Last year, I read a post by Lorne Jaffe on HuffPo entitled "5 Reasons Why Facebook Can Be Dangerous for People With Depression" where he discussed how Facebooking had become, for him, an anxiety-causing activity that caused him to be crippled by feelings of isolation, unfavorable comparisons of his own ability as a person, and various general and specific feelings of inadequacy.
This is akin to what happened to me on OkCupid the other day.
I came across a post from what appeared to be a most amazing woman. Clearly gorgeous and in amazing shape...and so utterly sure of herself. Dancer, artist, bookworm, responding in blinding and withering detail to personality questions and by all accounts indicating that she was incredibly self-realized and capable. Stops and smells the flowers in bloom on her street. Rides a bicycle in heels. And the kicker: OkCupid gives us a 95% compatibility rating.
Now, as I've discussed...of course the percentage isn't everything. It doesn't take into account personal dealbreakers, like "smokes regularly" or "conservative" or "wants kids" are for me. But as a place to start, it's useful; in this case, we're clearly of similar minds in areas relating to sex, lifestyle, ethics, religion etc. We may have as much in common on paper as any woman I've ever actually been involved with. And suddenly, I felt so utterly inadequate.
Here was a woman that seemed damned near perfect...except that I couldn't imagine why she'd consider me worth her time. Aside from my not-ideal current situation of co-habitating with my estranged spouse for the next several months (already a no-go for many), I'm still navigating the end of said marriage, and also still processing the break up with my platonic-love-affair subject. It's still a danger when I go on dates to overshare; I'm prone to revealing too much of my damage too quickly, and I constantly worry that it's pushed a few women the other way. What right did I have to even consider approaching this seeming near-goddess, who should be perfect if only my shit was together? Instead, I'm lamenting that she's impossibly beyond my reach, without even attempting to contact her.
After a (few) drink(s), I considered it from two angles. First, I thought about the kind of women who've responded to my profile. I thought about the divorced mother of two, whom I've yet to manage to actually see yet but is bending over backwards to try to make it happen. I thought about the other divorced mother of two who isn't comfortable with my situation, but was still kind enough to offer to be my friend. I thought about the third divorced mother of two who said she wasn't comfortable, but to please look her up when it was all sorted; she didn't mind being patient. I thought about the woman that I have a third date with on Friday that lied about her age, but whom I like so much that, despite my desire not to become too involved too quickly, I am secretly thrilled knowing I'll see her again soon.
All of these women are much more compatible with my own current imperfections. I don't feel worried that they'll think me too damaged to consider me worthy of a relationship. A few of them might actually be as close as any to perfect for me. So obviously, if I'm I attracted to someone who makes me feel inadequate just in the telling, it's my definition of "compatible" that's grossly inadequate.
And second...what if the Goddess is totally full of shit? Why would I assume that everything she wrote is true? People lie all the time, and obviously on dating profiles. It's not that I'm all that cynical, but there are plenty of examples of this, and I've fallen for it before. I project my own strengths and limitations onto other people as much as the next guy, and sometimes I don't even see people like that coming.
A couple years ago, The Boston Globe featured an article by Kathleen Burge entitled "Overblown Facebook personas can leave friends deflated," discussion how seeing too many positive Facebook posts can make you feel as if you're completely failing at life. She cited a study where research subjects reported that the more they used Facebook, the worse they felt about their lives. But as she observed:
Facebook and other social media allow users to present a curated self, showing friends or the public a happier or more accomplished version of a person. Most of the time...it is trivial. But in some cases, the gap between reality and the Facebook version can be striking, and troubling, psychologists say.
It's not much of a stretch to say that, at least possibly, the Goddess' profile could be exaggerated, or even fabricated entirely. It's possible that it's not a real person at all.
In any case, it's nothing I should allow myself to be intimidated by. At the very least, this person is still on OkCupid. She's looking for a relationship, too. And she's not looking for me, and if I'm honest, I'm not looking for her, either.
I wish it was Friday.