(This article originally appeared in the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix Online’s August 14, 2009 edition.)
I’m not mourning the death of the traditional dating experience quite yet, but I do see the heavy use of social media speeding it up.
Social media is now everywhere. Facebook boasts more than 250 million active users, and Oprah recently ushered Twitter into mainstream status. Is the heavy use of social media another death knell for traditional dating as we know it?
I think that the forces of texting, smart-phone use and social media addiction, combined with a wider cultural acceptance of “hooking up” (read: sexual encounters without the need for traditional relationships or intimacy), are making it much more difficult to really get to know someone in the way that the dating process did previously.
Although communication is light-speed and readily available, I don’t know that it helps us understand dating and mating any better. We’re talking a lot, but are we really saying much at all sometimes? For the daters that I talk with, it seems even harder to connect with someone in a meaningful way, now that we’re all wired, active and interconnected. Loneliness still festers, even if it’s digitally.
As evidenced by popular dating Web sites, like JDate, Match.com and eHarmony, we want to put on our very best face to prospective buyers. I think the same idea carries over to the use of social media, where that invisible electronic buffer allows us to show only those parts of us that we want others to see, and keep hidden the rest.
In some ways, revealing oneself on a social media site is more instantaneous and easier to do from behind a keyboard than in front of a live person.
But how much are we really revealing? Did the “archaic” dating process allow us the slow “meet and greet” process that social media simply excludes?
The mystery of getting to know one another as a time-honored process is simply too lengthy and too time-consuming. For many formerly “traditional” daters, going on a date with a guy or girl is simply outmoded, considering that they can communicate directly with them in 140 characters or less. Why spend the money and time on dinner and a movie when we could be getting to know someone online in a more efficient manner?
The evolution of the Internet and social media forecasts some very interesting changes happening with the way that we date and create relationships. I hope we can still take the time out to get to know people the way we used to in the past. In more than 140 characters.
Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC, is a counselor for men and couples who practices in Phoenix. Call 602-309-0568 to set up an appointment, or visit phoenixmenscounseling.com for more information.