Last week, I was sitting with my friends in the Campus Center like I usually do between classes when I overheard a friend of mine talking about someone she had an interest in. She said that she had been running into this guy frequently on campus and had thought that he had been trying to catch her attention, but she wasn’t sure.
I asked her if she had spoken to him yet.
She said that she hadn’t but that she had requested to follow him on social media, which he had accepted. To her, that was a sign that he was interested in her, right?
I asked her why she hadn’t tried approaching him. She said that she had no idea how to approach someone, face-to-face, that she had an interest in.
To my surprise, many of my single friends said the same, that they usually “shoot their shot” through Instagram Direct Messages or on Snapchat. Most of them said that was how they had met previous partners.
They also agreed that most of them had been broken up with over text or some form of social media.
According to a study called “The Role of Social Media in Dating Trends Among Gen Z College Students” conducted by Megan Isaf, an associate consultant and communications and social media intern, participants with heavier use of social media were reported to have decreased commitment in relationships, a decreased quality of an in-person relationship, and frequent conflicts with their partner. Heavy social media users were also found to “have decreased interpersonal competency at initiating offline relationships,” meaning the more our generation relies on social media to initiate relationships, the harder it is to do so offline.
In an article titled “How Social Media Affects Communication Skills,” founder and director of New Day Vitality Mental Health Counselling PPLC Colette Lopane-Capella said that social media often elicits a normalized lesser amount of face-to-face social activity. As individuals spend more time communicating over social media, it lessens their likelihood of having in-person interactions.
The same friend who had tried approaching her crush said that she had spent time looking through his Instagram after he added her back. She already knew so much about him without even saying a word to him.
Social media allows for widespread connection, but it also can damage forming connections. Instead of spending time asking your partner questions about their life to get to know them, all you need to do nowadays is spend five minutes going through their Instagram profile.
It takes away the mystery and romance of it all, the thrill of getting to know a person, the mystery of finding out new things about them along the way, and the butterflies of having to ask a person on a date face-to-face.
My boyfriend and I have been together for three years. Ironically, he did “slide into my DM’s.”
We began texting and getting to know each other, but it was strictly as friends. We did not become romantically involved until our junior year of high school, when we finally met in person. Even that first face-to-face meeting felt like our true introduction. I can still remember the butterflies I felt in my stomach, the way my hands were shaking when he first walked up to me, and that feeling of realization that the wait had been worth it.
By then, we had been online friends for a year and had learned small details about each other, but it was not until we went on face-to-face on dates that we got to really know each other on a deeper level. To this day, I’m so glad we saved the personal questions for later because it kept the romance alive and made every moment special.
Social media is a great way to meet new people, but we also can’t lose the ability to make connections beyond it. If you see someone who catches your eye, why not walk up to them and introduce yourself?
A friend request online might be the easier approach, but the thrill of meeting somebody new is all in that first interaction, face-to-face, and the possibility of a strong connection blossoming from it.
Taylor Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.