Caution: Objects May Be Lamer Than They Appear

Yesterday was Matt’s birthday. For the next seven months I will be married to an older man. Scandalous.

The search for the just-right card is perhaps the hardest part of any birthday celebration. And because I am a perfectionist only when it comes to the things that don’t really matter, I looked in three different places before picking one out.

During my search I came across a card I’ve seen once before and almost purchased both times. The cover reads: “I’m much more interesting on my blog.”

I haven’t actually bought this card because I can’t figure out the occasion for giving it to someone. Should I buy it as a warning, handing it out to people I meet in this corner of the Internet? We’ll meet for a bite to eat or a drink and before opening my mouth I’ll hand them the card as if to say, “Don’t get your hopes up.”

Or maybe it’s for the aftermath of a bad girl-date. As in, “Sorry we didn’t hit it off. Maybe I’m not who you expected.”

During the months of this search, I’ve met some women with whom I seem to totally click via email. And then when we meet… nothing. It’s as if our cyberselves are a perfect match, but the real life versions not so much.

I’ve never done the online dating thing—Matt and I met before I’d even heard of Match.com—but I imagine you could run into the same issue.

When it comes to modern-day relationships, romantic or not, there’s so much emphasis placed on our online personas. We’re expected to be interesting but not self-important; funny but not trying too hard; friendly but not cheesy; revealing but not to the point of overshare. If you’re not a blogger, than you no doubt have felt the pressure on Facebook or Twitter or even Evite. I recently decided to reject all the pressure to be witty when RSVPing to an online invitation, and now I just click “yes” or “no.” I was literally spending full minutes at my computer screen trying to think of the perfect quip. I had to throw in the towel.

When it comes to online representations of ourselves, we have all the time in the world to craft the perfect profile. But if the fabulous person you’ve described isn’t you, then it’s a big fail.

Another blogger recently wrote about people who were disappointed in meeting the real her after reading her blog. How unnerving to think that who we actually are might not live up to the hype.

Have you ever met someone online—dating website, facebook, or just via email—who seemed totally different when you met in person? Have you ever felt the pressure to be “on” online? Do you every worry you’re more more interesting online than in real life?

23 Comments

Filed under 21st Century Friendships, The Search

23 responses to “Caution: Objects May Be Lamer Than They Appear

  1. tommy

    I’ve thought about this conundrum for years!! Back in the old days of pen and paper, even. In college a group of friends that went to high school together kept in touch by mail, and I had a couple other people I wrote to, also. Having the convenience of even a couple seconds longer to compose than would be comfortable in a conversation makes me much less socially inept and (apparently) more interesting and funny. (Face-to-face I’m generally considered a trivia-filled jackass. I’m paraphrasing, of course.) I find the longer I sit and type, the harder it is to finish because the next iteration HAS to be funnier, or smarter, or I remembered my word-of-the-day and need to throw that in (iteration), or just thought of another point to make, etc., etc…. Have you ever wondered what Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Steinbeck, Mary Shelley, Plato were like out from behind the pen? Maybe they, too were their generations’ Cliff Claven. “Well, Socrates, it’s a little kown fact that an overabundance of unicorns is what REALLY sank Atlantis. Another beer Samastoles.” (Just google ‘cliff claven’ youngsters..)
    It is much easier to craft a fine line of prose (or camoflage a smart-ass remark) here at the keyboard. (P.S. my backspace key has been abused regularly since my first word processor in high school.)
    I think it is just a progression – the next step in the line of communication: oral > written > telephone > typing/text > blogging/email/texting > ??.
    But, worry ye not, dear bloggster – when Microsoft introduces the WinPsyke Instantaneous Telepathic Communicator and Translator we’ll be back to “square one” and everyone will worry about the lack of self-censure since everyone (who bought the upgrade) will know what everyone on their WinPsykic Buddy List is thinking RIGHT NOW! And you thought the constant Twitterers were annoying…..
    SO….(deep breath)… Be yourself. Everywhere there are people who will enjoy being with you. They will appreciate the face-to-face you AND the witty prose-crafter. They are just hidden in the crowd. Remember you’re trying to find a BFF, not an AFF (ANY Friend Forever).
    ….and I need to stop editing and press “Submit”…

