For those who have grown up in the internet age, flirting has evolved from passing notes in class to sliding into DMs.
While Match.com and Tinder are specifically geared toward the search for love online, internet users rely on nonromantic media to serve matters of the heart, too. For undeclared freshman Lindsey Asis, social media was a valuable source of information.
“I wanted to get a better idea of him, so I looked him up,” Asis said of her current boyfriend, government freshman Jakob Lucas.
Asis and Lucas began to see each other as more than study buddies after working as partners on a class project. Lucas said social media helped take their relationship to the next level.
“I don’t like Snapchat, but she does,” Lucas said. “So when we first started dating, I used it as a way to talk to her.”
For the couple, social media was a way to subtly express they were on each others’ minds. Asis said something as simple as posts they both found funny were a way to connect, and she often direct-messaged political or comedic posts to Lucas.
“I took it as an encouraging sign,” Lucas said. “Not only could she predict that I would like something online, but she took the time to show me. It told me she knew me and cared about me.”
Despite the success of their online flirtations, Lucas said looking extensively at accounts before meeting in person isn’t always a good idea, as taking first impressions from social media can wkeep you from giving the real person a chance.
Lucas’ view is supported by the expertise of Lisa Neff, an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences with a background in both psychology and interpersonal relationships. Neff said online interactions can create false expectations.
“When people interact with each other exclusively online, they start to imagine things about the other person that may be inaccurate,” Neff said. “And they’re more likely to be disappointed when they meet face to face.”
Neff also said relying solely on the internet for first impressions increases the likelihood people won’t choose to make contact with a person they could have chemistry with. Profiles and status updates often give a superficial representation of a person, making it difficult to pinpoint meaningful connections, Neff said.
However, Neff does point out that using the internet for romance can be very effective in some contexts, especially for introverts. For people who wouldn’t be outgoing in a face-to-face situation, Neff said the internet is a great forum to allow more reserved people a chance to collect their thoughts, steel their nerves and successfully reach out to potential partners.
The catch to reaching out online is that if two parties are interested in pursuing a romantic relationship, Neff said the contact needs to quickly move into a face-to-face setting. Otherwise, there is again the danger of falling in love with the idea of a person rather than the actual person.
“There’s a Goldilocks sweet spot in that people should use the internet to compliment their in-person romance, not replace it,” Neff said.
So this Valentine’s Day, remember that it’s OK to go from DMing to dating, but not to date through DMs.