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SWF Seeks a Good Story

On Friday, I had lunch with my friend Mark Bonner, a writer and editor based in New York City (he’s currently seeking a full-time job – check out his awesome website!). Among other things, we discussed online dating and the ways that social networking has changed (ruined?) how people date today.

We both agreed that online dating lessens the chance that a couple will have a good story to tell. has a microsite that might lead people to believe otherwise; happy couples share their success stories. But at the end of the day, they all met on

When I signed up for a month on last summer, I actually met someone who I liked enough to date for four months. One evening, when we were returning from New York City on the PATH train, another couple asked us how we met. My date answered before I had a chance: “Mountain climbing in the Swiss Alps.”

I loved his answer, but the moment made me realize that I desperately craved a good story. I didn’t actually want to tell anyone that we met on and always hoped that the question would never arise.

I guess the story of how you meet your significant other isn’t that important if you’re happy, but, as a writer, I’m obsessed with stories. I have completely sworn off online dating simply because I don’t want the story I tell my grandchildren to include eHarmony or Plenty of Fish.

As Mark said to me, “The story of your life is the most important story you’ll ever tell.” If I hold out for a “real” story, I’m bound to get one eventually, right?

I think social networking in general has hindered our ability to develop deep relationships, even friendships. I’m starting to think it’s a good idea not to “friend” someone I’m dating on Facebook, at least not until I have gotten to know them well in real life.

By stalking that person’s pictures, status updates, and comments, I make up my own story about the person’s life (one that’s probably not completely true).

Wouldn’t it be better to get to know someone by asking them questions? By discovering things by accident? By having misunderstandings and arguments? Isn’t mystery and curiosity more fun?

Imagine talking to someone for the first time in weeks without seeing everything they have posted on Facebook and Twitter. Think about how rich and loaded that conversation could be. Think about all the things you could learn about a person in an enhanced, personalized way.

Being Facebook friends with people I don’t really know or ever see is fun because I’m probably never going to know their complete stories. I am free to create stories about those people, and these stories don’t really matter in the long run.

However, I’m starting to think I would be happier creating and keeping my closest relationships offline.

(Photo by JonDissed)

Laryssa Wirstiuk is a social media marketing and online image consultant. Learn more about how she can help you and your business gain friends and customers by visiting Comma ‘n Sentence Consulting.


  1. This is a very interesting article and I think that you are spot on with it. There are so many people who have first meeting stories of “I found her profile on my friend’s Facebook” or “Plenty of Fish said we were a match.” As a writer, I could never tell people that I found my girlfriend through online dating. I could reconnect with someone through it but that is about it.

    On the other hand, internet dating has given people without confidence a better outlook on life. Those nice kids in high school with little self confidence have found happiness through a computer which they would have never been able to find in real life; that is their story. So, for some, it could actually be the greatest story of their life while, for the more outspoken and creative, we simply won’t allow for our story to be cookie cutter.

    One last thing to add, these sites are those first dates. Their messages, status updates and about me profiles are all the lies you hear for the first three dates. By the time you actually go on a date, every little story has already been read and re-read to make sure everything is known so, as you said, the fun of getting to know them has disappeared and you are almost over the honeymoon phase the night you meet.

  2. I agree with most of what you say.

    I don’t like the idea that you feel shame for letting people know you met through the internet. It’s very common now.

    I also do not like the idea that you are swearing off of online dating simply because you want to have a story to tell later about how you met someone. I do not like this view for several reasons.

    1) A writer need not always be telling a story.
    2) A writer can make a story interesting. To find what is deep and funny about it. Say you met someone on your way home from work on the subway. Your entire story wouldn’t be, “I met him on the Subway.” (Having read your writing for weeks now, I KNOW it would be more than that.) It would include all of the things that happened, the things that were said, the reasons he lit your embers, etc. Therefore, one need not have “We met on the internet” be the entire story either, in my opinion.
    3)It makes it seem like the story is more important than the feelings you end up having for the person.

    Those three things being said, I do agree that as a rule social media does tend to take away the discovering aspect of another person. If they Facebook or Tweet everything, even the very common, “how was your day” loses a bit of it’s punch.

    I also think you make an excellent point about building one’s own perceptions, writing one’s own story about someone based on their social media updates. A story which may or may not be accurate. And if we judge them on same, we are not being fair.

    I would add one thing myself…that online relationship building can make people more superficial. Finding and meeting and getting to know people becomes more like a buffet. I am sure you have read the profiles on dating places.

    “I’m looking for a guy who is sensitive, but can also kick someone’s ass when I need him to. Isn’t snooty but will read romance books to me while I am relaxing in the bath. Sexy but well kept, (but not too well kept.) Also he needs to be at least 5’11, and no heavier than 185 NO exceptions. Yeah and if you rent your place, we probably are not going to get a long well. I want someone who is motivated enough to be paying a mortgage. 50K a year is best. 75K is better.)

    And on and on. If there were no platforms by which to make these demands, do you really think any one would date?

  3. Christine Barrett Christine Barrett

    I feel very much the same way about getting to know people on a more genuine level than through their Facebook page, because honestly, once we become Facebook friends, I’m going to dedicate a good 20 minutes to stalking your pictures, interests, etc. I’ll undoubtedly find things I either really like or really dislike, but either way, that is going to naturally skew my perception of them on the face to face level.

    I went out with this guy a couple of times a few months ago, and after our first “date,” I added him on Facebook. Immediately after, I felt weird and regretted it, thinking it was too soon, and THEN, of course, I ran into the awkward situation of whether it was appropriate to start a chat with him when I saw he was online, or whether it was too soon to “like” the pictures where he’d look particularly adorable, etc.

    It sounds SO silly when you discuss it, I definitely agree that social networking sites have majorly changed how people get to know one another.

  4. Aside from having several negative experiences, my biggest hesitation regarding online dating is the idea of boiling the concept down to “window shopping for my spouse”.

    The whole concept of online dating itself is cowardly to me. Honestly, I consider it “dating for wusses”—because it first and foremost allows us to nullify the pain associated with real-life rejection. It lets you “see what the other person has to offer” with the least amount of investment or interactions possible.

    Relationships are meant to be cultivated face-to-face. I absolutely believe that, and absolutely need that. So when I “meet” a person on a site who is so hesitant about meeting IRL that she expects me to talk to her online for months at a time, I loathe it, and I lose interest very quickly.

    The fear-based stereotype that “everyone you meet online is probably a stalker/freak/psycho” permeates interactions and keeps us all stuck in the mental mind frame that we most need to escape. That’s why if I put up a profile I say I’m looking to meet a person within a few interactions.

    You can have all the online chemistry in the world (which means jack, btw) and still not have a lick of real life chemistry. Why waste our time online trying to figure these things out?

    I also hate the idea of someone prejudging me based on my facebook profile or pictures. I have a LOT of friends, and I hang out with them at least 2 times a week, but as a guy, taking pictures is not a huge priority. As such, I believe my facebook profile could paint me as a bit of a hermit, as most of my pictures are solo.

    But the thing is, if someone looks at my profile and just makes that assumption straight away, I think they’re a shallow dolt and probably wouldn’t want anything to do with them.

    When it comes to meeting women to date in real life, though…and particularly within the church since I’m a committed Christian, it’s another rant entirely.

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