I never thought I’d be the girlfriend who called about tweets. Yet there I was, sitting in front of my computer completely horrified and desperately searching for my phone.
He wouldn’t have said that…he didn’t type that…not the guy who knew about my past. Not him.
But there it was. The tweet that sent my entire timeline in a tizzy and he’d written it:
"The women who say they want to be equal to men would call the cops on a man for hitting them like his equal.”
It was just Twitter, he claimed when I asked about it. It’s fun to get people riled up, see what they say. It’s reductio ad absurdum- reduction to the absurd.
“What was you original point then?” I asked, still doubtful.
He stumbled then. Women wanting equality and chivalry? What about men? And... it’s just Twitter! It got people talking, he’d gotten 900 retweets. Dialogue is important…? Even if it’s just Twitter.
“And I can’t believe you called me over some tweets,” he finished.
I hesitated. I’d first come to Twitter about three years ago to vent, to be honest about myself and to say the things I’d felt too restricted by the closet I still inhabited, to say out loud. It was where I found the words for the parts of myself I was still discovering or had been made ashamed of: pansexual, feminist, switch. I’d even found community on Twitter…but I hadn’t really met anyone offline. Unsure of the space and how the interactions could translate offline, I let my then boyfriend sway me. I dropped it. A few months later, I discovered exactly why I shouldn’t have. His need for attention, positive or negative, didn’t exist only on Twitter. His penchant for saying absurd, hurtful things didn’t only manifest online.
Image: Kate Te Haar via Flickr
The worst part about dating is peeling back the veneer, meeting the real person and not just their representative. It’s rarely ever good-- the nice guy turns out to be an entitled jerk and the “good” girl turns out to be just good at keeping secrets. Whenever it happens-- on the first date or eight months later-- the big reveal rarely matches our expectations or desires. It’s the part that has worn me down, kept me from answering any messages on OkCupid in a timely fashion, or following up with my friend about someone they just KNOW I’d love. About the only place I really follow up with people I’m nursing an interest in anymore is Twitter.
The site of choice for people to organize revolutions, flash mobs, protests, online watching parties-yes, that Twitter. Twitter’s potential supersedes the narrow ways we think of it, this also holds true when it comes to dating. Twitter wasn’t originally designed for dating and for that reason, it’s absolutely perfect for it. The interactions are organic and nonchalant, spurned most often by shared interests.
Unlike dating sites, most user profiles and tweets aren’t self-advertisements. Dating site users are often writing the things they hope will attract the mate they want, only sometimes –unintentionally- showing who they really are. On Twitter, the user is tweeting mostly for themselves. With many users logging in for hours at a time, active Twitter users regularly reveal bits and pieces of themselves.
We often say “It’s just Twitter” in a way that really dismisses and minimizes the space that Twitter provides. You can discover a lot about a person in 140 characters. What they say online and why is indicative of offline beliefs. There’s a lot to be said for someone who’d get online and say things they don’t believe for attention, a lot. You can see what people think, what their interests are, how they interact with others, and if you’d be interested based on their tweets.
Even if people use false avatars and personas, what they choose to tweet about and who they engage with reflects at least some of their interest and parts of their characters. I’ve found myself dismissing the idea that it’s “just Twitter” after realizing, over and over again, that what’s typed online is indicative of the person behind the screen. Twitter doesn’t provide an opportunity for people to become something else, it scratches at that veneer we often see, it offers people an opportunity to be honest in ways they might not be offline (see: the many people we’ve seen lose their jobs over Twitter confessions).
Since opening myself up to the idea of dating again, I’ve found myself sitting across from people who seemed nice enough until they felt comfortable enough to say things that would make me want to call for the check. Being approached as often as I am offline means I can be selective but there’s only so much you can see from those early interactions. Twitter offers a chance to find out that your crush takes dating advice from Tyrese before you two end up in some heated game of ‘This Really Means…’, it’s a chance to find out your potential date thinks they’re entitled to something more if they pay for dinner.
Interacting with your crush in this space also makes offline interactions easier. I met my last girlfriend on Twitter, another selectively shy introvert. When we finally met in person we hugged like we’d known each other for years. I’m not usually a person who hugs strangers but the back and forth for so long made us both more comfortable.
For now, Twitter is the space in which I’m most comfortable being approached. It doesn’t have the desperate wide-eyed hope of bar strolling and none of the forced “So do you like…bread?” sorts of interactions of dating sites. I can see who the person is instead of just who they’re trying to show me. And if dating on Twitter doesn’t work out, I at least have a couple hundred people to mourn the death of another Game of Thrones character with.