I’ve just watched a Sunday afternoon ‘rom-com’ made in 1989 called You’ve Got Mail. It stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as two people that fall in love having never met but by talking on an internet chat-room. Not even in real time across a ‘messenger’ type programme but by email over dial-up. At one point Ryan says something along the lines of “The odd thing about this form of communication is that you’re more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings”. As I heard that it made me think how much that can still remain true today. As I watched the film it also made me realise ‘again’ that Sunday afternoons and ‘rom-coms’ are meant to be shared.
In the movie, so much is lost through the lack of intonation in the written conversation as it is in a WhatsApp conversation. Does that sound familiar? Also, Ryan starts her second reply of the film with “Dear friend: I like to start my notes to you… …as if we’re already in the middle of a conversation. I pretend that we’re the oldest and dearest friends…”, isn’t that also what we do on WhatsApp and Messenger too?
Now, twenty-nine years later? Technology has almost moved forward with the speed of thought, it sometimes seems that someone thinks a new technology or upgrade and it appears. I would imagine that over half the people reading this will not know what ‘dial-up’ is and fortunately will have never experienced the misery of the slowness of it’s electronically musical transfer of binary code in todays world of fibre optic high speed broadband. Nowadays we’re not even offline when we leave the house, we take ‘online’ and therefore the conversation with us. But. There is still that excitement that Ryan and Hanks experience when the see they have mail, that sense of ‘waiting’, almost painfully with anticipation for the notification that your never met, online date has replied to you.
In some senses online dating has remained the same even though technology has made the speed of interaction as fast as real life conversation or at least as fast as you can type and one doesn’t have to wait until morning or the dial-up to connect (I’m not sure which would be quicker) to receive your reply.
While they’re waiting for their replies they agonise over their internal dialogue and the content of that waited reply. “Shall we meet?” – Hesitancy before hitting send and then an interminable wait for the reply, scolding yourself for being so bold yet knowing there was no other question you could’ve asked at that moment. Doesn’t that remain the same for some of us? Of course, real life has changed too and the millennials, the ones that get the most from the high speed technology we have now have also changed the rules of relationships. Some expect to just ‘hook-up’ therefore the online date could only have to last an hour before meeting in real life; a quick swap of selfies, of tit and dick pics and they meet and jump into bed. Some expect to still be wooed and dated properly online, over time. The gamble of that right-swipe is you never know which you’re going to get. Me? I’d prefer the latter, with time spent learning about each other, slowly.
Unless. As happens rarely, when you meet in real life before you exchange your online details and something just seems to ‘click’ I can understand when Hanks says: “Well, had you and I just, well, met… I would have asked for your number (Me! – or Facebook/Instagram details), and I wouldn’t have been able to wait twenty-four hours before calling you and saying, “Hey, how about… oh, how about some coffee or, you know, drinks or dinner or a movie…?” That’s me! I am impetuous and spontaneous and if I meet someone either online or in real life I either like them straight away or I don’t, sometimes, even if I’m the only one that feels we clicked then I’m totally down with Hank’s ‘can’t wait twenty-four hours…’ It’s then I get the deafening and demoralising silence in reply.
The downside of internet dating and talking is expressed succinctly by Hank’s Grandfather; “Well, as far as I’m concerned, the Internet is just another way of being rejected by women.” It’s true. Like real life, meeting the right woman is a numbers game. Right now, this year I am three fails out of three women. There’s a fourth and I feel I’ve messed that up too.
I’m getting older physically and the age gap between the women I like and myself is getting wider. Hence the fails will come more often. But isn’t it true of all of us that we never feel as old as we physically are? I honestly still feel twenty-four in my head. I certainly don’t feel my actual age: I can be spontaneous, I still adore anime and video games, I want to explore, to travel. When I was younger we didn’t travel, we didn’t have gap years we went straight into work, the world wasn’t as small as it is now. But that dreaded left swipe is always there. Before you can even read about a person’s attributes and plus points you’ve discarded them on looks alone. I’m equally just as guilty of that unfortunately. But I’m also that shallow in real life. If I don’t fancy you, I can only ever like you as a friend. I hate that I’m that shallow but my career has broken me. At least I use that excuse… When you surround yourself with beautiful women all day would it be unfair to expect to hope for anything less as in a future partner?
I guess what I’m trying to say is to stay positive and keep trying. Take risks, talk to as many people as you can either in real life or online and hope somewhere you’ll eventually get that ‘click’ and twenty-four hours will seem to long to wait for both of you. Until then… Remember it’ll eventually happen and you’ll fail more than succeed unless you’re aged around twenty-four and look like Adonis.
I’ll leave you with Birdie, Ryan’s oldest employee and a friend of her deceased mother’s: “I tried to have cybersex once, but I kept getting a busy signal.” I know how she feels…