Saturday, September 30, 2006

modern romance

The "website" I listed on my profile used to be the missed connections page of New Haven craigslist (a link I deleted during one of my frequent profile-purges). In retrospect, I'm boggled by the meta-plicity of implications inherent in this act: these people who attempt to reconnect with potential paramours over the internet, my own obsession with my self-representation on the internet, my decision to link people who post missed connections on the internet in my own self-representation on the internet, and, now, my online musings about my online portrayal of online romance. The circle of (artificial) life.

If you're unfamiliar with how missed connections work, the concept is deceptively simple: a brief craigslist post, as descriptive or esoteric as you desire, that declares your flaming passion for your gay TA, your crush on the tattooed chick who sells you coffee every morning, or your fleeting memory of the lanky bicyclist who caught your eye on Chapel Street.

When I lived in New York this summer, I read the Manhattan page religiously, my fingers crossed that I would someday spark the distant affections of a passing stranger. And then it happened: In late July, I saw a post one morning that was unmistakenly for me--"Asian or maybe half-Asian, early 20's women, pink blouse and black skirt, white Time Warner tote bag, getting off of the F train at the Rockefeller Center at 9:45 a.m."

My heart stopped; I responded. He emailed me back, and I learned that my no-longer-secret admirer was a 26 year old lawyer. I facebooked him, and learned that he was a Harvard '02 alumnus. I googled him, and learned that he wrote for a Harvard newspaper. I googled him some more and discovered that he was a raging conservative, and the publication was the Harvard Salient. Needless to say, my "cinematic" romance never passed the opening credits.

It feels cliche to attribute the decline of courtship to the too-much-information age, but I can't recall a recent romantic interest who I haven't submitted to some form of cyber-scanning. I can facebook-stalk
fellow Yalies, urban twenty-somethings still use friendster, and my high school friends and illiterate hipster accquaintances are inexplicably devoted to that horrific rat's nest of design flaws, myspace. Simply put, I will know within ten minutes if you're worth giving a shit about. Nick Hornsby's books taught me that pop culture and literature and music ought not be conflated with (or obstruct) love, but it's pretty goddamn unlikely I'll fall in love with a dude whose favorite movie is Anchorman.

So the next question is, does the technological filter of romance reduce our chances at making connections, or fine-tune them?

I'm going to stop writing this shit before I really start feeling like Carrie Bradshaw.


Jim Stanley said...

You've just succinctly summed up (perhaps unintentionally) why I currently have no affiliation with facebook, friendster, or myspace.

NickAntosca said...

I remember you mentioning this, actually--the mention seemed rather pointed. And I wondered why people read those missed connections pages so religiously. Do they actually hope some sort of real romance might be initiated via Craigslist or is it more keeping an eye out for the sort of existential reassurance that a total stranger has noticed their existence in a nontrivial way (enough to remember it later and commemorate it on the internet)?

elmrockcity said...

My initial reaction is the latter, but I think--in defense of the hunt for "real romance"--a narcissist like myself would assume that, if someone was bright enough to notice my existence and demonstrated some sort of rhetorical proficiency/wit in expressing this awareness, they might be worth checking out.

Jeff Shepley said...

I've read several of your recent blog entries and "rhetorical proficiency" is the major vibe I get from you. Me, I'm more for rhetorical efficiency. Clear and concise. I love the contrast between your blog's "minimalist" design and your verbal maximalism.