In the whirlwind of relationship status changes, prey-stalking and blow-offs on Facebook, one woman re-examines her virtual realities.
My mother always insisted that I was a flower–and, more specifically, a cynical flower. Awkwardly late to bloom and inherently suspicious of the opposite sex, I spent most of my adolescent leisure time on Neopets.com, rearing imaginary animals and wallowing in my flat-chested, teenaged sorrow. For me, the Internet was where I could socialize and be whoever I wanted at a safe distance. With puberty came the boys’ attention, but technology never lost its significance. With cell phone in hand and social networking at my key-boarding fingertips, I maintained the emotional distance and the boys became my cyber pets.
I remember the first time I experienced infatuation and interpreted it as love. His name was Jake, a shaggy-haired junior whose locker was only a few down from my own. Muted by my nerves, I convinced my best friend to give him my AOL screen name and he and I started chatting. He introduced me to new music, some of which he made using synthesizers on his computer. It wasn’t very good, but I adored him regardless. Hiding behind my shield on the World Wide Web, I never had the courage to ask for his number. Even worse were the painfully awkward encounters at school. Not only did we not speak, but my bashful eyes would not meet his. Existing only online, our friendship quickly fizzled out. He concluded that I was a creeper. I was devastated.
Two summers later, my father met his fiancée on eHarmony.com. My mother and her fiancée celebrated their fourth year together since meeting on Match.com. The Internet had evolved from a small social vessel to a full-blown love boat sailing through my life. At first, I resisted this. Why couldn’t they just go out and meet someone on their own? It seemed, well, pathetic. That is, until I discovered Facebook.
After carefully perfecting my profile, I conducted my first Facebook stalk on a co-worker I fancied, Brad. Brad was a dense boy, but his blue eyes and uncomfortable mannerisms won me over. Claiming that I wanted to pick up one of his work shifts via Facebook message, I asked for his number. His affections came in the form of text messages and drunken, late-night calls. My friends responded with cautious glares as I scrambled to my phone at every beep. Brad and I met at parties and engaged in make-out sessions in his car until he went away to college in August.
We stayed in touch via text and Facebook, only for him to transfer home the next year. Brad and I ended up dating for two years, making him my first boyfriend. I remember the surging excitement that ran through my digits as I changed my Facebook relationship status to “In a Relationship.” After all, a relationship is not official in my generation until it is “Facebook official.”
Just as it brought excitement and my desired attention, Facebook became an issue in our relationship. It was our personal CNN, offering constant updates on what the other was doing. I kept my concerns to myself, not wanting to smother my boyfriend. However, Brad could not practice the same self control. He began to question my pictures and the comments made by other boys. He’d ask who every person was and how I knew them. Needless to say, I was frustrated and confused. Most of my “friends” on Facebook were nearly strangers to me.
His jealousy eventually polluted the relationship to the point of destruction. As any other cruel college girl would do, I broke up with him on Thanksgiving. I’m not proud of it, but I logged onto Facebook immediately afterward to change my status to “Single.” This was important since I simply could not let him beat me to it. I also replaced my profile picture with one of me and a half-nude Chippendale’s dancer (an event he never knew I attended). With this, I dug my digital finger into his bullet wound.
It didn’t take long for me to recover and take interest in yet another co-worker. At this point I had found a job at a different restaurant, but the theme of co-worker crushing remained the same. His name was Chris, a metrosexual drummer with an excessively gelled fauxhawk that was spiky enough to pierce the skin. Our friendship developed much more naturally since we actually hung out in the real world before becoming Facebook “friends.” We texted occasionally, but conversed much more often in person both in and out of our workplace. This was a welcome change from my previous boy interests, and before I knew what hit me, I was in bed with him. He was only the second boy I had physically encountered (the first being Brad) so I had blurred expectations.
Chris left the very next morning for a three-month summer vacation. I did not receive one phone call, text or Facebook contact from him. Confused and hurt, I tried my best not to think about him or our encounter. Facebook made this especially difficult since it was all too easy to see what he was doing. Weeks later, his status updated to “In a Relationship.” He had found himself a girlfriend only weeks after intimacy with me. Ironically, I ran into him at the end of the summer at a Blink-182 concert. There, he introduced me to this girlfriend, and the reality set in. A familiar pain welled up inside of me and, once again, I was devastated.
At this point, my mentality changed. I knew that chivalry died long before I was even born, but I had thought sex held something of value. I realized then that this was not always the case. Sometimes sex was just for fun and I could take advantage of it just as many men do. My generation is one of gender equality both in and out of the bedroom and I had the means to embrace it. Once shy and slightly frightful of men, I became a sexually charged, man-eating robot.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Just because I have this mentality does not mean that I am not selective. As a matter of fact, I have developed a process for weeding out boys according to their Facebook profiles and textual nature, and it’s proven quite successful.
A boy’s textual nature is defined by his frequency of texts, language, and use of punctuation and smiley faces. For example, if a boy uses a lot of explanation points and smiley faces, he’s trying too hard. This is a turn-off. Asking me to send him a suggestive picture of myself is also a huge turn-off since I assume that he is a pervert. Brief, one-word responses or failure to answer a question a pose tells me that he is either not interested or incapable of carrying on a conversation. Also a turn-off. Repetitive, one-after-the-other texts make him seem compulsive. Not answering a text just angers me. All of the above are technological deal breakers. I know that I’m just one of many women who would feel this way: Texting is a lot like body language; it says a lot more than the words themselves.
Facebook profiles are just as important since they often serve as the boy’s resume. If I meet a boy in class or at a bar (or anywhere at all) and find him attractive, I look him up on Facebook. What girls used to learn about men over a series of dates can be found within minutes at a keyboard. His favorite music, movies, political and religious views, friends and birthday instantly appear on the screen. If we find something undesirable, we can just write him off and we’re done. Technology has made meeting men like shopping online. Chances are, you already know your size; all you have to do is find what you want.
In my case, I’m open to both extremes. If a relationship-worthy man comes along, I’m open to it. On the other hand, I’m also open to casual fun. My process has weeded out most candidates: Alex had potential, but still had pictures of him and his ex kissing on his Facebook. Will had pictures of himself gutting a deer–disgusting. Other Will was a club promoter who thought he was a pimp. Rich did not have a Facebook, but accidently sent me a dirty text intended for another girl. Kyle was too obsessed with his fraternity. Blake texted me too often. Eric was textually awkward. Other Erik was too conservative. Mike tried to make me feel guilty if I didn’t text him back right away. Rob just stopped texting me altogether, so maybe he found me to be textually awkward.
Some may call it shallow or close-minded, but this is a commonly practiced mating ritual in this technological age. Did my parents not weed out hundreds of matches on their dating websites before finding their fiancées? Why would I not use the oh-so-convenient Internet to find a mate of my own? Employers use the web for background checks of applicants, schools use it to monitor students, and men and women use it to learn about each other. It’s disenchanting and basically cheating, but technology and modern love share a mutually beneficial relationship.
As for me, I am now a fourth-year college student and still blissfully single and picky. I keep trying to delete my Facebook and get a new phone number for a fresh start, but I continue to relapse. My high school crush is now, ironically, better known as DJ Easy Jake Oven. Ex-boyfriend Brad works for a local bank, and Chris is still drumming away in a neighboring state. As for the rest of the boys, who cares? One may ask, how does she know all this? Well, my creepy stalker friend Facebook told me. It also told me who is pregnant, who is in a fight with their boyfriend, who’s engaged, has a headache, feels fat today, etc.