Guest blogger: the magnificent Elodin Pendragon, returns with another honest, real and hilarious account of his past experiences in the dating world. Thanks again Elodin for all your great tales. It’s good to know not just us girls face some amusing moments!
I'll be honest; I don't photograph well. It could be because of the inherent insecurity deep within my soul, or it might be due to my slimy, scaly skin and drooling visage. But I never like how I look in pictures. This is incredibly unfortunate because my wife loves taking pictures. Not likes, loves. LOVES. She has a top of the range phone which she wanted purely because of the camera. I look at it and think of all the technological potential and marvel at the geeky nerdish attributes it has. She sees an magnificent image capturing device that is also handy for texts, calls and stockpiling endless pictures of Pinterest ideas she'll never look at again.
Image is everything these days; we are the selfie generation. Profile pictures abound of "duckface" pouts, craned necks and cleavage close-ups displayed in a startling lack of self-awareness. And that’s just the men. Style trumps substance, baby. Especially whilst I Instagram my bowl of cereal using filters to make it look like nectar from heaven. Psychologists agree that we all subconsciously work hard to portray our desired self-image to others around us. This is certainly true in cyberspace. Just look at your Facebook profile pictures; we're our own personal spin doctors, untagging unflattering photos hoping they'll never be seen by our nearest and dearest. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; it’s just interesting how in today’s society, style and substance can often become confuse. It’s a question of perception; but let’s try to influence what others perceive.
Social media has inherently changed how we all do relationships. A cursory look through my Facebook friends list brings up a number of people I can't even remember, who somehow I've requested or accepted a 'friend request'. Now, I no longer need to speak to them because I can spend five voyeuristic minutes searching through their photos. Cue social self-righteousness or jealousy, depending on whether their life looks more interesting than mine. Maybe I’m the only one to judge from the external. But probably not.
I had a date that illustrating this scenario perfectly. You all know the drill. Online dating plus lovely picture plus not-psychotic profile equalled private message sent. This led to an exchange of rather witty messages and the inevitable friend request. She warned me she didn't use Facebook much but I still accepted and combed through the visual archive to see she didn’t have many pictures. Never mind, the ones she had looked great and she was good conversation; we arranged to meet for coffee.
Excitedly arriving to the rendezvous, I went inside. She wasn’t there. So I waited, dreading the possibility of being stood-up. Then she approached me. Well, someone kinda resembling her sorta shuffled over to me. My face probably betrayed my surprise; it’s not that it was a total stranger staring at me, but more someone without Photoshop, flattering light, Instagram filters or whatever can be done to make a self-portrait look an other-portrait. The rest of the date was filled with awkward silences and stilted conversation; suffice it to say that the witty banter seemed to only occur behind a keyboard. I was disappointed, but learned a lesson.
Now I'm not saying she was being deceptive; in dating, we are all wrestling with the personal marketing of self. Self-promotion is part of the key skillset when looking for love. But social media can certainly skew the lenses. When we hardly know someone and only interact on Facebook chat or Tinder (or for the dinosaurs amongst us, MSN Messenger, God rest it's soul) then the checks and balances of relationships can’t come into play. Namely, community opinion from friends and gut feelings. Most communication is actually non-verbal, don't you know? Remove observation, tone and body language to name but three, and it’s no wonder we hear about people falling in love and travelling across oceans in the name of internet-fuelled hope only to find reality and fantasy don’t always meet. Without the steady flow of observed information, we can’t learn about someone. So we go on what they tell us – or what our imagination fills in the blanks with. We all know that person who has a dreamboy/girl they are linked with, who is totally different to what any of their friends see. And if you don't know anyone like that, it could be you.
I'm not saying that internet dating is bad. I've got loads of friends who meet their now-spouse on it. But it seems like a shortcut sometimes; a shortcut that whilst it helps people meet other like-minded searchers of love, also boycotts important elements of research and protection. Shortcuts can save time but sacrifice quality. Is that true with online dating?
Having said that, the flipside is also true; social networking can help Virtual Sherlocks find out all they need to about potential dates before embarking on something time-consuming. Take my friend: a handsome guy with a wicked sense of humour and charisma to match. When he was younger, his email was something like email@example.com. I can’t speak from personal experience but I was concerned he was possibly overselling himself. But knowing his email would have given any potential date an insight into what they were dealing with: at the time, an immature mid 20s guy who still giggled at the word 'nipple.' But that might be what you are looking for. If so, feel free to email him (if it is still in use) and find out. I can promise you one thing: you'll be disappointed.
Check out more from Carrie at Her Glass Slipper.