  2. Yes, I had the same experience as Lindsey at BlogHer. It was kind of unsettling and made me sad for a while, but then I just kind of got over it. BlogHer was so big and overwhelming that a lot of people just “weren’t themselves.” I don’t think I came off as the person I really am, either. Maybe it’s just better for us bloggers to stay home and hide behind our screens. :)

  3. I actually met my long-time boyfriend on Match.com (this was back in the days when online dating was still considered a little weird, and not the norm like it is now). We e-mailed each other for less than a week before we met, so there weren’t a lot of expectations of what we’d be like, which was good.

    Before him, I had a lot of bad first dates with guys that I’d e-mailed with for a few weeks or maybe even a month, and I definitely had that experience. I knew them from a couple of carefully selected pictures and lots of well thought out emails, which is hard to recreate in real life.

    I think I’m about the same in real-life as my online persona, but then I haven’t actually met anyone from my blog, so I could be wrong…

    • I think I’m the same too! The best compliment ever is when someone says “You are just what I imagined from your blog!” But then there are the times where someone I expect to adore (given our fab online banter) totally disappoints, and I wonder “was I a let down too?”

    • Alyson

      Anne– I’ve had a very similar experience. My fiancee and I met online, but didn’t spend too much time writing before we met in person (just enough to establish that we were intrigued by one another and not unusually crazy :) ). I forced myself not to invest too many minutes in emailing him back/crafting the perfect reply, despite instincts otherwise.

      When I first started using online dating sites (yes, plural), it was easy and fun to establish great rapport via email and IM–yet often there lacked chemistry or “spark” in person. Maybe due to raised expectations, but maybe also because the act of learning about someone is what helps create that spark. Perhaps the shared new experience of being out of your element (meeting a relative stranger! in public!) and learning about one another helps stimulate adrenaline and bonds you together more so than a virtual connection alone. Or maybe it’s just added pressure since we’ve already “invested” in the relationship, it’s harder for a natural connection to occur?

  4. Oh, yes, I totally understand this phenomenon. I met my husband in 2005, but their were A LOT of frogs to kiss before he showed up. (We actually met through Craig’s List, back when they had a personals category that WASN’T focused on folks who were in town for the weekend and looking for “a friend” and other assorted weirdness and one-night stands.)

    Anyway, before Jeremy, I couldn’t believe how many guys had so much more potential before I met them face to face. I actually wondered, in a couple of instances, if someone else had written their emails. I’m not sure what the reason is. Everyone has different talents; could it be that these guys’ forte was in the area of written communication as opposed to verbal? Or was it simply a chemistry thing? Or were they, heaven forbid, disappointed by ME so therefore turning off the charm?

    We’ll probably never know, but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has experienced this. One thing I do know, when it is right, the “click” will be there in all forms of communication, so stick with it.

  5. I’ve met online people in real life in a number of circumstances. I’ve had the opportunity to meet quite a few bloggers in real life. Some have become incredibly good friends. Others have faded into the horizon.

    I used match.com for years before meeting my husband (yes, we met through match.com). Again, some guys were clearly as interesting as they were online. Others most definitely were not.

    From these experiences, I think the most important thing I observed/learned is to be yourself (particularly if you plan to transition your online persona into a real life meeting). If you’re a conceited asshole in real life, there’s no use hiding it on your blog/profile. If you’re shy in real life, there’s no use being chatty and outgoing. Because, eventually, when you meet people face to face, they’ll realize the change and might feel their expectations were not met.

  6. Chiming in to say that yes, sometimes it is disappointing .. but I’ve also met several people that I did meet online who WERE all they seemed – and more (and, maybe shockingly, they thought that of me too!! :))

  7. You have to see Kevin James special called “Sweat the Small Stuff”–he has a whole skit in there about picking out the right card and how we women do that–hilarious!

  8. Lorrie Paige

    With the exception of MeetUps (which most people don’t mention much about themsleves on the MeetUp message board, so you never know much about their personalty anyway until the “meetup”), I’ve only met my boyfriend (from Yahoo Personals). We both were the same people as online so no surprises.

