Try and imagine a day in your life without the Internet.
You would never get five pointless messages on TUmail a day, never have to think of a clever song lyric to put up as an away message on AOL Instant Messenger and never have to worry about a prospective employer seeing that can of Natty Light you’re holding in your Facebook profile picture.
Life as a college student would be so different. We would actually have to hold photos or a digital camera in our hands to review the photos from that Saturday night we don’t remember, do real research in the Paley Stacks instead of googling something we need to know for class and we might have to communicate with people in the real world.
I guess this is why Internet dating has become so popular in recent years: the fear of rejection, of awkwardness, of uncomfortable situations can be diffused through a computer screen. It’s a haven for pedophiles, for the porn-addicted, and for those of us in the real world that just don’t have any game.
Web sites that were intended for other things, such as MySpace’s band networking and Craigslist’s job listings, have now evolved into dating hubs. Craigslist now has a personals section that in my opinion draws more attention than postings for garage sales or a job waitressing at a restaurant.
Have you ever tried to write a personal for yourself? My attempt at it probably wouldn’t draw in a lot of responses:
“Single white female seeks intelligent, funny, somewhat tall, somewhat chubby, single male with impeccable taste in music and literature who will wine and dine me. Must love animals, accept the fact that I clean and organize obsessively and be willing to watch the next season of Rock of Love. If this sounds like you, e-mail me.”
Even if there happens to be anyone in the Philadelphia area who meets that description, chances are that it wouldn’t work out anyway. What someone sounds like on paper and what someone is like in the flesh can be totally different, or not even begin to describe the ins and outs of the individual’s behavior. Hell, I have a hard time filling out the “About me” section of my Facebook profile.
This is why I questioned the motives of my coworker (who, for her own protection, I’ll refer to as Lindsey) who told me all about her Internet sexcapades during our long 10-hour shifts at work this summer.
Lindsey, a junior at a tiny private Christian college in the Midwest, chastised me and any other coworker who alluded to acts that would lead to execution in the Bible.
“I would never do that until I’m married!” she’d exclaim, and then scurry back to her station to sing along with “I Kissed a Girl.” As much as she’d fool herself into thinking otherwise, Lindsey was like the rest of us. She needed to be filled with more than just God’s love.
She plays different celebrities on MySpace, like Lauren Conrad, Ashlee Simpson and Angelina Jolie and lives new lives for them—complete with different “celebrity” boyfriends, who she engages in very enthusiastic cybersex with.
“Oh my word,” she’d say breathlessly as we worked away, “Jacob had me up all night last night! He was just being too sweet, I couldn’t resist.”
Lindsey’s real life and digital personas began to blend into each other as she spent more time being other people online than being herself in person. Isn’t that the whole point of dating or having any kind of relationship? To care for the other person no matter who he or she is?
The role playing that Lindsey partakes in, although a good way to release the tension built up by 22 years of living in a Mennonite household, is no substitute for the first love she lost; the love that she tries desperately to replace through guys who are just collages of photos and typed words.
The way I see it, online dating is the ultimate way to save face: no looking into someone’s eyes to break up with them, no faking an orgasm, no real connection to spend money and tears on. This “Information Age” that we find ourselves in may be convenient, but true friendship or a soul mate can’t be ordered via Amazon.
Maybe it’s time to leave the computer and go back out to the parties, the bars and the classes that make meeting such a grueling process. It might be annoying, but when it comes down to it, you can’t comfortably spoon with a laptop.
Libby Peck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.