Dating 2.1: Courtship in Today’s Cyber World

Forget Dating 2.0, the dating scene has definitely been taken to a whole new level. A colleague of mine, Seth, is recently single and back on the dating scene after a long-term relationship. He posted a profile on an internet dating site and titled it, “Back in the game.” He described a recent dating experience to me that I found a bit amusing, but it made me realize that the dating scene has changed with technology.

Seth is in his mid 30s, educated and hard-working, with what most would describe as a good job and a bright future. Getting a date after his recent breakup is the least of his worries. He recently found out that a lot has changed since he was on the dating scene. Seth’s dating life began in the mid to late 1990s, prior to the internet and digital dating surge, which in many ways, some would say, has taken over the courtship process. Seth met Carla at the place where the most surveyed couples met last year, on the job. Carla has been single for a while, in some ways enjoying the freedom of single life, and in other ways, ready to settle down. She also has a profile on the popular dating site labeled, “No players allowed.”

Seth and Carla see each other and talk often during the workday so it’s no secret that Seth is back in the singles pool. They even “friended” each other on Facebook. I will not go into the details of what Facebook is, other than the fact that it’s a social networking site that is visited by over 600 million people, and is practically household name. Facebook was introduced in 2004, long after Seth’s dating prime. Seth invited Carla to dinner. Carla accepted. What better way is there to get more acquainted than some good food, fun and conversation?

Before the date
Seth heads back to his office. Carla sends an instant message or “IM” to Seth. Let’s assume it’s after work hours. Instant messaging is a real-time direct computer connection that allows users to communicate with each other similar to email, but with almost “instant” gratification. During their instant messaging, Seth and Carla decide to surf the internet for a good restaurant to visit during their date later this evening. Later, Carla checks in on Seth to see if he’s chosen a restaurant. He has. Carla ends her message with a “smiley” or emoticon, which is a facial expression pictorially represented by punctuation and letters, usually to express a writer’s mood. Seth feels that he’s getting somewhere with Carla. Both visit the chosen restaurant’s website, take a virtual tour, and to download the menu. Seth also maps out the driving directions to the restaurant from Carla’s apartment. No point in getting lost. Both Seth and Carla are ready for their night out on the town. One more IM from Seth, “Pick u up at 8?” Carla responds,”C u at 8.”

During the date
Seth and Carla arrived at the restaurant. The setup was just as the website displayed, a bar, lounge, restrooms, etc. They already had an idea of where they wanted to sit. The server came over to greet them and explain the menu. “No need, I already know what I want,” Carla said. “Me too,” Seth added. Both of them scoped out the menu earlier online, totally demising the overall first-date restaurant experience, the element of surprise. With appetizers, drinks and main courses ordered, there was a lot of get-to-know each other time for Seth and Carla. There’s silence… and more silence, then there’s the sound of fingers and keys. Could Carla be texting her girlfriends during her date with Seth? Yes she was. No problem, it’s always a good idea for a woman to let someone know her whereabouts when out on a first date. Seth didn’t pay it any mind.

More silence… then a ring tone. “Excuse me, I have to take this,” Seth whispered. Carla couldn’t help but wonder who could be calling Seth during their date. Maybe it was his boss, his mother or maybe it was one of his 762 Facebook friends, whom 484 happen to be women. Seth returns, and the silence continues. Then Seth breaks the ice by asking Carla about her hobbies outside of work. Carla couldn’t deviate too much from her online profile, because then she would seem like a fake, or liar. She asks Seth a similar question, but no need. She visited a website earlier that listed Seth’s home address, parents and siblings and even his monthly home mortgage. She even ran a quick background check on him. Nevertheless, their food was served. They had drinks, listened to the live band in the restaurant lounge and headed home.

After the date
When Seth and Carla arrived at her apartment, Seth walked her to her doorstep and they gave each other a friendly hug. Neither was expecting more. It was the first date. Both agreed that they should go out again, and this was a very much needed break from the office. Seth hurried off because they both had to work the next morning. “Text me and let me know when you’ve made it home!” shouted Carla. Seth agreed and headed off. Seth judges his first date experience with Carla to be an overall good. Good food, good drinks, decent conversation. What more can you ask for from a woman on the first date? Seth pulls in his garage, gets out of the car, and texts Carla, “Made it home. Had a great time. See u tomorrow!”

Let’s rewind
A first date is just what it is, a first date, nothing more and nothing less. It should be fun and exciting, with little or no reservations. What I found interesting about the entire process was that technology seemed to take the place of what could have been Seth’s moment to shine, the courting stage. The courting stage is the prelude to the relationship. It’s the excitement of the unknown. It adds a little mystery to the overall experience and makes you want to get to know the other person more. It’s obvious that Seth is interested in Carla, but already knew most of the basic stuff about her from her online profiles.

In Seth’s earlier days of dating, dinner out with a young lady was a big deal. It was a time when two strangers belonged to each other for the moment with no outside interferences. With the internet doing all of the pre planning, Seth was not in control. Not to sound old-fashioned and say that the man must take the lead, but Seth did ask her out. He initiated the process. Another tone setter was their online profiles. Although her intentions could have been different, Carla’s “No players allowed’ banner sounded of a woman whose been burned by men before. Seth’s “Back in the game” banner welcomes him into the very thing Carla is trying to escape. Not to mention the fact that their online profiles revealed so much about them, little was left for the imagination, or conversation.

I am not suggesting that online profiles are good or bad, but they definitely set the tone for any potential relationship. Finally, the texting, not Carla’s texting during dinner, but the text after the date… the “I made it home text.” Seth remembers a time when he and a girl he liked would call each other and stay on the phone until the early hours of the morning, sometimes coming to school or work with circles around their eyes because of lack of sleep. It was called a crush. Are those times no more? Maybe, maybe not, but Seth has come to realize that there’s a new dating hall, the Internet. And it’s taken dating to a whole new level. Seth was also surprised the next day that his entire date with Carla was now trending on Twitter. #yawn

James Branch is the author of “When Girls Talk, Some Guys Listen” Understanding Women Through Their Behavior. Visit [http://www.whengirlstalk.com] or follow on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/whengirlstalk

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