I have 522 friends on Facebook, 172 followers on Twitter, 272 followers on Tumblr, and 140 followers on Instagram. But the number of these people I communicate with in a real-life, face-to-face, not-through-a-computer-screen-or-smartphone-like-device is hovering in the range of like, four, give or take. I guess that’s because the me in real life doesn’t come with a variety of filters or an edit button.
My online self is a better version of myself, or rather who I want to be. It’s nice from an egotistical standpoint to judge “likes” in terms of actual companionship. But, in the long run, you’re setting yourself up to disappoint people. One of the biggest draws of starting college is having a new pool of people to meet and mingle with, thus expanding your social circle and forming close relationships with others. If your first interaction with somebody is through Facebook or on Twitter, you’re showing off your good parts first, almost seducing the potential friend into a trap like a socially anxious spider, which isn’t fair to them, poor helpless flies. This problem is especially prominent in online dating, the most social of all social media.
The demographic of 18-30 is the most likely to use online dating to meet people and create relationships, and that puts us college students smack dab in the tumultuous world where everything-is-not-what-it-seems combines with but-she’s-really-hot-though, and we’re left to wade through fake profiles and over-edited selfies in order to find something real. Websites like OkCupid and Tinder are dating websites for those who are not serious enough for Match.com and not menopausal enough for Ourtime.com, and they’re social media on steroids with a hundred times more risk. So, here are some tips on how to create an authentic online presence while avoiding others’ deception, complete with stories on why honesty is the best policy, especially when you plan on getting naked in front of somebody.
1) Be aware of what you post and who can see it. You probably didn’t think the 1,000 people on your newsfeed saw that you took a dumb Buzzfeed quiz, but they did. Also, most dating websites allow users to see EVERYBODY who visits their profile, so try to use constraint when cyber-stalking.
2) Watch your mouth. We’re all horny bastards, sure, but just because somebody is on a dating site doesn’t mean they’re open to explicit sexual harassment and poorly lit dick pics. “A guy once told me exactly how he would ‘please me’ and I said ‘I doubt it.’ And then he messaged me again explaining in further detail how exactly he would lick my pussy,” said a college student who is not talking about her cat. Don’t be that guy. It’s literally the unsexiest thing in the world, next to taking Buzzfeed quizzes.
3) People have weird fetishes and you have to be aware of this. For many, the internet offers them an anonymity that lets them allow their freak flags to fly. The diversity in human sexuality is fascinating but it can also be a dark, dark, rabbit hole (hey bronies!), so make sure you know what you’re getting into when you meet somebody for a quick hook-up. One friend’s OKCupid horror story: “One time some guy asked if I was an adult baby, and when I said no, he asked me to tell him in detail about an experience where I accidentally shit myself.”
4) Some people are just not good at romance. Love is hard. Talking to attractive people is hard. There are times when you’ll receive a horrifying message and click on the block button so quickly your browser will crash, and that’s okay, you need to make sure you feel safe. For example, “Someone messaged me saying that I looked hot but in a ‘I might steal your kidney’ way.” Total justified blocking material.
5) There’s specialized dating sites for literally fucking everything. Seriously. Are you looking for somebody to plow your fields? Then check out farmersonly.com. Are you afflicted with Celiac disease or are just really into people who do have it? Holla at www.glutenfreesingles.com. Really into horses but not-in-that-way-you-swear (hey bronies 2.0)? Then check out www.equestriansingles.com. The internet is amazing.
6) Realize that people mean what they post. “His profile said he put googly eyes on things. I overlooked it. To this day, my oven knob is staring back at me,” said one well-watched Towson student.
7) Know when to cut and run. If a dude describes himself as a “nice guy” (Editor’s note: same goes for a self-described “sweet girl”), stay as far away as possible, board a space shuttle to Mars, exit your browser, and then set your laptop on fire—whatever it takes avoid that inevitable human turd.