Friday, January 21, 2011

Internet profiling of potential partners?

I took a break from working at home today and thought I should change the atmosphere a little by going down to a pub I haven’t visited in a while. They have good music, good tea and a wireless connection, enough to motivate me to take my laptop out into the world. Enough for me to figure my machine lacks the software to hook up to the wireless network… and to get it I need to download it off the internet, so you can see my dilemma right now.

Looking around at the people sitting at other tables, I see two types of couples: human plus human and human plus laptop. In the very room I have set up my working spot, there’s only one table occupied by a chatting couple and three other tables, mine included, each with one person and one laptop. How dependent have we become of the internet and why do we allow it to own such a great deal of importance in our social lives? Good old fashioned letters have been replaced by e-mails or messenger programs, books have been replaced by pdf files and our whole identities fit into a Facebook profile. We upload good looking pictures of ourselves, we search for like-minded people through the web, we flirt through on or offline messages. I agree that the internet speeds up communication and earns us a great deal of time, but when have we become so time deprived as to give up the ‘personal touch’?

Most of my friends (I can only think of two who don’t fit the description) are hooked to online social networking. If they fall for a guy they know close to nothing about, before even considering going out with the person for a talk that they can learn more from, they log onto Facebook and start stalking their potential date-to-be. They see if he has any relationship status out there, any pictures involving other women, any shirtless pictures for body-evaluation, common acquaintances or wall posts one can relate to. After doing that and sticking many labels, they evaluate whether the guy is a “good catch” or not. How relevant is internet stalking to a potential relationship, and is it really time-efficient or rather a complete waste of time? Why do we choose to do this first rather than request a date?

First of all, every person setting up a profile is actually designing a more or less accurate mask to hide behind, a more or less relevant image behind which they feel safe to communicate. Relying so much on what a profile has to show us is settling for just a tiny part of the big picture. Obviously, the profiles will have information on education and hobbies, but they won’t tell you how that person is handling their college or job, they don’t have a “defect" section for one to list all their bad habits, all in all, they can’t really sketch an image accurate enough for “potential-partner evaluation”. But instead of most people acknowledging this, they keep on stalking and drawing conclusions that might find themselves far from the truth.

We can understand why people build up these profiles, since they are safe images to hide behind, and if done right can seem completely flawless, but why are others drawing conclusions based on internet profiles and not face-to-face profiling of the person? We want to be able to evaluate everything and even foresee how certain things will turn out. Fear of rejection and vulnerability is something we are all familiar with, and instead of risking to be turned down on a first date with somebody who seems interesting yet we don’t know enough about, we rather take a look on the internet, from the comfort of our own homes, safe to make whatever assumptions our mind might scorn up and safe to fill the gaps of information with our own desires. We think that this way we can prevent having unpleasant surprises or awkward moments of silence. We build up imaginary conversations in our heads with the person we imagine the profile would be. But once we come face to face with the one we have stalked online, things might turn out very different than expected. The immaculate guy we read has been studying at two universities might actually be a narrow-minded almost drop-out, struggling to count the great number of exams he still has to pass so as not to repeat the year once again, the talented artist could very well prove himself to be an arrogant asshole, the successful good looking lawyer might be an emotionally retarded guy, in a full time relationship with his job and with little or no interest at all in getting involved in anything else than that. Rigidly expecting a person to be what we imagine him or her from the little information the internet provides us is a straight way to disappointment.

We should always give real-life enough room to surprise us. Not all surprises will be pleasant, but even those that won’t be, will prove themselves good experiences to learn from. So, next time you find yourself staring with a brain-dead smile at somebody’s profile, think twice before gluing the labels and take the time to evaluate the lack of information for what it is: room for discovery, not blanks we must fill in and expect them to be as imagined. We mustn’t fear not knowing and not being able to predict everything about a person, but embrace the endless possibilities that are laid down before us. This way, when we do meet face to face with the guy or girl that has captured our interest, we will feel more inclined to let him or her unravel their identity, rather than ticking the checklist in our heads of what that person “is supposed to be”, according to us.

We wonder how stereotypes have lived on through so many years, even though individuality has been so largely promoted and each one of us manages to prove themselves unique in one way or another? Well, we have all contributed to this factor by settling for the little information that has been shoved in our faces instead of journeying deeper into the people around us. And that is one journey you can’t only accomplish online, or through what common acquaintances might have to say, since the subjectivity of others might not feed our own values. You gotta get yourself away from the computer, out of your home, meet the one you’re interested in, go out for a walk in the park or a beer in your local pub and talk, listen and observe the other’s non-verbal signals. Words are such a small part of communication, and the internet can’t provide for body language and genuine eye contact.

