In the past few years I’ve come to understand a new set of unspoken rules around how we socially interact with each other. As we navigate communication in the digital age, there are more channels to chose from than ever before, but ironically, the less you engage with someone you’re interested in, the more power you possess.
Sending a direct Snapchat to someone raises eyebrows. Liking an Instagram someone uploaded a week previously is unheard of. And when it comes to dating, we are to act aloof. Don’t text first. Don’t put too many emojis. Definitely, definitely don’t call. There is a strange power in silence.
It’s the game of “who cares less,” and how you win is to not engage.
The more I play this game, the more I worry about it. If both parties are too good at this game, you run the risk of never seeing how the relationship could progress. If you wait an hour to text back, the conversation dies. And if you wait two weeks for him to call you — let’s face it — it will be years before your second date. This is exhausting.
I recently experienced the repercussions of this game first hand. During a four-month-long job placement in Los Angeles, I met Ryan on an online dating app. I was excited about him; he was funny, charming, and effortlessly handsome. We hit it off right away, and I left our first date with the impression that I would be seeing him again soon.
We were both overly successful at seeming casual and uninterested.
Since my location was temporary, all I had time for was something casual, and Ryan seemed to have the same intentions. With the careful help of my friends, I devised a plan to wait for him to text me first so I wouldn’t seem too eager. The date was a resounding success; we were all sure that I would hear from him before the weekend was over. Surely enough, the weekend turned into a full week, and when I did finally hear from him, communication was slow and sporadic. We were both overly successful at seeming casual and uninterested. Because of this, Ryan and I saw each other a grand total of four times before I left, and I left just as we were actually starting to get to know each other. We’d wasted four months waiting days to text back and only making plans a few hours in advance. A lost opportunity, an almost-something-great, left to expire as a mystery.
Things could have been very different if I had had the courage to let my guard down and express my intentions outwardly rather than with occasional passive Snapchats. It’s likely that he would have echoed my desire to keep things casual, and we could have explored something pretty awesome. But instead, we remained inside the comfortable confines of aloofness, completely safe and invulnerable. In the end, the only victory was that no one was hurt. Nothing lost, but certainly nothing gained.
Unfortunately, I think my story is all too familiar for anyone currently dating in the digital age. The fear of rejection is very real, and it drives many of our social behaviors. But if you give this fear all of the power, if you avoid your feelings altogether, you’ll never know what you’re sacrificing. Mysteriousness might be sexy, but the truth is, it’s hard to fall for someone you know almost nothing about.
Mysteriousness might be sexy, but the truth is, it’s hard to fall for someone you know almost nothing about.
In every area of our lives, if we can learn to embrace vulnerability instead of running from it, our relationships can become much more fruitful. Letting your guard down shows your humanness, makes you relatable, and allows other people to see you. In friendships, in romantic relationships, and even in families, it is much easier to love someone who is honest with themselves and with others about what they are feeling, and it allows the relationship to evolve organically. Maybe it’s time we all call attention to the games we are playing and the defensive mechanisms we have installed, and challenge ourselves to question whether they have helped or harmed our relationships.
The truth is, what we are sacrificing could potentially be much more important than the security of getting out unhurt.
Have you had a similar experience or frustration with dating?
Image via Taylr Anne