Hanna Howard Photographed by Sunny Shokrae. With online and app dating becoming just as standard as meeting someone in a bar, the Internet is practically a necessary third party in romance. So, imagine my surprise when I began dating someone in December with essentially no online presence.
His one footprint is a Facebook page sporting a years-old profile picture. I met James the old-fashioned way: I swiped right while drinking with friends.
After a successful first outing, I did what any young woman my age is wont to do — I Googled him. I consider myself a fairly skilled Google-er thanks, J-school! A first name, age, and current city or school is often more than enough for me to track someone down.
But, when I looked James up online, even after getting his last name, there was barely anything to be found. One of the only things I could dredge up was a mention in a college newspaper. Clearly, this was uncharted territory.
Despite his Tinder savvy, it turns out that James has almost no social media — not even a LinkedIn profile — mainly due to concerns about work conflicts. As a card-carrying millennial, I was shocked. After all, checking Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook is not only a daily activity, but an ongoing one.
My phone is rarely more than 10 feet from my body. When it comes to relationships, especially those that start online, social media often plays the important mutual friend role.
It answers questions like, "How does he act when I'm not around? For the most part, it seems to be helping us out. But, it has its downsides, too, like when you come across pictures of a date looking completely in love with their ex.
How many of us have looked longingly at an Instagram feed, wondering if we could ever really fit into that life? Our divergent social strategies meant that James and I connect to the world in fundamentally different ways. While I get my news from a variety of different sources each time my Twitter feed updates, he checks the Wall Street Journal or New York Times website when he has a rare free moment.
In some ways, it helps us avoid the dating pitfalls that everyone seems to bemoan, like couples who sit across the table from each other with both of their phones out — together, but not really.
Knowing that he has no mentions or Snapchats to check makes me more aware of my cell phone use. Not wanting to put up an iPhone-sized barrier between us, I am more likely to just put it away for the night if we are on a date. We never have any of the issues that some of my friends run into: When it comes down to it, the things we fight about are downright old-fashioned. Our arguments are about things like our work schedules and who stays over at whose apartment, things that are complicated enough without throwing social media into the mix.
But, spending time with James sans social media, I realize that putting away my phone or even the horror! Plus, since I can't check in on James online, I've decided to take a step back from doing the same with any of my exes, the sanity-saving benefits of which cannot be understated. As a bonus, our communication style got a little throwback. And, while it won't add to my Klout score, I'd take a call over a tweet any day.