Happy Easter all, I hope your extended weekend was as religious / chocolate-y as you hoped it would be. Given that Easter weekend is synonymous with overindulgence and gluttony, I find myself reflecting on the fact that not only are we a nation of over eaters in the traditional sense, we are also overstuffed with… data. Yes, the humble PC has well and truly taken over our lives. Google has now become a verb. Londoners meet dates and partners online. We email colleagues rather than talk face-to-face, whether out of convenience or to have a trail of evidence that something was said or done, and we update our statuses rather than call our friends. Is this because we have so little time and a few hundred characters is easier than an hour-long conversation? Shopping online is often preferable to queuing up for hours, and we can have it delivered right to our location, without leaving the comfort of the armchair. News is online; so is access to anything and everything we want to know. Even sex is online – porn, chat rooms and fuckbuddy exchanges. My recent article on hope, happiness and self-belief at the click of a mouse still stands – it’s about opening yourself up to new experiences and possibilities. But I can’t help but wonder – are we going too far with the internet? We can have what we want, immediately. But what is this doing to us? The “I have to have it now” culture and learning all we want to (and more) instantly don’t fit too well with romance.
We have detailed questionnaires in which we grade our deepest personality traits and attitudes on a spectrum. These are then used to ascertain who we are compatible with ‘on the deepest levels’. Our bosses, rather than get to know us, email us links to psychometric testing which they say will enable them to understand individuals and, therefore, help the team to work more effectively together. I take umbrage at both of these data-generators for the same reason – they don’t always reveal the real me. Yes I may answer the questions truthfully, but that also depends on a) the pre-programmed response for every question, b) my mood when I answer it, and c) the intelligence of the questions themselves. Asking me how energised I feel when I give good and bad news to someone is pretty dumb to my mind, when they are two different things. So how can I answer in a way which tackles both aspects of the question?! Personally, I prefer good old-fashioned conversation over this electronic psychoanalysis any day. And I uphold my professional face at work, keeping my personal life very private (no-one needs to know I am attracted to my colleague as I will never allow anything to happen with him. Even if he knew I existed/was into me too.) So I utterly object to my manager knowing how I respond to fear and overcoming challenging situations. None of your sodding business.
It takes time to get to know someone. Dating, hanging out, having a laugh. Even discovering what you don’t have in common and what you clash on – all important factors in considering whether you could make it work with someone. And you can get on brilliantly online, but then be somewhat disappointed when you meet. I have come to the conclusion that the person you meet after chatting to them over the internet, is likely to be a disappointment. Reality is never as good as the fantasy. You form an idea of who and what they are in your head, based on characteristics you recognise in others, because you have not met them and do not know any better. So far it appears that guys think of me as a Jessica Rabbit-type, with Barbie’s proportions. They are disappointed when they discover that I actually come in high-definition 3D with surround sound. Yes boys, not only beauty and boobs but a BRAIN too. Who would have thought this was possible. (Mind you is this really surprising given the objectification of women in lads’ mags? But that’s another article). Therein lies the crux of the matter – you cannot fit the complexity of yourself into a box. Describing yourself online in order to attract dates is one of the biggest cases of miss-selling I have ever encountered. Before you ask, yes my profile is a wholly accurate description of myself. But describing myself as “a confident straight-talker with no interest in games or BS, who calls it like it is and goes after what I want. Looking for a spontaneous, fun cheeky decent guy who treats women with respect and isn’t afraid of a little honesty, intelligence or feist” seems to be off-putting to some, and a challenge to others. Whether a turn off or turn on, you can’t truly know until you meet the in-the-flesh person. Love is not maintained through virtual communication. Yes it helps bridge the gap when you are apart, but you need the person-to-person contact to be a real relationship. The fact that so many people are searching for ‘the one’ suggests to me that we all feel how deeply our lives have been cut off from reality and increasingly lived through social media. We are all looking for that something more than what we get from our friends, family and other social interactions. This is my theory, and perhaps somewhat stubbornly I’m sticking to it. I refuse to believe people are paying to join dating sites to just get laid – surely it would be cheaper to just go to a bar? It’s a recession, and so few people have spare cash to throw around. Ergo, they must be looking for something extra.
I’m not averse to computers. I find them extremely helpful. But only to a point – and then they become a hindrance. I find myself irritated that my last ‘liaison’ didn’t declare that he had a child on his profile. I learnt about her courtesy of his friend’s drunken outburst. Fair enough, one might think. It’s his life and his privacy. But when you’re happy to announce to the world your age, sexual orientation, religion, deepest fears and life dreams, keeping the existence of your child from prospective suitors seems an odd thing to do. Especially when there’s a box you can tick to state whether you have any. So why did he not man up and say he does? I totally respect his right to privacy. I didn’t tell him I knew, because a) he hadn’t told me and b) I didnt want to cause dramas between him and his friend. His mate joining us on the second date was not really what I had pictured when he called me about meeting again. Even so, I’m not a bitch. But why be so open and transparent about some things, but keep other important stuff secret? That said, him telling me that he wasn’t much of a drinker on our first date, then showing up to the second hungover, was a bit of a clue about this guy’s attitude to playing it straight.
When computers break down, there are a plethora of options available – not least being try to fix it yourself. But what should we do when relationships and communication (between people, not telephone systems) break down? I suppose there’s always email – or Facebook…