Up Close and Personals

We were at a party. Neither of us knew very many people there. Over canapes and the white wine, we got to talking.

She was a straight, late 30’s musician/secretary who has immersed herself in Lava Life, the online dating network.

I’m doing it my way. she said. I’m using it to expand my network. You have to be disciplined. I check my Lava Life mail once a week. I delete all the innapropriate ones immediately.

Like many straight female users of social networking I’ve met, she was open, unabashed, and very pragmatic. I’m. Open. To. Anything. she said. I. Might. Not. Feel. Attracted. To. A Guy. I. Meet. But who knows. I. Might. Fall. In. Love. With. His. Roommate. I laughed, charmed by her candour and kooky logic.

The queers are much more ambivalent. Indeed, we’d been invited to the party by a mutual friend who’d just started dating someone new. An aficionado of craigslist, she’d met this woman in real life, and was inordinately proud of it. There we were, in a roomful full of both of their friends and family. This. Feels. Much. More. Grounded. she confided to me. I. Never. Want. To. Go. Online. Again.

That’s the thing about online dating. You meet without the cushion of mutual friends, a shared hockey team, or a common community history.

But you do meet.

Like most online/offline lists of pros and cons, I don’t think it’s necessary to decide on either/or. I guess it’s about not letting real time encounters lose their lustre or their importance. People cross your path in so many unpredictable ways. Someone smiles at you across a crowded party, or eyes you in a restaurant as both of you wait, awkwardly and self consciously, for your Vietnamese takeout. Someone messages you, sends you a flirtacious email.

What’s real? What isn’t? Online personals are a hybrid space…open and restrictive; vulnerable to surveillance, yet, also, a place, a village, a community of sorts… of seeing and being seen.

What do you think?

[I’ll get back to talking about food soon, very soon….]

3 Comments

  1. In online dating you are flying without a safety net which I find incredibly foolhardy and naive at this point in history. The risks are not worth it.

  2. I find online dating tiring because you have to spend weeks or even months ‘filtering’ the person which is something you have probably unconsciously done by the time you even start dating a ‘real-life’ person. I find it more useful for sex than love!

  3. Five years and going strong, I’d say online dating can have a lot of integrity. You write to each other. And write. Words are surprisingly revealing, in some ways moreso than first impressions and superficial quirks. Writing can slow the process down in an insta-culture. And chemistry can be revealed in words too, through the vision of thoughts, humour, shared politics, culture – even in cadence. When it’s right, the communities click too. Truth be told, even the food works beautifully (there, I tucked that in too… ). The biggest potential drawback – geography.

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