As a 30 year old woman who has made her career out of online publishing I’m on Social Media a lot. This is perfect – I can basically sit on Twitter all day banging on about lipstick or what I had for dinner and call it ‘building my audience’ or ‘honing my voice’. HAHA to that careers advisor who said I’d make a great Lawyer.
Hitting my teens as the internet hit our homes meant my formative years were spent getting to know the world wide web, back in the days when it was a penny a minute and being online meant forfeiting the home phone for the duration. Do you remember asking your mum to call Linda back later because you said you’d meet your pals on MSN Messenger at 6pm? Or this gorgeous noise that signalled the start of your evening’s social life? The internet back in the late 90’s/early 00’s really was a sexy business.
As such the online world is second nature to me and, if you’re reading this blog, I imagine you, too… I Instagram what I eat, I tweet my thoughts on current affairs (by which I mean The Kardashians), I arrange Wine Fridays with my girlfriends on Facebook. I love my hyper-connected life; It’s a scary thought but I’d struggle to live it any other way.
This was all fine when I was married. I was 18 when we met so MySpace was king and the only online history I had was in a locked LiveJournal and a FaceParty account (which now seems to be a hookup site?). If my memory serves me correctly the ex and I joined Facebook at the same time – 9 years ago today! – so it was a place I was never single. Twitter followed in 2007 followed by Instagram in 2010. Happy (online) days.
But then I got divorced and realised just how much my active online life was affecting my non-existent love life.
Because of the solitary nature of my work and the fact that I don’t really get out that much I tend to meet men via dating apps. Usually Tinder, because I’m lazy and swiping is easy. But it means that the men I meet have no backstory on me, they don’t know anything about my life at all. Lighthearted non-committal flirting on your phone is all fine and dandy until you get chatting to a guy, swap numbers and start thinking about arranging a date.
I always think revealing my single mother status is a delicate conversation – when am I supposed to do it? The fact makes some men back off immediately yet to others it’s no big deal – either way I’ve never got comfortable with it so I’m always a bit hesitant to lead with a conversation about having kids.
I try and drop it in on the casual but this is a work in progress; “HAHA NO I HAVEN’T SEEN STAR WARS BUT I HAVE GIVEN BIRTH TWICE!!!”
The first (and only time!) I went on a date without revealing I had kids was a disaster. I’m very up on my pre-date due diligence via Google, Facebook and LinkedIn but didn’t expect many men to be the same; until I went out with an IT security expert. Apparently if you Google my first name + hometown you can find me and my entire digital history. Oops. Do I really want potential suitors reading about thrush, sex and my kids on my blog before our first date? Probably not.
Like I said, due diligence is a must before I date someone in real life. I google them to death, use their phone number to find them on Facebook (it’s a genius tool), skim their Twitter feed and log out of LinkedIn to privately view their professional credentials. This isn’t me just being a bit OTT, though: I’ve learned the hard way how careful you must been when meeting men who are essentially strangers, particularly when children are involved.
In my first single summer I met a man in a London pub – he seemed nice enough. He asked if he could take me out for a fancy dinner and, being unused to being taken out for fancy dinners, I said yes please. A week passed, the day of the date dawned and he emailed me from his work email address as his phone was out of battery, to make arrangements for meeting later. I hadn’t known his full name previously so, my interest piqued, I Googled him.
And found a ream of news stories about his internet paedophilia conviction. He’s still on the sex offender’s register now.
Of course I immediately cancelled the date but that was me told – I would never go on a date with a man without feeling comfortable that I knew as much as possible about them beforehand.
And so I snoop.
Snooping can bite you in the bum, though. Recently I got chatting to an Army Major (swit swoo) on Tinder and managed to find him by Googling his name, location and profession. Out of more of an interest in men in uniform than anything – Police Officers, oi oi – I looked at his LinkedIn, only to realise I was logged in. Therefore he saw me looking. How embarrassing.
The Social Media awkwardness doesn’t end once you find yourself someone to date on the regular, either. I once went out with a semi-famous comedian who chatted me up via Twitter but then refused to acknowledge I existed on the platform. I’m guessing either because I was funnier in 140 characters than him, or had more followers (STILL DO, HAHA). I should have known he was a no-go when he asked me to be his girlfriend in Nandos.
But I wouldn’t be without my Social Media life, whether or not it upsets my love one. For one, I wouldn’t have a job (and that bit’s kind of essential). For another, who would give me compliments on the shade of lipstick I wear out on dates (thanks, Instagram). And where would I go if I couldn’t tweet my way through the awkward encounters?
So for now, it stays. And who knows… one of these days maybe that will be how I’ll meet a really great man.