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While the musings of Sex and the City seem timeless, the dating game has changed and I can’t quite keep up. With the prevalence of social media in the daily life of a metropolitan twenty-something, there are dozens of new ways to socialize and meet people, to flirt or, if you are game, have sex. So how has the game changed since the not-so-distant nineties? What are the new rules? And what has happened to the first-date?
MySpace started it. Of course this was not the first form of online social media around (who remembers Habbo Hotel?), but it was the first that grabbed the attention of my demographic. In the early 2000’s my peers (and I, ashamedly) were hooked. Tweens and teens groomed their profiles daily, uploading the early beginnings of today’s “selfie” and the coolest song of the time. We chatted daily on the site, and on Windows Messenger. Then Facebook hopped on the bandwagon, followed by Twitter, Tumblr, it goes on. These sites changed the way we interacted at an age where we weren’t thinking about the societal consequences. We got used to projecting a certain version of ourselves, through the culling of our ‘tagged photos’ to the hour-long edits before we post a ‘status update’. It gave us a whole new element of ourselves to be self-conscious about, and a whole new element to complicate the dating game for today’s twenty-somethings.
Twenty years ago (yes, the nineties were really that long ago) the exchange of a home phone number, and maybe a mobile number, were the only details that were needed. People called each other, actually spoke verbally to each other, went on dates to get to know each other. The big things to obsess over were how many dates you should wait to sleep with a guy, and did he sound like he likes me on the answering machine? There were rules to the game, dictated through magazines, movies, Sex & The City. How many days should you wait for the call from the guy you went out with on Saturday? More than one, less than four, day five lose all hope. Unless that guy is Mr Big. But what are the rules today?
While magazines still tell us what we should do and how we should act, there are no common sense guides to help decode whether a guy likes you or not. Common sense bows out to interpretations of how many of your profile pictures he ‘liked’, what the “smiling cat emoji” means in a text message, or what it means when he re-tweets you. Not even the basic ideas of technological validity, for example: if he doesn’t reply to your text message within 12 hours is he even interested? However, these are all dependent on you already being in contact with the person you’re pursuing facebook-stalking. What if you aren’t? All my romantic notions of a lovely guy asking me out at the bar over a martini are gone. In fact, I have begun to lose faith in the traditional idea of the “first date”, because it has turned into a technological peruse of someone’s Facebook timeline. The dinner dates I saw in Sex and the City just don’t happen as often as I thought they would in real life. In reality, after a few months of social media flirting a guy might ask you out for a coffee – and that is only if you don’t scare him off by putting an ‘x’ on the end of your Facebook inbox too soon.
I am well aware this may seem like the dramas associated with Serena Van der Woodsen on Gossip Girl, not an intelligent Melbournian – and yet, all of the examples I have referred to have been a source of stress for either myself or friends of mine. In addition, the majority of my friends are university educated and over the age of twenty. Although the matters of sexual-social-media-politics seem small in the grand scheme of dating at the moment, I can only imagine how the game will change in the next twenty years. So, I am embarking on an experiment. I will attempt to start some sort of fling/relationship/date using social media. The guy in question doesn’t know about this, and I genuinely like this guy so I hope to god I can make this work in some sort of fantastic Kate-Hudson-meets-Matthew-McConaughey-in-a-Hollywood-film type moment. Step 1: the friend request has already been confirmed on Facebook (yippee!), so I have embarked on Step 2: the casual-yet-flirty-perfectly-worded Facebook Inbox. Let’s see where this goes.