She dreams in digital: Dating on and off the grid

I dated someone once who tried getting to know me better by going back and reading every single one of my blog posts from day one--back in February 2004.  Whenever she would confuse the events of the present time with something that she read about years ago, I'd say, "No, that was Paralell Charlie."  To her, the near-daily account of my thoughts was backstory--years of context to compliment her realtime experience of me.  Facebook photos work the same way--visual evidence of the rest of the life of this stranger you just shared dinner with.  What's more is that it's all content not curated to impress--at least less so than date banter.  It's the animal in its natural digital habitat--to the extent that their digital self represents their true nature. 

It's certainly better than nothing.  In fact, it's so much better than nothing that sometimes I wonder how anyone ever gets to know anyone who is basically off the grid.   It feels so forced and unnatural.   You have to ask someone about their day and what was on their mind--manually!--instead of just commenting on it directly.  To make plans to hangout, you have to call them.  How obnoxiously disruptive! 

Ever think about introducing yourself on the subway?  Ask them to unplug from their iPod to talk to a stranger in mid-sardine can transport with no ability to Ignore or Block?   Yeah, right.  How would they know who I was if they couldn't Google me?  BTW, exactly what day was it that it became creepier *not* to have a web presence?

The web is so much more casual.  It's timeless and asynchronous.  A real life first date can feel like a race against the clock.   Will you score enough points before to time runs out to stay alive or will you fail to reach the next round?  Maybe you didn't find that shared interest as you were blindly feeling around in the dark of uninformed, non-prestalked meatspace conversation. 

The idea of being judged based on dinner, drinks, or a single pithy pickup line feels almost unfair.  I have a whole body of work--over five years of blogging, two plus years of Tweeting and thousands of Flickr photos.  I'm a person, dammit... look at all these ones and zeros--I have proof!  See, published character depth! 

"How did you meet?"

Nowadays, it goes something like this, "Well, I found her after searching a keyword that I'm interested on Twitter.  I clicked around to her Facebook, saw that she was attractive, seemed to have a nice *normal* group of friends, no upside down keg photos.  I started following her blog and her Twitter.  Then, I waited until I had something genuinely useful and relevent to say--something I wanted to say not something I felt I had to say in the pressure of the moment.  That began a short, but interesting, online conversation and then we decided to take it into the real world.  We had real conversation, over a delicious meal, based on things we already knew about each other.  "

How did we ever meet anyone before the internet?