NAS: Dating and Social Media

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Linking up with Jen and Morgan!

Our lives tend to revolve around social media and knowing what’s happening in everyone’s lives. How has this affected your life? In your experience, has social media made dating easier? Harder? (Ex: not judging something you see about the guy you’re dating on Twitter/FB)

Fun, probably helpful hypothesis to start us off:

A greater percentage of the guys in the dating pool for young, single Catholic and Christian women have minimal, if any, social media presence/activity than the percentage of young, dateable men at large do. And this will make dating and living out an intentional relationship easier. In the admittedly small sample size of my dating past, I have mainly encountered:

–         “I don’t have Facebook (or Instagram or Twitter or whatever).”

–         “I hardly use FB, Twitter, Instagram or whatever.”

–         “Whether we are FB friends or not is a good indicator of where you stand.”

First, let me unpack that last statement. It is only from hindsight that I can tell you that if a guy you are dating (but not “official”) is on Facebook and does not request you or does not provide a climate in which you feel it okay to request him, then he is very likely not that serious about you. I was with a guy for three months who was on it, used it occasionally, but he never requested me, and I stupidly thought “Oh, we’re above that. We don’t need it.” Actually, it turns out, I did need it. A “need” not because I wanted to show everyone on my feed that I was finally in a relationship, but a need because if you are in relationship with someone, serious about discerning with them, and proud to be with them and unashamed about what they might see on your profile, then a declaration (after friendship) of “in a relationship” is a strong signal of one’s intentions and commitment to the other. In Ex’s breakup speech to me, he even cited that the fact we were not even friends should have been a sign all was not that great between us.

When guys hardly use social media, ignorance really is bliss. You have no idea if Mr. Last Saturday’s and Next Sunday’s Date is out, possibly with someone else. You won’t feel uncomfortable if your boyfriend says something really stupid or hotheaded that you’ll then have to explain to your family and friends. The guy who hardly uses social media typically likes to live life and be present. He also has strength and perspective so as to be above minute social drama. In not caring about trivial things, his heart can care about the more important things—hopefully you! (Note: if his lack of activity worries you, don’t consent to such fears. Simply talk to him and pray for trust.)

And the guy who never uses social media…well, while you don’t get the modern age’s version of love letters with a special Tweet or Vine from afar (if long distance), you do get a guy who might have a lot going on (hobbies and solid friendships are good and healthy). Or you might have a guy who sends actual, honest to goodness love letters, makes quality phone calls, and maybe even Skype chats. I’d only be wary if he isn’t online because has no connections outside of you (because social media can be a good way to keep in touch with others); tries to control your (appropriate) online behavior because he isn’t on it to monitor it; or doesn’t want to be held accountable because he knows he’d only use it for ill.

In other respects, dating in our online world can be hard, especially when you are privy to the profiles and presence of guy friends and “friends” (like, the regular Joe you talk to at Bible study or some such). You’re not dating him, but you might want to. You did go on dates, and while you can see you make better friends than discerning marriage partners, it still stings. This happened to me a few years ago. I was trying to get over a guy, saw on FB he was “out, out, out” and I wondered aloud “with who, who, who,” and then saw that same night a post on the wall of some new girl in our Bible Study about how she’d met someone, and I jumped to the conclusion the guy was out with her because previously he’d given her a ride to and discussed mutual love of a certain holiday and certain theme park. My progress in transitioning from date to authentic friend was set back because it was all TMI.

The moral of that story is not how it ended—he entered religious discernment for a while, left after temporary vows and gets married next month! (with God’s grace we are friends, but in a different way). And the woman met someone a couple years ago, got married, and is expecting a daughter in time for their first anniversary! No, the moral is that if I don’t practice emotional chastity and restraint with social media consumption, I can fall into negative thought patterns that seek to destroy, not build up, the relationships God wants me to have.

Now what about the guys who do post often? Well, I know a couple, and they fall into one of three categories: “here’s something funny, something religious, or something funny and religious;” “see how much I love my girlfriend;” and very rarely in my Catholic community, “I’m saying something stupid, hotheaded, or scandalous.” It’s very simple: don’t date the last guys and don’t look at their stuff. As cute or funny as they may be, if you don’t like how they are online now, it will only be a source of tension in a relationship with them. For the other types of posters, use this topic as a springboard for communication. Marriage, I hear, is essentially constant communication about everything. So get some practice now: how much usage is okay, what is okay to post, can I get veto power over certain posts, are either of us hiding things, are either of us sharing to much, are any of our actions making the other uncomfortable?

Social media doesn’t have to make dating harder. In fact, it can make it easier—there have been marriages made between forum posters, blog commenters, and I think even Instagram. But emotional chastity and emotional virtue (check out Sarah Swafford!) are the key to keeping social media and a dating life in check.

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