I was at Starbucks this morning when I heard a conversation that sums up communication today. It was like something straight out of the movie He's Just Not That Into You. A girl and guy were sitting at the table next to me dissecting the events of the night before. He interrupted her droning and cut to the chase: "Did he get your number?" She defensively, but excitedly, replied "no, but he asked if I'm on Facebook." What?! Now granted, I've been out of the dating world for several years now. But I think that if at the end of what I perceived to be a great night a guy just asked me if I was on Facebook, I'd be seriously insulted. To me this means "You're alright, and if I don't find someone else I like better tonight I'll check you out online and click through your friends and your pictures before I make any decisions." Another possibility is that he's going to "fish" on Facebook by putting out feelers to a couple of girls and seeing who bites (read: "you're alright, but let me see if Alexis – who is way out of my league – replies to my post first"). It could also mean that he's not interested and it's easier to reject me online where I'm one of his generic 877 "friends" than here in person.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for social networking online. If I was single, I would be all over eHarmony. In fact, my husband and I joke that their commercials are so tempting that even though we're happily married we'd still love to try out their site just out of curiosity to see who they'd pair us with. I think of it more as an assessment of my personality than actually making a match. "What do you mean I need someone with a stable personality who is exceptionally patient and hard to provoke?"
I also love Facebook. It's great for keeping in touch without too much commitment (like texting, only free!). For me, it replaces the dreaded class reunion. Who needs to work out like an Olympic athlete for months and spend a small fortune on a flattering outfit to find out what your old classmates are up to when you can stalk them online?
It's also great for wimps like me, who want to keep in touch but are way too afraid of awkwardness or rejection to actually call someone up that we haven't talked to in years. Or also for people like me, who are really bad about keeping in touch and wait so long that it gets to the uncomfortable stage where you're not sure if the person will either a) remember you or b) be angry with you for staying out of touch for so long. Facebook is a great way to test the waters. Drop a quick, friendly, casual "Hey, how are you, hope you're doing well, would love to catch up…" and then wait nervously to see if there is ever a reply.
Just tonight in fact I have taken on two such contacts. The first is a former friend from high school. I would even go so far as to say this guy was at points my best friend. We kept in touch through the first few years of college but drifted apart later on. A few months ago I had dinner with a mutual friend and we reminisced on the fun times. Gosh, I thought. It's probably been seven years since I last talked to him (insert cliché about how time flies). I don't even know if he's still in the country. So naturally, I friended him on Facebook. He accepted my friend request but neither of us ever sent a note or even posted a "hi". Last night as I was ironing my work clothes for the week, I hit play on my alarm clock CD player to fill the silence. The room filled with the best 80's music ever made. This was the CD that made me believe that I do in fact love 80's music. The CD he had made me senior year of high school, after my protests that 80's music was all techno and no talent. The memories flooded back like a collage of the highlights of my high school life, set to the soundtrack of legends like U2 and Tom Petty. How, I thought, have I lost touch with someone that I was once so close with? That knew me so well? So tonight I wrote him a note on Facebook, reread it five times, stressed over tone and word choice, and hit send. I really hope he writes me back. And if he doesn't, I can just pretend that he doesn't check his Facebook anymore.
The second contact tonight was a former roommate from college. We met freshman year and were good friends through college, including roommates in my first apartment junior year. We've shared a lot, including a home for a year, and still I've managed to lose touch. This one is probably on me, which I am very aware of and feel very guilty about. She moved out of state but still called and emailed, as well as meeting me for dinner whenever she was in town. And somehow even that was too much for me to keep up with and she called and emailed less and less, I assume feeling that the communication was too one sided, and now I haven't talked to her in a year. God bless Facebook for the reminder that today is her birthday. So after not talking for a year, I posted a quick "happy birthday, hope things are swell, would love to catch up" on her wall. I hope she understands that's code for "sorry I'm an idiot, I really do want to be your friend, please give me another shot to not be a loser." Again, we'll wait to see what happens.
So in summary, I feel sorry for the girl at Starbucks. Because if the guy was really that interested, he would have gotten her number. This sounds horribly old-fashioned considering I'm only 26 but I'm glad that I didn't have to contend with Facebook while dating. There were enough other ways to misinterpret a guy's comments and actions and enough other ways to torture yourself wondering if he was interested. But as much as I might rant about how texting and Facebook have been the downfall of quality relationships, I secretly love and respect the latter. After all, as much as I use it as a crutch to keep in touch, my communication probably wouldn't stand on its own without it. And at the end of the day I'll salute anything that lets you get all of the dirt for free, without any of the small talk, and in the comfort of your own home in your sweats with a container of Ben & Jerry's.