Friday, January 21, 2011

Love in the Digital Age

Humanity has come a long way. From the invention of the wheel, fire, and gunpowder, we have progressed to a point where you can buy anything from toothpaste to automobiles on the internet. If you are interested in learning how to skin a moose, there are plenty of videos on YouTube. This has me wondering why people are so taken back by the fact that you can find your life partner on the internet?

I don't think the act of finding someone online is what is actually frowned upon. The issue cuts much deeper. In fact, I would venture that the root of the problem begins with the Achilles heel of our society, small talk. We can't get away from it. Much like compromise, small talk is a situation in which no one really wins. Neither side wants any piece of the conversation, yet both sides are more engaged than they would in any organic conversation. There are certain conventions and customs that must not be broken.

Just for a moment imagine you've met someone online. Really, no one has to know this right? I mean, you're together, in person, not on the internet. Most importantly, you are happy. And you should be, you were compatible on 37 out 40 dimensions.
You now find yourself at a couples dinner party. You didn't want to go, but your friend insists. "Bring the new girlfriend", he says. "Oh, and you've really got to meet Ted and Sarah".

You should of guessed the night was off to a bad start right from the beginning. You ring the door bell and someone you presume to be Ted opens the door. Instantly you are put off by his grin and lack of footwear. Why the fuck is Ted barefoot at a dinner party? Now you are asked to take off your shoes. You wouldn't want to upset the feng shui of the apartment.

You're seated at a table that you can only assume with 97% certain was purchased at IKEA. The wine, Trader Joes. The roast looks like it was made by someone who watches Top Chef. No one that knows how to cook watches Top Chef.

You remember why you hate meeting new people.

"What did you study in school?"

"Do you enjoy what you do?"

"Have you seen the documentary about micro-loans in South East Asia?...Quite an industrious people they are... Yes, it's on PBS"

Nothing like bottled questions to liven up an evening. All smiles, no substance.

You smile and nod politely. In turn they inform you that everything you have told them was interesting.

"Really? Were you that intrigued by the fact I studied History in college?"

Truthfully, you would both much rather like to express that you spent 4 days a week inebriated, finding new ways to make Ramen. But this is small talk.

Small talk is a lot like Fight Club. And just like Fight Club, there are rules to small talk. Sadly, the first rule of small talk is not the same as the first rule of Fight Club. Small talk is very real. And you must remember the first rule, you can never tell the truth. Especially the whole truth.

And then it happens.

"So where did you meet?" inquires one of the guests.

It's out of your control. You are taken back. The jig is up. You get that familiar feeling you had as a child. The kind of feeling you get after your parents catch you lying.

You reply, "what do you mean?"

You know what's happening. But you don't want to upset the false sense of enjoyment that has been meticulously built through an hour of pointless banter and opining about the state of our nation's health care system.

"Come on, where did you guys meet?" adds another.

And here in lies the dilemma facing every eHarmony user on the planet. You're happy. Until the moment you are forced to unveil the shocking truth.

It's one of those moments you have prepared for all day. You know it was coming. You have some bullshit story about the dog park. Maybe the local Starbucks. Something.

You've recited it in your head. You are ready. You'd done the fire drill hundreds of times. But nothing compares to the real thing. The smoke, the heat.

Panic. The alarm was buzzing. You can't see more than 3 feet in front of you. You have to think fast. Social conventions depended on it.

And yet, all you mumble is, "online".

Better luck next time, stumble bum.

You broke the rules. You were honest during small talk.

Too honest.

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