in Facebook. It is both the most useful form of research and the most life-ruining vessel of emotional pain. On Facebook, you have no secrets. Within 10 minutes, you can know a guy’s religion, political position, favorite movie, past job experience, family history, weight fluctuation, high school senior spring break destination, and most importantly, exes. Before you know it, you’ve found a picture of them from three years ago cuddled together in front of a fire and you’ve clicked to go to her page. Another hour has passed and you’re on a picture of her on the beach two years ago. She has dimples in the small of her back that could rival that of Marissa Miller and somehow doesn’t look like a lunatic frozen in midair with her limbs playfully awry, but she listed The Giver as her favorite book and any required summer reading is an automatic disqualifier of versatility. Who is actually winning here? That’s yet to be determined. Then you end up on her wall posts from three years ago. There are posts from the man in question. You’re in too deep. You can’t turn back. You have to look. He called her “princess.” Game over. You’re turned off. But it was three years ago, you tell yourself. Should I cut him some slack? But you can’t. The damage is already done and he hasn’t even gotten the opportunity to text flirt yet…
I find this the most interesting of all, as it was developed after I had hung up my hat. I only learned of it recently while at dinner with some friends. One of the girls was talking about how a guy she had recently shared a cab with had been SnapChating her all week. She said this nonchalantly like, “Ya know, so we’ve been snapchatting and…” I asked her to explain this to me. Had the app that I thought was reserved only for fewer than ten second dog videos, selfies, and the occasional Anthony Weiner style photos been turned into another stage of the lengthy journey to a real relationship? She informed me that it most certainly had. Then our other friend weighed in, “It’s a great initiator to an evening while having the lowest form of commitment. Like, someone sends you a Snap or you send one and it’s kind of like dropping a less forward hint that you wouldn’t mind seeing that person tonight like ‘I’m bored and I thought you’d like this picture so if you’re bored later maybe you could enjoy time with me.’ It’s also an easy way to remind someone you’re still around without looking too interested. Like, I sent this to you, but you have no idea how many other people I sent this to, so you’re not that special.” What does communicating like this even look like? Do you draw each other pictures too? How many seconds should you let him look at you? So many questions…
Do you think Shakespeare ever anticipated that the quest for true love would have turned into this? I’m not sure where our society can go from here but I’m sure it will only become more detached. Soon there will be an app similar to the operating system on Her where our online profiles date each other first before we meet in person. We’ll get a push notification on their first kiss. Younger generations will speculate what that might feel like in this sick, weird Second Life reality. And only will we feel the censored blur when they get in the heart-shaped hot tub, left to simulate and speculate how humans used to love back in the day.