The Claudias and I were talking the other day over a lovely bottle of vinho verde. As the summer sun warmed our faces, we swaped stories of life’s recent highlights. As these conversations go, travel, food, work and fun certainly rank among our favorite conversation topics. But without fail, we always return to that time-honored analysis of the opposite sex.This naturally leads to dating, which may forever confuse us all. One woman had finally come to grips with the fact that he was NEVER going to leave his wife – ever. Another was mending a broken heart, as her sweetie had decided to relocate – and not take her with him. Still another, years after standing proudly in Singledom following a complicated divorce, had decided to enter the dating world again. For my part, I had decided to part ways with Paul after picking up far to many signals that he wasn’t that into me and finally realizing I wasn’t that into him either.
So there we were, slightly buzzed, cheeks pink from the sun, our voices rising as we lamented just how complicated the dating world had become. And much like a scene from a recent movie, when Drew Barrymore complains about how the technological aspects of romance were exhausting her, our conversation was saturated in perjorative mentions of Facebook, Twitter, texting and email.
How is it that this has become the de facto way to court and be courted? And yet, it’s true. Take, for example, non-committal Fred. He was terrified of being in a relationship because, for whatever reason, he wasn’t “ready” for one yet. Understandable and perfectly respectable. However, he had no problem to committing to sending perfectly inane emails day after day. Even when Claudia told him that, to her, an email did not a relationship make, she continued to receive messages from him. This would be fun and a nice way to get to know each other while still taking things slowly, except Fred’s emails consisted of things like, “just had an apple from the farmer’s market – wasn’t as good as I hoped,” or “the sun today is intense – lots of sunscreen for me.”
How is it that this pseudo relationship had boiled itself down to a series of status updates? And how is it that poor Fred thought that was actually a means of connecting? By the umpteenth useless email or text from Fred, Claudia had had it. She simply stopped responding, and Fred eventually got the picture. It wasn’t Claudia’s proudest moment, but how do you reach someone who has clearly no ability to connect on a personal level?
It’s not all Fred’s fault, though. I heard from one Claudia that her main squeeze had become so into Twitter that when he broke up with her – OVER EMAIL – the entire Dear John letter was just shy of 140 characters! It barely made sense, but Claudia was clear that courtship was finished. Or what about Keith, who texted “miss u babe – talk later” to someone else while he was out with my friend? Stupidly, he sent it to my friend by accident. One friend has never actually talked to her boyfriend on the phone – they only text. How about the moron who invited a gal to be his Facebook friend; while he had neglected to tell her about his girlfriend the night before, she was able to learn he was “in a relationship” as soon as they e-connected. And while less-than-confident guys are hiding behind these tools as a way to still be in touch, ultra-paranoid girls have been known to cyber-stalk their suitors. They’ll figure out what bands a gentleman likes, where he’s been on vacation and try to determine if he’s dating others — all in a few keystrokes. Even worse, there are people who are perfectly comfortable conducting their relationship via these applications. How often have you read one person’s passive-aggressive G-chat status (“sigh”), only to later read his S.O.’s equally obtuse Facebook post (“where do broken hearts go?”) to realize there’s trouble in paradise?
Anyone who knows me understands that I’m a huge proponent of experimenting with all of the new, fun technical applications out there. But none of these tools can become a replacement to human interaction, especially when you’re trying to form an intimate bond with someone. Abusing the information available to you is futile – you’re either going to connect with this person or not. But, like the Claudias and I were saying, you’ll never be able to test that chemistry if you’re getting status updates from Fred. We’re thrilled that he “likes gelato – yum” but really need to know if he likes us.