For the love of (modern) dating and digital imprints
In this column submission, Fella Novianty writes about modern dating as well as how our digital imprints could impact the chance to find our significant other.
Words by Whiteboard Journal
Disclaimer: This is not a dating guide, I’m not in a way qualified to really have a trusted opinion about this, nor that I am a dating expert. Nonetheless, here goes my thoughts despite my absolute lack of experience.
When referring to modern dating, some of us may associate it with online dating, hence involving dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, and so forth; or some dating websites, e.g. Setipe.com (is this even still a thing? I don’t even know). But what I’m about to talk about is closely related as well to other means such as ta’aruf, perhaps. Hence the bracketed modern in the title. Ta’aruf – or whichever term they call it on the other side of the globe – has been around since the first Muslim civilization, as the only way that is actually encouraged within Islam.
Essentially, I’m referring to a way of finding a potential partner through something other than through mutual circles, where you and the other party may not have any acquaintance and/or circle in common. In short, where you both started as complete strangers. And particularly, in today’s world where almost everyone we personally know seems to have made certain trails on the internet.
As one of those people who regularly create some digital footprints all over the web, I was introduced to the internet, i.e. through my personal website (and some of my older blogs), Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Tumblr, and so forth – I mean, look at all the social media links I listed, and that’s just a tiny percentage of myself that are out there like an open book for anybody to study. I feel like it might be very daunting if I were to be someone who’s currently on the hunt for a significant other then came across and became interested in someone whose online presence resembles mine, with digital imprints from at least the past decade literally being spread across everywhere on the internet.
Imagine wanting to do a background check, in which the easiest way would be by scanning through all my social media accounts and other online means as well. Since my digital traces are endless streams of thoughts, opinions, moments, feelings, images, works, and everything else that witnessed (almost) everything that made me who I am today, how is this not an overwhelming job?
One might argue, it’s not something that you need to do overnight, you can absolutely do it while actually talking and hanging out in person with them. Eventually, it might be an enjoyable process to do overtime. Yes, I would definitely agree. But to imagine that after having a few weeks or months of all rainbows and butterflies, you may discover some truth about them that might cross a line somewhere for you… I would personally really hate that.
Logically, if you had a friend in common prior to that, they might be able to point out particular shortcomings and/or facts about them beforehand, so you could ensure that whatever traits this person has are not something that does not sit right with you personally. Therefore, if you’re the type who does not believe in “enjoying things while they last”, you could avoid wasting your time trying to work this relationship out when in fact, it could never do from the very beginning. Except, of course, you’re the type who willfully accepts the uncertainties that this may not work eventually and are already happy with going through the experience.
For instance, what if this person turns out to be a high school bully, based on something they posted explicitly on Facebook 10 years ago? (Also, they actually had the nerve to share it on Facebook?!) Sure, it happened a decade ago, and people changed over time. But we all make for ourselves a certain boundary that is never to be crossed by anybody else, especially if this person is currently on “trial” to be a potential someone that we’d perhaps share our remaining lifetime with. And that boundary would differ from person to person, no matter how trivial it might seem. To think that we might figure it out a bit too late, it’s just a bit of a bummer for me.
Meanwhile, some people who are more open to endless possibilities and feeling adventurous toward this kind of stuff might find this boring and monotonous, and that’s okay too. In fact, I do appreciate and even salute those who can manage with this whole dating-a-stranger avenue and create a lasting relationship through these mediums. While this approach has been very common in western culture for so long, as far as I know, it has only started to become popular in the last decade in the eastern side of the world and therefore not so many people here are used to it or even the idea of it.
Therefore, I respect my friends who are willing to get out of their comfort zone to meet someone through mutual circles only and allow themselves to be open and present in this relatively fresh way of meeting your potential significant other. This is by no means an easy process, although some seem to find it (and its corresponding challenges) interesting. After all, it has never been anything less than fun to hear their stories about their journey on navigating through their dating episodes with complete strangers.
I guess my conclusion is, I’m simply not built for this modern method of finding your other half, and therefore, I hope I won’t have to be back in this game of cupid, especially when it has evolved this much. On top of that, not only that rummaging through the web for someone to do a full background check on me might be an intimidating job to carry out due to the enormous amount of trashy content I dumped on the web, but also, I too – as a perfectionist – would have a problem having to digest all the information about particular someone thanks to the endless amount of digital footprints. Even if that person turns out to not have a digital track record whatsoever, which might seem to make this task a lot easier, but… Nope. What kind of sociopath does not have any online presence these days, especially not even a LinkedIn profile?
TL;DR – I’d be a horrible (online) dating candidate due to the enormous amount of digital footprints I intentionally dumped into the internet across all possible platforms throughout the years. I’d also suck at finding my other half through this medium because of my unhealthy perfectionism. Thus, kudos to all of you, especially those who were raised in an eastern culture household, who can keep up with this whole dating-a-stranger phenomenon and even create a lasting relationship through these mediums. It’s no easy task, as finding your soulmate in itself is never easy from the beginning, especially compared to the more conventional way of finding the one through a shared circle and so forth.