By Tyler Curry
Originally published on Advocate.com November 22 2013 7:00 AM ET
At the beginning of any romance, both parties usually attempt to place their best foot forward. The effort to dazzle a dinner mate often leads to witty banter, talk about dreams of a family, or sharing excellent taste in music. This all works if the blossoming relationship exists inside a vacuum. But in the era of drunken status updates, unwanted photo tags, and check-ins at the trashy bar you claim never to frequent, your best foot forward might already be covered in social media shit.
Admit it. If you didn’t already Facebook-stalk the man you're meeting for Friday night plans, you most definitely will afterward. The updates he posts, the photos he takes, and the statuses he likes have become equally as important as the words out of his mouth. During dinner, one of you may even sporadically reference an application on your iPhone to illustrate a story you’re telling or to give a visual of your best friend, who is just too fabulous to describe in words. At face value, social media may seem like merely another tool to get to know a person. In reality, Facebook and Instagram portray a distorted, disjointed, and altogether imaginary version of ourselves.
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 taken multiple pictures 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.
Before you even sit down to dinner, the vision of your perfect children and exotic honeymoon to Bora Bora is already swimming around your brain. The problem with falling in love with someone’s two-dimensional depiction of their profile is that you never know what lies beyond their 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 rare occasions when you meet someone using an archaic style of interaction — in person. He made you laugh, he was charming, and you left dinner a little intrigued. But you just couldn’t wait until he returned from his work trip, so you decided to perform a harmless Internet search. Some guys are just not very photogenic. Suddenly you’re questioning the real connection you had because you are having trouble picturing your wedding photos together. Or maybe his statuses 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 date with his social media profile left you unsure if you’ll accept the next dinner invitation.
These are just a few examples of how social media has hijacked so many would-be relationships — online profiles, new “friends,” and unwanted notifications can also cause 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 a former flame. Suddenly you have burbling feelings of jealousy all because of some stale images of times long ago. You are his present, but social media has you living in his past.
The truth is, 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 piecing apart their Facebook caricature.
The Cliff’s Notes of a person’s life will never give you an accurate representation. We create the image we want to convey through our online media addictions. It’s much easier to convey the reality we want to portray on the Internet than to live it in real life.
My own Facebook portrays a character, but the real thing is surely more complex. It would be easy to choose our boyfriends and husband based on our social media compatibility. Unfortunately, the longevity of such matchmaking would be about as good as your iPhone battery life.
Sure, social media profiles can be used as 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 content required to answer all the right questions.
When it comes to dating and mating, sometimes it helps to unplug in order to connect.
TYLER CURRY created the Needle Prick Project as an editorial and visual campaign to elicit a candid and open conversation on what it means to be HIV-positive today. To learn more about the Needle Prick Project, visit Facebook.com/getpricked or follow Tyler Curry on Facebook or Twitter at @iamtylercurry.