On Friday, I had lunch with my friend Mark Bonner, a writer and editor based in New York City (he’s currently seeking a full-time job – check out his awesome website!). Among other things, we discussed online dating and the ways that social networking has changed (ruined?) how people date today.
We both agreed that online dating lessens the chance that a couple will have a good story to tell. Match.com has a microsite that might lead people to believe otherwise; happy couples share their success stories. But at the end of the day, they all met on Match.com.
When I signed up for a month on Match.com last summer, I actually met someone who I liked enough to date for four months. One evening, when we were returning from New York City on the PATH train, another couple asked us how we met. My date answered before I had a chance: “Mountain climbing in the Swiss Alps.”
I loved his answer, but the moment made me realize that I desperately craved a good story. I didn’t actually want to tell anyone that we met on Match.com and always hoped that the question would never arise.
I guess the story of how you meet your significant other isn’t that important if you’re happy, but, as a writer, I’m obsessed with stories. I have completely sworn off online dating simply because I don’t want the story I tell my grandchildren to include eHarmony or Plenty of Fish.
As Mark said to me, “The story of your life is the most important story you’ll ever tell.” If I hold out for a “real” story, I’m bound to get one eventually, right?
I think social networking in general has hindered our ability to develop deep relationships, even friendships. I’m starting to think it’s a good idea not to “friend” someone I’m dating on Facebook, at least not until I have gotten to know them well in real life.
By stalking that person’s pictures, status updates, and comments, I make up my own story about the person’s life (one that’s probably not completely true).
Wouldn’t it be better to get to know someone by asking them questions? By discovering things by accident? By having misunderstandings and arguments? Isn’t mystery and curiosity more fun?
Imagine talking to someone for the first time in weeks without seeing everything they have posted on Facebook and Twitter. Think about how rich and loaded that conversation could be. Think about all the things you could learn about a person in an enhanced, personalized way.
Being Facebook friends with people I don’t really know or ever see is fun because I’m probably never going to know their complete stories. I am free to create stories about those people, and these stories don’t really matter in the long run.
However, I’m starting to think I would be happier creating and keeping my closest relationships offline.
(Photo by JonDissed)