• Relationships

Girl Talk: My Facebook Dating Experiment

After my interview with dating coach, matchmaker, and Have Him At Hello author Rachel Greenwald, I was totally pumped to test out some of the tips she gave. Specifically, what Rachel calls “I Spy a Facebook Guy.” The dating game? Give yourself some time each day to cruise around your friends’ Facebook pages and find 50 guys that you think are interesting. Then scope out their profiles and write them a message.

OK, confession: I logged onto Facebook the following day, went through one friend’s 431 friends, found one cute guy, and chickened out of writing him. I couldn’t even tell if he was single or not. Besides, I felt like a weird, desperate stalker. Not my style at all. Maybe I lack the necessary cajones to find love on Facebook. I logged off, dejected. But quitting is not my style either. So, I came up with an alternative plan that felt a little more “me.”

I walked away from the whole experience with an unusually strong sense of empathy and a feeling of camaraderie for each of them. And that was when I realized something important. I never “date” with that attitude.

I logged back on and updated my status: “Looking for single men living in NYC between the ages of 27 and 40. Must be legitimately single, straight, open to being set up with someone, and not a psycho. If you know someone, send them my way.” Then I just sat by my inbox and waited.

My revised plan? I would not look for love on Facebook. I would still try to meet single guys in my virtual backyard, maybe not 50, but as many as possible. Instead of trying to date them, I would buy them a cup of coffee, interview them about why they are single, and write about my findings.

The response to my status update was overwhelming, especially from old high school friends that I hadn’t talked to in years. They were into it. And for the record, every single one of my guy referrals came from friends who were either married or in relationships. I guess that proves Rachel’s theory correct that married people are a great resource for meeting single men. And so my own personal Facebook experiment began.

When I arrived at a coffee shop in the East Village to meet Sumeet, a 28-year-old Director of IT, I found him engaged in a lively conversation with another girl named Amy who he mistook for me. That broke the ice all right. This was going to be fun! And then I delved into the tough questions with Sumeet: How long have you been single? How often do you date? What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to meeting people? Would you ever date someone you met on Facebook? The questions led to conversation. He answered and shared so openly and honestly, it was actually kind of moving. After two weeks of status updates, I had similarly stimulating coffee talks with Will, Jeremy, J.D., Matt, Michael, and David.

My seven Facebook guys were all between the ages of 27 and 40, all friends of friends once removed on Facebook, and all single … except for David who admitted he was dating someone. They covered the gamut of professions — software developer, teacher, filmmaker; religions — Jewish, Hindu, and Atheist; ethnicities — Indian, African-American, Asian, Caucasian; and interests — music, books, sports, travel. I couldn’t have imagined a more diverse group of men.

They did all have one thing in common — they were really solid guys. The kind that any single girl would be happy to stumble upon on Facebook or otherwise. I could go into details about each guy’s stats and deets, but I won’t. They had gone through relationships, breakups, and dating. Some of them had tried pick-up artist stuff, or online dating, while only a few of them believed in soul mates. I was hoping to draw some grand conclusion about who these Facebook guys were, but I couldn’t. Each one of them was so unique. I know … duh.

I walked away from the whole experience with an unusually strong sense of empathy and a feeling of camaraderie for each of them. And that was when I realized something important. I never “date” with that attitude.

I always walk into a dating situation on the defensive. I sit across from my date and immediately think, What’s wrong with this guy? Or I get so wrapped up in making a good impression or revealing the right bits of information that I completely miss the very basic, “Who is this person and what are they all about?”

Dating in its most misguided form sets up all of these expectations about how you “should” feel, how it “should” go, and who you “should” meet. Even if your expectations are bargain basement low – i.e., he must have teeth and a job — you are pinning a lifetime of hopes and dreams on a complete stranger. How stupid is that? Sipping a cup of coffee with these guys and just asking them questions, not trying to impress them, not looking for love, not searching for attraction or connection, not judging them or sizing them up, allowed me to be me and them to be them. And that felt so much better than my version of dating.

So, would I recommend Facebook as a dating forum? Sure, why not? If it feels right to you … go for it. But Facebook or not, what I did learn was that I need to make over my dating attitude. I need to listen more, talk less, and stop “should-ing” myself to death. From here on out I plan to walk into every date like it’s a really fun experiment.

Photo: iStockphoto

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