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Why digital chemistry can cloud our senses

Posted by Karyn Polewaczyk  March 7, 2014 12:40 PM

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Thumbnail image for woman-kissing-computer.jpgCredit: iStockphoto

Have you ever been on a date with someone you met online—a date built with anticipation thanks to a never-ending stream of witty emails and texts that lead you to believe you were about to meet The One—only to watch things fall apart, or at least very, very flat, in a matter of minutes?

That’s because digital chemistry—texts, emails, Facebook pokes (please, can we stop that already?), tweets—doesn’t equate to real-life chemistry. It’s just flirtation. A promise of what's to come, maybe. And it’s one of the pitfalls of online dating that suck, but can be avoided with a little know-how.

Actually, it’s quite easy to do: as every online dating advice piece I’ve ever read has suggested, take things offline as soon as possible. I’m speaking anecdotally, here. I recently went on a string of dates with someone I met during my brief tenure dating online (six weeks this past fall; I’m undecided as to whether I’ll “return”). A lone soldier, if you will: at first, he was busy; then it was the holiday season. Then I was busy. Then, months later—as I learned the hard way, way too late in the game—we agreed to meet up. And though he was handsome, articulate, well-mannered and funny, there was nothing there. No chemistry. No spark. The conversation didn’t flow. I felt disappointed, but determined—nerves can get the best of anyone, especially me—and gave it another shot with a second date a week later. And still, nada. Which was even more disappointing, because in that extended time span before we actually encountered each other face-to-face, I felt admittedly charmed by our exchange of flirty texts and emails.

It can happen offline, too. You meet someone in a bar at last call and exchange digits. He immediately begins texting. You text back. Soon, you’ve run through your data plan and your mind is spinning with thoughts of holding hands in a quaint French bistro. And when you finally do meet up, you find yourself wondering if maybe you’re better off as friends. (Or, worse: you’re too, ahem, tipsy, to even remember what the guy looks like, and when you arrive to the date, you find out he’s in the same boat. Sparks? Try sinking, and quickly.) "Friends" who are good at email and IM but, frankly, suck in real life? Yep, those are included.

That’s not to say that the reverse isn’t true, and that happily ever after, or at least mutual attraction, isn’t possible after a whirlwind digital encounter. And, I get it: physical stuff isn’t everything; just a small piece of the pie. But watching myself trip over the idea of potential instead of actually vetting for the real thing has happened to me and my inner circle enough to feel compelled to write about it.

As I wrote in another piece, you can’t fake a spark. At least I can't. So consider today’s post a PSA to take more chances, or at least take it offline as soon as you can.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Karyn Polewaczyk lives and writes in Boston, and believes that heading out into that good night, like any adventure, begins with the first step. Let's Go Out is a conversation about dating and nightlife in our notoriously chilly city, with first-hand tips from the trenches. Karyn's writing, which focuses largely on women's lifestyle topics, has appeared in the Weekly Dig, Jezebel, xoJane, Northshore Magazine and More.com, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @KarynPolewaczyk.

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