When social media confuses the dating game

You’ll never guess the gender of this overheard conversation. When men obsess like women and vice versa . 

It’s 10.00am on a Saturday. I’m sitting in a waterside cafe ingesting my first caffeine of the day. Next to me sit two people in Lycra with a residual sweat around the hairline from recently completed exercise. They are eating vanilla almond white chocolate cake and drinking lattes.

“I don’t mind eating this kind of cake after exercise as I know I’ll just burn it off” says the first taking a photo of the three layered gateaux with custard crust and posting it on social media.

“This is my new infatuation” says the other one, handing over their smart phone to the other to peruse.  “They’re a Scorpio so they’re highly physical in the bedroom. Kiwi, which is great because that means they’re straight up, no game playing.”

“Uh huh” says the first, adding a filter to make the cake look better.

“I liked three of their posts on Facebook but I’m not going to over like, I’ve moved on from that” continues the second. “It’s funny how if you chase them and they like you they think you’re romantic but if they don’t like you they think you’re a stalker.”

Are you a stalker?” asks the first looking up from the smart phone.

“No, I’m a romantic but I’ve been accused of being a stalker. Anyway, here’s a pic on Instagram, not sure who the child is, could be a nephew, but it could be theirs, what do you think?”

“I have no way of telling without a birth certificate and a blood test” says the other. Actually, I said that, in my eavesdropping head. But you get the gist of the conversation.

The two men, yes they are men, in bicycle Lycra having finished a long cycle that morning (though if you burned calories jumping to conclusions then these two could have eaten five slices of cake and ditched the ride) are in their late thirties and I am disappointed when they leave.

Their conversation provided a real insight into today’s modern dating dilemma. Ok, a definite insight into one person’s social media dating dilemma and obsession over star signs but an intriguing breakfast soundtrack none the less.

Though in my stereotypical gender bias I was shocked to hear a guy talking like this. Do men really obsess over this stuff? To say otherwise is to deny them vulnerability, the human factor that connects all of us, and to say ‘men’ as though every male is the same is just asking for trouble.

For some, dating, thanks to the internet, has never been more complex with a whole new list of social media rules and etiquette to angst over. For others it’s as simple as swipe left or right on Tinder.

Trouble is for my breakfast mate in Lycra he’s making judgements, valuations and decisions based on a social media profile rather than going straight to the source, he’s buying into what he sees (who honestly tags bad photos of themselves?) and perceiving it from his own internal beliefs that have him either looking for love or looking for rejection then building a whole fantasy life of the other person in his head.

What a waste of the average 42 minutes spent on Facebook each day by users – though to be fare the internet does have it’s dating purposes, more than 43% of singles have Googled someone before a first date presumably to ensure they have no prior murder charges.

Though this got me to self googling or ‘ego surfing’ and while I knew I hadn’t murdered anyone (yet) if you bought into everything you read about me online then you’d either be pretty disappointed when you met me or approach with caution and a straight jacket. But both are wrong.

Here’s a tip, don’t overthink it.

If you’re counting the number of likes you’re making on Facebook then chances are there’s not much to like about real life right now. If they like you, they won’t care how many likes you post and if they don’t they wouldn’t have accepted you as a friend in the first place. And that’s like by the way, not love, if that comes then it comes later, just in case Lycra man gets the wrong idea, again.

Lord knows the pressure for the ‘perfect relationship’ has been increased by a world of selfies and public displays of affection of the viral kind.

You can’t just propose you now have to do it with a flash mob, a lip sync, a choreographed group of friends all with smart phones, gopros and action cams videoing every moment so a whole world of strangers can view it later. When did life become a movie for others to watch?

There’s now companies to arrange your marriage proposal within an inch of it’s Instagram life, lest the male (or female) dare to do something simply heart felt and private to the love of their life. It’s as bad as the classic engagement ring question – show us your rock, a.k.a how much did he spend on you? Or worse, when you start dating someone that age old question ‘what does he do?’

He makes me happy, that’s what he does.

And for every public hook up there’s a public break up with people that should know better posting pics of other people who should have known better than to pose in the first place, others sharing positive STD results of ex partners online and the guy who crowd funded so he could spy on his girlfriend’s girls weekend in Miami.

Breakups work for Facebook though. When users switch from a relationship to single on their online status they are met with a 225 percent increase in interactions on their page. Go figure. Even New York Magazine has dedicated pages to ‘winning the break up in the age of instagram’ as if heartbreak is a competition.

Don’t get me wrong, social media has played an incredible part in support and connection in my life and the lives of others I know (and yes I also need it for work like this), Facebook in particular is also a great way to stay in touch with those you’d like to see in person but for reasons of geography can’t. Used well and it enhances your life.

But there’s still a lot, scratch that, there’s everything to be said for real human connection, face to face, breathing the same air in the same space. A space where all the senses feed your positive intuition not just a random set of images feeding your fear (if you’re Lycra man).

Surely that still deserves a ‘like’.

This post has been published on the Huffington Post

NB. Identifying features of the two men in question have been changed to protect the innocent but the conversation remains the same.

Speaker of ElephantTruths, teller of ElephantTales. Author, writer, journalist, blogger, producer, humorist.

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