A blank white screen shines like a sad bat signal in my room. It calls to all single ladies sitting at home on a Friday night, wearing yoga pants and a sports bra that currently holds more crumbs than boobs. The cursor blinks, taunting me. I type out “Thinking of you” and insert smiley face emoji, kissy lips emoji, heart eyes emoji. My eyes dry out as I stare at the lame message, my thumb hovering over the send button. Instead of sending, I delete it and open my Facebook app. I’m not stalking, I swear. Stalking indicates a level of effort and commitment that can’t be fulfilled from the comfort of my couch. I’m just scrolling through his timeline and dissecting every post like I’m goddamned Sherlock Holmes of the Internet. I want to know if he’s actually got a life while I sit here eating mint Oreos and binge watching “Orange is the New Black.” Which, I’m not terribly mad at because, you know, cookies and Ruby Rose.
My mom always said there are plenty of fish in the sea, but I don’t want to meet a guy on the other side of the sea. I want someone accessible, so I narrow my search to the fish bowl that is Baton Rouge. It’s a big enough city to easily date outside of my family tree and small enough that I’m bound to run into someone I know when buying ice cream and vodka in my pjs at 3 a.m. To make the search easier, I turn to handy apps that have already categorized and sorted the men. I flip through photos like a deck of cards, easily staying detached thanks to the digital space between us. I look to online outlets to socialize, to plan events, to hook up, to spy into the lives of perfect strangers. I swipe. I tag. I check in. Does anyone still poke? Annnnd I’ll just leave that right there.
This is what dating has been reduced to—no serendipitous meetings, no phone calls. It is an awkward dance of social media flirting, vague invitations to “hang out” and misinterpreted text messages. If he sends “Wanna hang out?” I don’t know if I wear cute sweats to lounge on his couch and watch movies or if I need to shave my Miss America and slip into sexy unmentionables—that totally deserve a mention because they cost the same as my car note. How do I know what he means when there’s so much grey area and the only thing black and white are his words on my screen?
Social media has become the third person in most relationships–not in a cool experimental threesome kind of way, in more of an ankle-length-denim-skirt-wearing sister wife kind of way. These online outlets let us present ourselves in however we choose. And most of the time, it is not the most honest representation. We choose the most flattering photos and post the most interesting thoughts. No double chins, no back fat, no pictures of the kale chips we had for lunch. We only check-in at fun places. You never see: Refilling that antibiotic cream. LOL. — at Walgreen’s.
Dating has always been part of a game, but with modern technology, the game seems to be everything. We are afraid to put ourselves out there, to say (or type) the wrong thing, to appear too needy or too nerdy. In a world where we swipe left and right on people, I have to wonder where this is headed. In 10 years, will we be sitting home in our customized LifePod™ filled with the artificial scent of rain (because going outside is so 2016) while we dictate cryptic messages to a guy 1,200 miles away who may or may not be a cyborg while we order customized orgasms that are delivered like takeout. (If this happens, remember I called it. And I want my LifePod™ to smell like Chris Hemsworth. Thanks.)
The only way to change it, is to be the change. I totally stole that from Gandhi, and he was talking about world peace, but I doubt he’d be offended at using the philosophy to find your bae. Don’t be afraid to be genuine. Stop existing as reclusive assholes who only communicate through digital means. If you like someone, tell them. If you don’t, tell them that too. Don’t hide behind your phone with obscure messages and unanswered texts. Respect yourself and others enough to be honest about your love of canned cheese, your disdain for LSU football (gasp!), your Pokémon cosplay fetish, or your ability to fit your whole fist in your mouth (PSA: this party trick could attract the wrong kind of person).
As the credits roll on the last episode of OITNB, I type out my message and hit send. “I can promise you a good time and breakfast in the morning.”
He’ll be here in 20.