At the beginning of a potential new romance, both parties usually make an attempt to put their best foot forward. In an effort to dazzle your dinner date, you usually focus on your dreams of a family, how witty you can be and your excellent taste in music. This would all be well and good if blossoming relationships existed inside a vacuum, but in this era of drunken status updates, unwanted photo tags and check-ins at the trashy bar that you claim not to frequent, your best foot forward might be covered in social-media shit.
Admit it: If you didn't already Facebook-stalk the man you've made Friday-night plans with, you most definitely will after the date. The updates that your new man posts, the photos that he takes and the status updates that he "likes" have become just as important as the words that come out of his mouth on the date. At dinner you may even sporadically pull up an app on your iPhone to illustrate the story you're telling or provide a visual of your best friend who is just too fabulous for words to describe. On their face, social media may seem like just another tool to get to know a person, but in reality, applications like Facebook and Instagram portray a distorted, disjointed and altogether imaginary version of the people we are.
There are many social-media offenses that can lead your senses astray when evaluating a potential mate. Maybe your new man has perfected the art of portraying himself as a lover of travel or has multiple pictures of himself carrying the cutest kids you've ever seen on his shoulders. It would be hard for anyone not to fall in love with this catalog husband on your computer screen. So before you even sit down to dinner, visions of your perfect children and your exotic honeymoon to Bora Bora are already swimming around your brain. The problem with falling in love with someone's two-dimensional Facebook profile is that you never know what lies beyond that sparkling smile in front of the Taj Mahal. After all, his photos might just be the most exciting thing about him. And why is he always traveling by himself?
Then there are those rare occasions where you meet someone through that archaic medium for interaction: in person. He is charming and makes you laugh, and you leave him excited to learn more. But you just can't wait until he returns from his work trip, so you decide to perform a harmless little Internet search on him, and like many attractive guys, he's just not very photogenic. All of a sudden you are questioning the real connection you had with him because you are having trouble picturing your wedding photos. Or maybe his status updates leave a little to be desired. Forget being witty in person; his interests utterly bore you. So even though your first impression of him was solid, your little date with his social-media presence leaves you second-guessing your connection. Suddenly you aren't so sure whether you will accept the dinner invitation.
These are just a couple of the numerous ways that social media can thwart would-be relationships. And needless to say, online profiles, new "friends" and unwanted notifications can also cause unnecessary problems once a relationship has begun. We have all been guilty of going through our current flavor du jour's photos only to see old pictures of his former flame. Suddenly you have burbling feelings of jealousy all because of some stale images from long ago. You are his present, but social media have you living in the past.
The truth is that the content and character of a possible love should be revealed in layers. The development of a fruitful relationship takes effort, and it is impossible to reach a level of depth with a person by meticulously parsing his Facebook self.
The CliffsNotes of a person's life will never give you an accurate representation of the reality. We create the image that we want to convey through our activity on social media. It's much easier to convey the "reality" that we want to portray on the Internet than to live it in real life. My own Facebook profile portrays a character; the real me is much more complex. It would be easy to choose a boyfriend or future husband based on information from his social-media presence, but the longevity of a relationship resulting from such matchmaking techniques would probably be about equal to your iPhone's battery life.
Sure, social media can provide supplemental reading when studying a person's qualifications as a potential plus-one, but you are wasting your time if you use things like Facebook and Instagram to learn about the content required to answer all the right questions.
When it comes to dating and mating, sometimes it helps to unplug in order to connect.