    This is a real cliché but people should just be themselves–showing imperfections–because when you meet, they will find out your real personality anyway. I do; I guess that’s why it’s extremely hard for me to find friends, much less a BFF! lol

    Your story reminded me of another story I read somewhere (perhaps in one of my books on friendships, as I have many), where a woman was in a class and she said something she thought was funny in the classroom. Everyone thought the humor was gross and not funny at all, except one woman across the other room, who laughed out loud. She was the only one in the room who got her humor; she understood her. From that, she knew they would be friends, and they did become best friends.

    What if the woman never told the joke, thinking people may not like her weird sense of humor and keep potential friends away?…She took a chance in being herself and wound up finding someone with a weird sense of humor as she–or at least someone who understands her.

    Just be yourself, as you are online and offline. This weeds out anyone who probably would not be your friend anyway once they get to know you, if there is that much of a difference from your online personality.

    • Jean

      Lorrie, I really like that story about the woman who found a new friend because she was just being herself. It makes me think. I’ll definitely try to be myself just in case my future BFF is out there listening. : )
      P.S. And bonus! I clicked on your link and I’m glad I found another friendship blog to follow.

  9. jendevourerofbooks

    Yep, TOTALLY a problem you meet with online dating. I did Match.com just as a way to meet new people when I moved to Chicago, although I unintentionally met my husband there. There was one guy, though, who I exchanged emails with for a long time, had long phone conversations with, and then met him and NOTHING. Like, less than nothing.

    Obviously it all worked out fine in the end, but that was sort of an awkward and boring date.

  10. I’m definitely more interesting in real life than online. I have time to edit mistakes in writing. In real time, not so much ;)

  11. san

    You bring up an interesting point…. long before facebook and twitter, or even emails, I had a lot of penpals – most of them I’d never met before.

    I met quite a few of them in real life later and with the exception of one or two, the people behind the letters were just what I had expected.

    Now with all the blog and facebook stuff going on, I have made the experience that people can be significantly different from the way they come off on their blogs.
    I guess it really comes down to being yourself on your blog – because then there shouldn’t be any disappointment.

  12. I guess I have a reverse opinion on this – in a way. I would say that I’m more myself through my writing. I have a far easier time communicating through e-mails, poems, blog posts, tweets, etc. than I do trying to express myself verbally in front of someone. Obviously there are exceptions to this, but I find that even with my BFF and my husband, there are times when I simply need to write what I’m thinking because it comes out so much better than what I’d say in person. I’d say the written version sounds much more like what I’m thinking in my head and, I’d posit, more like who I really am, than the stumbling, bumbling disaster of words I’d try to put together in person.

    While I agree with the element of disappointment in meeting someone who doesn’t quite live up to the person you’ve imagined, I think some credence should be given to the thought that the person might be nervous and therefore not really being themselves *in person*, rather than the other way around.

  13. I have a friend that I know in real life (thank God). He is quiet and not easy to talk too as he only says little. However, we know each other in the same chatroom (this is the time where not many blog are around). And in there, he is friendly, had lots to say and lets just say complete opposite of what he was on real life. Maybe he’s like Nikkidd, who can express himself better while typing than in real life.

  14. I can attest to the fact that so often online dating “relationships” are much better and very different than when you finally meet that person face to face. Sad, but true and terribly disappointing when you “clicked” so well via email. C’est la vie!

  15. Kate

    I met a gal at a Christmas party with my husband and we totally hit it off. We talked the entire night, then she shoved her card at me and said, “Let’s have drinks. No, really.”

    So we did. And all the chemistry was completely gone. She was so different. Then she pointed out the bartender’s baldness when he failed to refill her vodka tonic quickly enough. As if he didn’t already know he’s bald. I was positively mortified.

  16. Hello .Hello, you used to write great, but the last several posts have been kinda bonirg… I miss your tremendous writings. Past few posts are just a bit out of track! come on! Partake of some of life’s sweet pleasures. And yes, get comfortable with yourself

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