As I’m now preparing to leave with my machine-date, I look around in the same room. One couple at one table, 3 tables with loners such as myself at this time and yet another table with an interesting party of three: the girl, the guy and the laptop.


  1. I think we use the internet profiles to get a first idea of whether they are a big no-no or not. bad taste in music is a no-no and pictures with hoes and skanks are also a good clue. I'd never date a guy who has 3000 friends he doesn't know, who are all half-naked ladies. and as it recently turned out, these clues are better than what the live person actually tells you about himself...

  2. Taking that information up as clues is the right way to do so. But considering that the person is defined by his profile information and only that is also a big no-no, be it sparkly good stuff or misleading details. Cheers! ;)

  3. A laptop/internet can either be a tool used to enhance and expand your social experiences or a tool used to inhibit and warp them. The computer is my medium of choice when it comes to communication. I prefer e-mail to phone, letter or face-to-face conversation. It's the comfortable, clean, emotionless barrier it provides that makes me feel relaxed and safe. As you say, it's not easy to judge someone by their uniformed profile, type or pictures, and I enjoy that because it offers me extra privacy.

    However, it's through my laptop that I've been able to meet and make friends with people all over the world and not just in my backyard. It's through it that I've been able to visit other parts of the world, and meet those people in the flesh after knowing so little about them for the 2-6 years of online contact beforehand.

    That is a thrilling experience and one thing that I find really fascinating is to compare the offline identity to the online one. We tend to be more honest and less defensive online because we don't have to fear the repercussions of negative body language or awkward silence. But you're right too about the illusion we cast in micromanaging what we share of ourselves online.

    It's a good thing, I believe, to treat online experiences as 'trial runs' and to not take them too seriously. If someone says they love you online, it doesn't necessarily mean it'll be the same offline. If we all keep that in mind and adhere to not taking online communication literally and absolutely seriously, then I think the internet/laptops maintain their practicality without developing their own personality!

  4. Agreed, if viewed this way, it's a great tool. I also love the internet because it has helped me maintain long distance friendships. I also met wonderful people with whom I get along great, even after years and years.

    I'm just wondering why some of us find an emotionless barrier to be soothing. Emotions are part of who we are and if they're not expressed, they get repressed, which isn't really to our advantage.

    Thanks for the comment! :)

  5. I think we just love the idea that we can have a basic view of a person without having to compromise our position in any way. The reason, that I think, we enjoy being anonymous and emotionless on the internet is because we all have a sort of concept, a master plan if you will, of what we want to do and we each fear in our own way that if we were to actually add another foreign element into our lives (ie. another person) we'd just be shifting our own route through life.

    Personally I love the internet. It's anonymous but I can also meet new people but when the going gets tough I can retreat to my own little world, no harm, no foul.

  6. Exactly, Ancarius. The internet allows interaction to develop without emotional attachment that might cause trouble later and thus saves us having to adapt to that foreign element prematurely.

  7. Welcome to the blog, Ancarius! ;)
    The internet can be a good life saver and certainly a great private-life saver, but how long is that going to work for us? We can't keep getting so used to this "safety box" unless we wanna become Crazy Cat Ladies/Men (and here I'll add one picture that made me laugh out loud when I first saw it ) Life should be about getting yourself out there, experiencing it, learning from mistakes, conquering the world, defeating Sauron and such.

  8. Great post with some good comments :)

    I read this article ( ) before reading this post. Its about how emails and such have all but replaced good old letter writing.

    Without the internet I wouldnt have met the friends I have today. I cannot imagine being without the bonds of friendship that I have made through the emotionless barrier that is the net.

    Good link Foxy. You and Wildcatrem are the crazy ladies :-P Muahahahaha


  9. Is 21 cats/kittens enough to certify crazy catladyness? That's the most we've had in our house at once! Yes, nothing beats getting out and about but it's even better when we can share a smidge of that with people living 3000 miles away through photos, e-mails and blogs.

  10. Well...nobody says that life should be a one track set. I mean you can have the best of both. Meet new people from the comfort of your own home and go out and meet people.......preferably after seeing more than just a profile pick.......and get aquanted......and making sure they're not some demon bitch from hell sent to rule your life....waking up 20 years later paying alimony after 3 kids, 2 of which you're fairly certain aren't your. Having to resort to restraining orders. Damn you Latisha!

    I'm sorry. My mind wonders :p Any-hoo, I say go wherever the rainbow may take ya'.