I have an inveterate aversion to the unexpected. I hate surprise parties. I conduct extensive consumer research before I purchase anything, from new shoes to vacuum cleaners. The idea of plunging blind into a situation fills me with a mounting dread, a gnawing in the pit of my stomach knowing that I have no say in the outcome. This charming quirk has led me on a lifelong journey to impart control over a variety of situations that are inherently uncontrollable — the job search, the actions of others, and most importantly, dating. Any way you slice it, dating is fucking terrifying for me, because the unexpected is the norm. The carefully edited OKCupid or How About We profile and the brief dossier provided by a well-meaning friend only reveals so much. How can you know more before you’ve even met? This week, in an article in The New York Post, I read about Glimpse, a new dating app that offers the alluring prospect of stripping some of the mystery away. By allowing users to view the Instagram profiles of potential matches, Glimpse removes a layer from the murky soup of contemporary dating, offering users a deeper glimpse into the interests of other singles. If you like what you see, “smile” at the person through the app, and if it’s a match, you’re well on your way to love.
In theory, this is fantastic. Knowledge is power, and we live in an age where Googling your date beforehand is almost second nature. It is deeply satisfying to figure out as much as possible about a person before you meet them. A near-stranger’s Instagram feed is compelling, offering a deeper view into a life that isn’t yours, showing you clues along the way of how your life could intertwine with theirs. Plunging the depths of someone’s Twitter timeline lets you see the kind of things they’re willing to share in a public forum, and lets you draw conclusions based on these revelations. It’s interesting to see if their projected interests line up with yours. Maybe you both tweeted the same gif of a kitten sneezing, on the same day. Maybe you were both at the same concert a few weeks back, standing in the same section, judging from the angle and timestamp of the picture he posted from the crowd. Maybe this “research” lets you feel like you know the person without even meeting them, and maybe thats a bad thing. Some things in life are best left shrouded in a little bit of mystery, so hear me out — dating via Instagram might not be the best way to go.
Instagram exists as a method of documenting your best life, the way you want to remember it, not as it actually was. Those sun-drenched beach pics and casual selfies that pepper your feed are the face you put forward — the idealized, style blogger-y snippets of life you want preserved in hazy amber. The output of Instagram is a carefully curated representation of yourself, a facade that is true enough to you, but is nowhere near the full story. Learning about someone through these outlets is great for job interviews but not so much for dating. For all the hacks that have come about to make the dating process less torturous and more streamlined, nothing beats doing things the old-fashioned way. Looking for someone to spend some time with feels less meaningful when you go about it like you were ordering groceries or buying contact lens solution in bulk from Amazon. Dating doesn’t have to be something you do in front of a screen, and your first meeting with someone is one of the only times when a surprise is okay. Learning about another person is so much more effective when you enter the situation with a clean slate.
The great danger with the pre-date Instagram lurk is the fear of showing your hand. I’m all for having as much information as possible, but telling someone you just met how much you loved their pictures from Tulum three months ago only makes a slightly uncomfortable situation that much more awkward. Research of that nature is best left to job interviews and work presentations, not a casual Wednesday over middling tapas and sangria. Use this time to practice the dying art of meaningful human interaction. Let your date tell you about their magical Tulum trip. Discover through sparkling conversation and one more glass of wine that you were both at the same show two weeks ago. Talk about things like books, family, the Meacham Threesome from “House Of Cards” that you can’t stop thinking about, even though you watched it two months ago. The joy of getting to know someone in real life is discovering the things you do have in common together. That’s the best part of any date.
Besides, pre-date Instagram research sucks the air out of the post-date Instagram lurk, which is the best part of a good date. Rushing home after a great night and scrolling through someone else’s feed pairs nicely with the heady rush of infatuation, harkening back to the middle-school giddiness of learning everything you could about your crush. It provides you with endless Gchat fodder and analysis opportunities, and stokes the flame of something that could be great and most of all, real. Learning all these things beforehand ruins the rush. In dating, sometimes it’s best to loosen the reins and let fate take the wheel.