Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Love in the Age of Facebook

I have been asked to explain why I don't like internet dating sites. As I cast my memory over my own days chatting up and being chatted up by invisible strangers over the internet, I can find a lot of material.

However, I even more clearly remember an amusing afternoon chatting with my pal Aelianus, whom I met through blogging. His friends Berenike and--darn it--now that she has a nom-de-nun, I can't remember what her nom-de-blog was--anyway, these two nice young ladies were big fans, and so Aelianus had a look at my blog and, beginning what is now a four year habit, castigated me for my heresies.

Touched for his concern for Catholic truths and immortal souls, I eventually became his pal and, in a moment of unseraphicness, groused to him about being Single. His Facebook page was open to me, and I asked which of his Facebook friends were eligible.

"There's Such-and-such," said Aelianus--over Skype, I think. "He was at God's Own University with me."

"Oooh," I said, squinting at Such-and-such's photo. "That sounds good."

"He was sent down for [egregious behaviour]."


"And there's So-and-so," said Aelianus, as I went down the list. "But he got arrested for [egregious behaviour]."


And so on, until Aelianus asked me if I would like to live in a Historical House. One of his pals lived in a Historical House and was definitely in need of a wife to save his soul because women just flopped before him, etc., etc.

This was the first time I ever heard of B.A. I can't remember, but I must have had a look to see if he was among Aelianus's Facebook friends, and if he was I must have been turned off by the photo, because I hated all the photos of B.A. people started sending me, although his eyebrows were kind of cute, he had eyelids like subjects in Holbein paintings, and he appeared to have a merry personality.

It cost me exactly nothing to have a Skype conversation with Aelianus about his bachelor pals while we looked at their photos on Facebook. And it would cost all of you nothing to have a Skype conversation with a trusted, intelligent and morally astute male pal about his bachelor pals--or a female pal about her bachelorette pals--while looking at their photos on Facebook.

One thing a dating website can never do for you is give you the inside track on the men and women whose photos linger there. You simply have no way of knowing who the great guys and girls are, and who the great guys and girls aren't, and you probably skip over all kinds of amazing dudes and chicks because they don't LOOK amazing and they can't spell as well as you.

But friends can tell you all about their friends, memories prompted by the sight of them on Facebook, and trusting that their friends aren't going to care that much what they said to a stranger about them--or at least that they are unlikely to find out, unless they get married one day. So now B.A. knows what Aelianus said about him, but it doesn't matter because I am charmed by the idea of having snaffled someone Aelianus thought was a lady-killer. (B.A. says Aelianus was exaggerating.)

So there you go. This is a blog about feeling happy while being Single, not about ceasing to be Single. But I know that most Singles who read this blog hope to marry one day, so I have to respect that. And respecting that I can tell you that you don't have to pay $75 to stare at a lot of photos of strangers. You can just call up your best opposite sex pal and ask him or her about his or her pals. And while you are thinking about what you have been told, he or she can nudge his or her spouse-hunting pals in your direction.


invocante said...

The nom-de-blog of the holy nun pal of Dr Aelianus and Miss Bernike was Boeciana.

Seraphic said...

Oh yes! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. I like this idea, truly I do. But I personally have very few male friends. Of those I do have, probably only two really know me and would qualify for this sort of frank, free Skype discussion over who would be suitable for me. Of those two, one I dated briefly and intermittently still wonder if I should be with. So asking him seems... awkward.
What I"m getting at here is that people have relinquished the idea that they have any role in setting others up, or in creating relationships. So in this Brave New World, dating sites have picked up the slack. And seeing as I have attended two weddings of people who met through dating sites, I'm inclined to think it isn't so bad... my two cents...

Mustard Seed said...

I have four guy friends. They are great, but they all live hundreds of miles away since I moved a few months ago. And one of them isn't Catholic, and one of them I sort-of dated. However, if/when I move home again, I would ask the other two about this, if I'm still single then.

Meanwhile... I'm trying to make peace with the fact that my control over this is limited. I've dated in the past, but lately there aren't many prospects. My attempt at online dating wasn't very fruitful. I don't know what else to do about it except leave it with God repeatedly, try to be friendly, and take care of myself.

kozz said...

I completely agree to what you have to say. However, for someone like me, with very limited dating prospects, it might be the only resort. Married friends in my age group mostly non-Catholic, have concerns of their own, and are not generally keen to playing the matchmaker.

healthily sanguine said...

I still don't see the big deal, especially about the money. That could be because I have plenty of it at the moment, so can afford to spend some on leisure activities. I can pay $15 plus gas money to go out to the local Theology on Tap, where I might or might not meet new people, or $200 for a young adult ski trip, etc. Of course, there are other activities I could do for free (rosary groups, sports, etc.), but there's an opportunity cost for everything. The dating site is pretty upfront about what you're paying for, and though it is NOT as enjoyable to go and flip through profiles of people as it is to go out and get drinks with real people, the point is that you might get to know someone you otherwise would NOT have met through other avenues. And yeah, it comes with the same pitfalls attached to one's own superficiality as you'd experience in navigating an offline singles scene--but you just have to stay grounded in reality about it.

healthily sanguine said...

Oh, and PS, many of us do not have a widely-read blog through which we might develop Catholic connections, which seemed to be the moral of your story. ;)

Seraphic said...

Aha! Listen, I am all about blogs. The only reason why I have so many readers, peoples, is that I have been blogging at least six days a week since 2007. Holy cow. That's like, almost five years!

Go forth and blog. Blog like the wind!

berenike said...

Was the blog we met you through "widely read"?

KimP said...

Met my husband-to-be on the largest dating site on the internet. He wasn't Cathoic - he converted. Just sayin'.

Charming Disarray said...

I'm not completely against dating sites, especially for Catholics, but the problem with that one site in particular is that they really do try to squeeze as much money out of people as possible. I understand that they're running a business and not a charity, but the site is also covered with ads, so I don't see why they need to charge $30 if you sign up for a single month. That's a LOT of money. And they're very aggressive; if you don't go out of your way to change the settings, your subscription will automatically renew without even asking you first. I've been contacted on there by guys I would have liked to meet, but couldn't afford it the membership so I wasn't able to respond or even read the messages. I think it would be a great resource for meeting people if it was run by people who actually care about Catholics meeting each other instead of greedy corporate moneybags types.

berenike said...

Oh hang on. I didn't mean that as an insult. I just meant that HSUHG was not, as I recall, the kind of global phenomenon that Seraphic Singles is. Unjustifiably, in my opinion, as you know! Still, it had a sort of exclusive feel to it, not at all as portrayed in that forum comment. AFAIK, of course, not having had access to your stats.