To hear me talk, one might infer that I hate all technology. I often reminisce about the days of yore, when people had to speak face to face or when we weren’t interrupted by texts and cellphone calls. I generally write by hand and grudgingly type it onto a computer. We do not have Wi-Fi or cable — my poor kids are stuck watching whatever DVD I have ordered for them from Netflix.
But I don’t really hate technology, just what can happen to relationships if we let it overwhelm us. In fact, some people are pretty surprised when I reveal to them that my master‘s degree is in ... technology. Who knew? Yes, many years ago, I studied information and technology, a fact that directly relates to my sparing though purposeful use of computers today. Think about it.
But dating. Ugh. Dating. Not the whole “going out with a cool person for a fun evening,” but the initial part of dating. The job interview part. The “scared I’m going to be bludgeoned or harassed or maybe dismissed or humiliated” part.
And the Internet makes these encounters oh so easy. It is rare to hear “Hey, I have a friend who is single ...” and even more rare, “Hi, my name is , you seem interesting, can I have your phone number?” And who can blame people? Poor men, the nerve it must take to approach a woman and ask her out. No wonder so many people rely on the Internet to find potential companionship.
Last spring, at the urging of five different people who are happily attached thanks to the Internet, I took the plunge and started an account on an online dating site. I posted my little pictures, wrote my little bios and added all the great things about myself. I sent messages, exchanged pleasantries and even went on six or seven dates. All fine.
But it is so scary. As a small-town girl, a girl who has been surrounded by friends and family and recognizable faces for the majority of my life, meeting up with a complete stranger with no one to recommend him but himself is terrifying. And I don’t mean terrifying as in “are these jeans cute?” but terrifying in a true-crime novel kind of way.
I don’t think men realize that when they text a woman they have never met four or five times a day it can be ... scary. Yes, I love a nice daily text, if you are my boyfriend. But if we have one date planned next week? Creepy.
But not as intimidating as the men who think they are clever when their second or third email is a recitation of all the things they discovered about me by stalking me on the Internet. Yes, I know I am a teacher and I was in a few plays and I got third place in a disc golf tournament. It is not cute when someone I do not know hunts me down and informs me that he is spying on me. What next? Did you notice when you peeked in my windows that I made lasagna last night?
I just miss the days when dating was more personal. We didn’t have the Internet — or we did, but no one wanted to waste their time using it. We had parties and football games and radio shows to go to. Who had time to look at a blinking green cursor on a black screen? There was no Facebook or Google or texting. We had to speak in person, or call, maybe leave a message on an answering machine. The idea of meeting someone on a computer was comical. Looking for potential love required people to go out into the world, ask for help, take great risks. And stalking was a literal thing, not a general concept related to search engines and social media.
Yes, the Internet can be a really good way to meet people. I recently asked an older couple how they had met. The man was so cute. He grabbed his wife’s hand and said, “The old-fashioned way — the Internet.” Awwww.
But for me, I will just rely on the great intervention of God or friends or luck, or whatever used to let people meet and fall in love. I’ll leave the complications of Internet dating to more valiant people.
Sara Van Donge is a Walla Walla native, middle school dual-language teacher and mom to two children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.