Anyone who’s been on a date this decade knows there’s an arsenal of tools to investigate potential mates online before ever meeting IRL.
And in many cases, I’d recommend it. When Benjamin Franklin said “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” he handily predicted the benefits of searching social media for detailed information — from hobbies and interests, to education, job history and friend circles — to avoid wasting time meeting someone you know you won’t get along with.
It isn’t strange these days to hear about couples meeting on social media. Who among us has not slid into someone’s DMs, or gotten our DMs slid into? The problem is when the tools we use to avoid wasting time quickly turn into time-wasting tools of obsession. In particular, using social media not only to vet potential dates, but to see who’s vetting us. Nearly every social media platform will notify you when someone has seen what you’ve posted. On Facebook and Twitter, read receipts are automatic for direct messages. Instagram shows you which friends have seen your Stories, and rumour has it that a new feature will notify you when someone has taken a screenshot of your photo.
Think of it as the 2018 version of waiting in your apartment for the phone to ring. Is s/he interested in you? Check your Instagram account. Then check it again. Then feel slighted by every photo that goes un-liked, or posts that spark no engagement.
But here’s the thing: Every interaction or non-interaction is not a referendum on your likeability. People certainly aren’t obligated to engage with everything you post — so if we’re going to preserve our e-sanity, or what’s left of it, we’re going to need thicker skins.
We may even have to (gasp) log off social media. If there’s anything left about dating that’s fun, it’s the discovery stage: figuring out someone’s likes, dislikes, quirks, kinks, even. Don’t spoil that for yourself by binging on information you should be snacking on over the course of several meetings. Let’s allow ourselves to be surprised again. For better or worse.