I’m known amongst my friends as a serial dater. I enjoy going on first dates. Or I used to. In the last few years, I began to feel an encroaching anxiety before every first date. There was one thing standing between me and enjoying dating. It was a monster. Every time I met a girl I liked, I would sit at my computer and open my browser. My fingers would start tapping. And I couldn’t resist. Clicking. Going through images. Info.
“Look what I have to show you,” the monster would beckon me. And it had a lot to show me.
It knew my date’s favorite books, movies, music, even quotes. It knew her interests. It showcased videos of her with friends. And worst of all it was the gatekeeper of her photos. Sometimes just a few, sometimes hundreds, thousands. So many photos of the girl I hadn’t even gone out with yet! The monster would only show her good ones, of course. The bad ones were untagged, which made me wonder what the bad ones looked like. That monster was Facebook. And it was ruining my ability to date like a normal human being.
I was living in Amsterdam over the summer, trying to disconnect from the aggressive pace of New York City, but after two weeks of straight up loneliness in a foreign country, I broke and took to the web. Even though I promised myself I wouldn’t, I communicated with friends over Facebook. Messages. Wall posts. Pictures. I was a fairly active participant before that, but overseas, I was addicted to it. Everyday I checked my rolling wall. There I was, in a beautiful foreign city, locked in my apartment all day. Working my way into deeper virtual relationships. Seeking comfort in the four seconds ago status updates. But then something shook me out of the daze.
A friend died.
Ironically, I found out on Facebook. There, on his wall, were three posts all the same. “R.I.P.” At first I thought it was a joke. I Facebook-messaged a mutual friend asking if everything was okay. He sent back a Facebook message three minutes later. It happened two hours earlier, an accidental overdose. I needed a hug. Someone to talk to. Voice-to-voice, not text-to-text. Where was the “HUG” button on Facebook? Where was the “COMFORT ME” app?
I realized, for the first time, the stupidity of the site. The griminess of it. I deactivated my profile that day. And slayed the monster.
When I returned to the states in the fall, I soon got back into the groove of the young 20-something dating game. It was a whole new world without the monster. I wasn’t sweating it so much. I wasn’t prepping conversation topics before dinner. I wasn’t building up some monolithic ideal in my mind of the girl based on her status updates. These were women, not profiles. I got to know them on the date, not beforehand. I enjoyed the natural rhythm of conversation. Appreciated the awkward silences, from which random questions bloomed.
Back in my Facebook days, I’d have stalked her profile and seen the glossy version of her — the one we all display of ourselves. The cutest pictures. The smartest books. Our Facebook profiles are the people we want to be, not the people we are. They’re unflawed. Curated. Meeting the Facebook of my date made me insecure.
How could I possibly be good enough for this amazing woman?
I would psyche myself out before the date even began.
And while that continues to be a thought on my mind during most dates, it’s been far more pleasurable and interesting having those insecurities manifest in person rather than profile.