A year ago, my friend and I were sitting around swapping boy stories when she told me about a new romance that was springing up in her life. She seemed enchanted by this boy – he had an accent, seemed cuddly like a teddy bear, had a great personality, knew all the right words to say to get to her, and from the way she put it, there seemed to be real chemistry. She was giddy and butterfly-ridden and walking on sunshine. I asked when I could meet the boy, and my friend replied, “After I do.”
I’m sorry, what?
Turns out, this new “love” in my friend’s life had been forged in cyberspace. I must admit, I laughed at the time. I scoffed at the idea that anything real could stem from something as sterile and calculated as the internet. Online, everyone is pushing out the image of the person they want to be as opposed to the person they are innately, so it seems web chemistry can’t possibly translate into real life chemistry. Adding to my skepticism was the fact that my friend is a popular entertainer and her pursuer was a popular YouTuber, so this whole courtship unfolded not only behind screens but also in front of millions of people. I was thoroughly intrigued.
Fast-forward two months later to where my friend meets her internet crush, they hit it off, have a smashing week together in New York City, and make plans to see each other shortly thereafter. The relationship grows and before I know it, this boyfriend is moving to America and he and my friend are hanging out on the daily. It’s a lot for me to take in. I had my initial judgments, but they were soon squelched by what seemed to be authentic feelings. I still couldn’t rid myself of the doubt in the pit of my stomach that maybe the feelings were only based around an idea, a story. Maybe my friend and her boyfriend were living a fairytale they felt obligated to enhance based on the excitement stirring around all of the social networks. Maybe there was subliminal pressure created by a relationship blossoming so publicly. Maybe fan excitement is comparable to elementary school crushes, where all your friends whisper a name in your ear and practically determine your 4th grade romance for you. Needless to say, I still had my reservations.
I can’t decide if karma has a sense of humor or a sense of revenge, but either way, I seem to be the target of karma’s attention this time around.
A month and a half ago, I logged onto Twitter and saw my timeline clogged with people asking me to follow some account called “@DRE_DRUMMOND_.” Five tweets are easy to ignore; hundreds are not. Impressed by the amount of energy centered on this account, I of course had to click on it. I first read the bio attached: Official Twitter of Andre Drummond. Former UCONN HUSKY F, Now a Detroit Piston. Live by GOD, #T.A.G.O.D. Curious and admittedly ignorant in the sports arena, I took to Google for some research. I read the guy’s Wikipedia page… confronted by statistics and a bunch of basketball jargon, I gathered that he was gifted at basketball… and super, super tall. Not yet satisfied with my knowledge of this guy’s deal, I backtracked on his Twitter page a few months and checked out his Instagram… he appeared personable, youthful, and fun. And judging by the amount of me-related posts he had shared, it seemed he had been expressing his crush on me for quite some time. I found it sweet, gutsy, and flattering. It’s hard not to be impressed by a boy who will express his feelings for you in front of hundreds of thousands of people. I followed him back on Twitter and sent him a public message. We had a brief banter and then he sent me a private message with his phone number. Inevitably, I utilized it.
Text conversations started, followed by phone conversations, followed by daily hour-long FaceTime chats. He sent me flowers and gifts. I was giddy in the way I hate girls to be.
A few weeks after we started talking, Andre told me he was going to come visit California. I was excited. Then, as his visit crept closer, I began to feel a little unnerved. What if my fears of the overhype of cyberspace played out in my life? Granted, Andre and I had much more personal communication than the few flirty public tweets we would send each other every couple of days, but still… When you don’t have a million people telling you how cute your attempted date joke was like they tell you how cute your emoticon tweet exchange was, will any real spark exist? Will the chemistry between two people fall short of the buzz of millions? Maybe the more really is the merrier…
Also, what if the person I had built up in my head was different than the person I’d soon be sitting across from? What if technology aided and enhanced our conversations to the point where we felt crippled without it? What if two screens cannot properly replicate two humans after all?
Turns out, they can’t. Overall, the Andre Drummond I got to know in person is the same person he projects online, but it’s important to remember that the image displayed through a screen is in fact just that – a display. A person doesn’t converse in 140 characters, they don’t react in filters, and a well-played moment doesn’t loop itself every 6 seconds. We don’t live our life in glossy little quips, blips, and fragments, regardless of the fact that that’s what we’re encouraged to do in this day and age.
We log into a social network and we’re provided with a prompt. Twitter’s prompt is “what’s happening”, while Facebook is a somewhat bossier “write something”. BE CUTE, social media tells us. BE CLEVER. BE A STAR. LIVE YOUR LIFE IN A WAY THAT MAKES YOU SEEM LIKE EVERY MOVE YOU MAKE IS INTERESTING. The fact that an app cares so sincerely about us causes us to assume that our every action is a mini milestone surely worthy of blasting out to people we somehow believe care half as much about ourselves as we do.
We are prompted to take pretty pictures, say funny blurbs, and create clever moments, so that’s exactly what we’re all going to do. We will all be pretty, we will all be funny, and we will all be clever. The work is done for us – the social networks are our templates, we simply fill in the blanks. We all look pristine after we’re buffered.
What’s a lot more interesting, turns out, are the moments not posed enough for pictures, witty enough for jokes, or polished enough to be sent to the world. The nuances and subtleties of life that cannot be translated in a way that the world will care to follow are precisely the best parts of life that exist.
Speaking to the time I spent getting to know Andre face to face, I can personally attest to the fact that the most prominent moments to me were those not chronicled. They were the little things that a camera can’t be whipped out fast enough to catch, the things too imperfect to be blasted out to the multitudes.
Why then, you might ask, would Andre and I take the time to post anything at all, when arguably the best moments were those we didn’t share publicly? Well, because it’s fun! It’s like when you get a piece of good news and just have to pick up the phone and call a friend. There are some things that just feel right to share.
If played right and used smartly, social networking can be like a little scrapbook for your personal life. It can be the bits you feel comfortable trimming with fancy scissors and gluing rhinestones on, pasting into a tidy book and displaying on a table for guests to see. Its point is not to take away from the experiences it chronicles, merely to commemorate them. That’s what social networking can and hopefully does do for our personal lives: frame them nicely and with cute little borders that we can show off to our friends and be proud of.
To anyone who’s been following my social networks these past few weeks, I hope that the snippets and snapshots you saw provided you with a peek into my scrapbook. And I hope that all of your scrapbooks are also just tabletop pieces that pale in comparison to the filter-less, prompt-free, buffer-absent parts of life that make life so beautiful in the first place.
Can Jennette get her own tag? Or at least a Sam & Cat tag attached to either Ariana or Jennette's names?