ONCE upon a time, girl met boy.
Girl fell hopelessly in love with boy; they got married and lived happily ever after. After a lifetime diet of American rom-coms, this is what I had been led to believe actually happens in real life.
In my early twenties, I was safely sorted and on this road to fairytale romance with my secondary school sweetheart. Or so I thought.
I wasn’t even worried as it all came tumbling down. I was still in my twenties, so I had plenty of time to still meet Mr Right across a crowded room.
Fast forward a few years and the innocence of my fairytale daydreams seems so incredibly naive now. There’s a whole new world of dating games out there. I had foolishly thought that once I had escaped my teenage years, I could safely put games like spin the bottle to rest. But now I know that when you’re in your thirties, the games are still the same — it’s just the tools that have changed.
Facebook is quite often the focus of chats with my girlfriends, and unsurprisingly so. The world of social media has had a huge effect on many of our lives. But instead of technology making our lives easier, when it comes to dating, it has just made it even more complicated. I was okay with believing that all it took was to catch a bloke’s eye in a bar or at a party, or from across the street, and that instantly we would know it was meant to be. Even You’ve Got Mail, that cheesy movie with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan that introduced us to the possibilities of the web, had echoes of the romantic love letter. All was not lost. Romance was alive and well — it was just via the internet now, and not a drunken night in a pub.
Picture the scene today, however. You ‘check in’ on Facebook when you arrive at your Saturday night venue. A guy you’re still not too sure of, private messages (PMs) you in pigeon (text) English to ask if you are out for the night. If you reply, expect to see him five or seven pints later.
Not quite Meg and Tom, that’s for sure. Being newly single again last year, I had initially contemplated internet dating, but soon realised it was a waste of money when Facebook is free.
Who knew that changing your status from ‘In a Relationship’ to ‘Single’ would capture the attention of so many, so quickly?
I got a few cheeky, ‘Well hello!’ posts from some of the lads, which was to be expected. A friend of mine, single the same week, found her inbox suddenly inundated with date requests.
“I starting getting a load of private messages from guys asking me out,” explained Ruth, 33. “I even got messages from guys I wasn’t friends with on Facebook, which I thought was weird. But then I realised some of my friends had ‘liked’ my status and so then their friends could see it on their newsfeeds too. Also, you don’t have to be friends with someone to send them a private message.
“Of course I was really flattered that so many guys seemed to be interested but it was also a little creepy. Some of the messages were a bit rude and there were the usual cringey ones like ‘Did it hurt when you fell out of heaven?’. Yeuch.
“I didn’t respond to any of the messages. I actually did consider deleting my page cause I just thought the whole thing was weird, but instead I changed my privacy settings and I am very careful about what I post now.”
Shortly after I changed my own status, an old flame sent me a PM on Facebook. I had sent him a message months earlier (while still in a relationship) asking a work-related question, from which I got a one-line response. So I change my status and suddenly he’s interested?
A few PMs back and forth later resulted in me agreeing to a rather painful date and the realisation that he was an ‘ex’ for a reason.
But the whole thing made me discover the new dating tool: ‘checking-in’ on Facebook.
After the first contact, the PMs had continued for a month. I felt like I was taking part in the longest game of spin the bottle. In this game the little ‘Check-in’ icon was the bottle, and every weekend I was hoping that maybe it might stop spinning long enough for the two of us to be in the same location. Of course the anticipation was also fun. The chase is sometimes better than the actual catch.
But what I didn’t realise was that a relationship which starts on Facebook will probably stay on Facebook. We had our second fling, but now we are just FB friends again. In true Facebook dating form, using the phone for actually talking proved too much like work for him.
Call me old-fashioned, but what I find hard work is the new Facebook relationship. There are too many variables to consider — like how good the wi-fi is in the pub/club, who else knows you are online, ensuring the phone is fully charged/topped up before leaving the house, etc, etc.
Dating shouldn’t be such hard work and in theory meeting people on Facebook should be a safe bet. As most of the people you’re interacting with are either friends, or friends of friends, or people you knew in the past, and so there is a background there — you know a bit of their story.
Technology has made flirting and no-strings-attached flings easy. Gone are the days of having to talk to someone in a nightclub and taking their home phone number, and actually building up the courage to speak to them. Mobile phones and text messaging took care of that commitment. Now social media sites provide an extra barrier for commitment-phobes.
Communication online creates a distance which suits people who are only looking for a fling. So be warned: if the relationship doesn’t progress from Facebook pretty quickly, it is forever doomed to remain in the cyberspace of dating darkness.
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