http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2009/02/20/the-new-speed-dating


DanvilleSanRamon.com

Living - February 20, 2009

The new speed dating

by Maria Shen

Two weeks ago, Blair was in love - all right, not in love, per se, but I did get more than an earful every night about a certain boy named Shawn. (Names have been changed, just in case.)

"He goes to our school, but I've never met him!" Blair told me excitedly in the beginning. "He just randomly Facebook chatted me. How creepy is that?"

Facebook chat - for you old geezers who might not know - is an application on the social networking site that allows you to instantly send messages over the Internet to friends who are also checking Facebook at the time. It's so handy that, in some cases, it's replacing the more traditional AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).

For a couple of days, I listened to her jabber about how creepy it was that Shawn instant messaged her all the time, how he was so flirtatious, how he was actually kinda cool, how he was very nice and not that creepy, really. They were talking so much online that they decided to take the next step - text each other. From then on, Blair had her phone with her whenever she went, flipping it open and checking it constantly.

Sometimes, she would call me and read me these texts. "Aww," she'd croon over the phone, "look, Shawn sent me a five-text-long text!" (Which means the text message was so long it cost 50 cents to send it instead of 10.) Shawn was wishing her goodnight and pleasant dreams. Shawn was reflecting on how good it was to get to know her. Shawn was telling her about his favorite movies - which, coincidentally, were her favorite movies, which definitely meant something. (As you might guess, I got a little tired of Shawn.)

Finally - finally, Blair and Shawn had a date ("But it's not a date-date," Blair told me. "I don't know if we're friends or something more right now."). It was difficult to plan since their days were so busy and schedules so packed, but after a flurry of back-and-forth text messaging, they figured something out.

A week later, when I brought up Shawn, Blair exasperatedly moaned, "Ugh, he got so needy. I can't believe we dated."

And, just like that, the relationship was over.

I can't help but think that things like instant messaging and texting have somehow speeded up the dating process (or are we just choosing and tossing too quickly?). Instead of the occasional phone conversations and the exciting face-to-face meetings, teens are developing more of their relationships in virtual spaces like the Internet. With ultra-busy schedules and - let's face it - the pure convenience of sending an instant message, who wants to take the time to call someone? Plus, talking online has the added bonus of never having to deal with an awkward silence, and always having time to come up with the perfect thing to say.

Text messaging and instant messaging have greatly facilitated long distance relationships. Perhaps dating will never work long distance, but friendships can easily be maintained online, despite the two parties being separated by hundreds or thousands of miles. My friends who have gone to college or have moved to other cities or states can reach me just as easily as they did when we lived close to each other. One text message and I know exactly how bored they are in class. One photo sent to my cell phone and I can giggle with them over the funny-looking guy standing in line at the fast-food restaurant.

With such convenient methods of communication, I'm never quite alone. Anyone can reach me at any time. But while the constant communication with friends may be a good thing, it may work to the opposite effect for people who are dating. Instead of spending a month and countless dates to discover the other's flaws, teens can now get to know each other quickly and thoroughly (through Facebook, especially). After reading someone's interests on Facebook (and finding that they match yours) and browsing their pictures, you can become instantly enamored. But after a few days of hours-long conversations online, you can become quickly disillusioned.

Maybe dating is not becoming shallower - just more efficient. But whatever the analysis, it's undeniable that relationships are forming and breaking much, much faster nowadays.

Maria Shen, reporting on Generation Y, is a senior at Monte Vista High School. She founded Contra Costa County's Young Bohemians creative writing club and is editor of Voicebox, a literary magazine. E-mail her at youngbohemians@gmail.com.

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