When WhatsApp recently unveiled its new blue check marks feature, which notifies you that the recipient has read your message, the Internet replied with complete and utter panic.
Is this really what modern dating has come to? We show interest by following someone on Twitter, we flirt using Instagram likes, we obsess over people’s old Facebook photo albums, then we take it to the “next level” with WhatsApp, where a relationship – or whatever you want to label it (or not) – can live and die.
And no one ever wants to own up to the idea of actually dating someone. “We’re just friends” – bullshit. “We’re talking” – and? “We’re seeing each other” – that’s more like it… except what does that even mean? Are you also seeing other people?
We’ve now come to the point where even “Facebook official” is growing irrelevant. A few years ago, I remember the constant flow of “so-and-so is in a relationship with so-and-so” posts on my news feed. It was usually the same handful of people – and a revolving door of new names. I rarely see those posts anymore.
Of course, some of those posts have been replaced with wedding photos and pregnancy announcements. But, for single folks, is it also because “It’s complicated” has become the norm?
What happened to chivalry? And proper dates? As in quality time, doing some activity, between two people who are attracted to each other and want to get to know more about one another. Not by stalking each other’s social media profiles – because we all know that that’s just a facade, anyway. And not on a bed.
Let’s be clear: Hooking up doesn’t count. Watching a movie on the couch doesn’t count. Sitting in a parked car doesn’t count. That’s not dating, that’s avoiding commitment.
One of the last times I was hit on, he said, with a smile, “We should hang out.” I was not impressed. “Hanging out” doesn’t count. Because by now, we all know that “hanging out” is code for hooking up.
And hooking up usually means a messy end. Whether we admit it or not, we get attached and attachments lead to expectations and when those expectations aren’t met (blue check marks, no reply) and you discover you’re just one of many WhatsApp lovers, cue the passive aggressive messages and emo status updates.
It’s easy to hide behind a screen. To avoid that gut-wrenching look in someone’s eyes when you end it with them. You can disappear behind shitty network coverage and unreliable Internet. And if you’re on the receiving end, you can block, you can deactivate, you can go on airplane mode.
But you can never replace an in-person connection with a virtual one. The kind of deeply intimate, soul shaking connection that, when you two lock eyes, time stops and the world around you melts away along with your past and your fears and in that fleeting moment, all that exists is what you feel for one another.
So say you’re in a relationship. A proper one. A marriage, even. You wake up, open your Facebook, and at the top of your news feed is your partner liking their ex’s duckface selfie. How does that make you feel, hm?
These days, couples legitimately fight about social media posts. Last year, a Saudi man attempted to divorce his wife for refusing to delete her Twitter account. This January, a Yemeni woman took her husband to court for WhatsApp addiction.
“This is a rather strange case, but it is a reflection of the times that we are witnessing now in the Arab world,” said Rasha, a lawyer in Manama about the Yemeni trial. “Escapism from reality into virtual world or into a world of fantasy is now quite common and families are increasingly suffering.”
I’m tired of over analyzing check marks and emojis and timestamps. I don’t care if you don’t wake up looking like your profile photo. I know that, in real life, you are uglier and more fucked up and more awkward and more honestly beautiful than who you are on social media.
And that should be honored. Not by reposting an RM Drake quote. In real life.
WE SAID THIS: Don’t miss “Tinder in Egypt – AKA Three Left Swipes and You’re Depressed“.