(Modern) Dating in a World Full of Digital Imprints

Disclaimer: I know I’m not in any way qualified to really have a trusted opinion about this, since I never even had any first-hand experience on this topic. The last time I made myself available in the dating arena was in 2013 and I had (luckily) settled with one person ever since. Nonetheless, if you still want to read my thoughts despite my absolute lack of experience, here goes!

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When referring to modern dating, some of us may associate it with online dating, hence involves dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, and so forth; or some dating websites, e.g. Setipe.com (is this even still a thing? I don’t even know). But what I’m about to talk about is closely related as well to other means such as ta’aruf, perhaps. Hence the bracketed modern in the title, because as far as I know, ta’aruf– or whichever term they called it in another sides of the globe – has been around since the first Muslim civilization, as the only way that is actually encouraged within Islam.

Essentially, I’m referring to a way of finding a potential partner through something other than through mutual circles, where you and the other party may not have any acquantaince and/or circle in common. In short, where you both started as regular, complete strangers. And particularly in nowadays world where almost everyone we personally know seems to have made certain trails on the internet.

As one of those people who regularly creates some digital footprints all over the web ever since I was introduced to internet, i.e. through this blog (and some of my older blogs), Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Tumblr, Medium, Facebook, and so forth – I mean, look at all the social media links I listed on the top right corner of this website, and that’s just a tiny percentage of myself that are out there like an open book for anybody to study – I feel like it might be very daunting if I were to be someone who’s currently on the hunt for a significant other and then I came across and became interested in someone whose online presence resembling mine, with digital imprints from at least the past decade literally being spread across everywhere on the internet.

Imagine wanting to do a background check, in which the easiest way would be by scanning through all my social media accounts and other online means as well. Since my digital traces are endless streams of thoughts, opinions, moments, feelings, images, works, and everything else that witnessed (almost) everything that made me who I am today, how is this not an overwhelming job?

One might argue, it’s not something that you need to do overnight, you can absolutely do it while actually talking and hanging out in person with them. Eventually, it might be an enjoyable process to do over time. And yes, I would definitely agree. But to imagine that after having a few weeks or months of all rainbows and butterflies, you may discover some truth about them that might cross a line somewhere for you… I would personally really hate that.

Logically, if you had a friend in common prior to that, they might be able to point out that particular shortcoming and/or fact about them beforehand so you could ensure that whatever traits this person has are not something that does not sit right with you personally. Therefore, if you’re the type who does not believe in “enjoying things while they last,” you could avoid wasting your time trying to work this relationship out when in fact, it could never do from the very beginning. Except, of course, you’re the type who willfully accepts the uncertainty and possibility that this may not work eventually and are already happy with going through the experience.

For instance, what if this person turns out to be a high school bully, based on something they posted explicitly on Facebook 10 years ago? (Also, they actually had the nerve to share it on Facebook?!) Sure, it happened a decade ago, and people changed over time. But we all make for ourselves a certain boundary that is never to be crossed by anybody else, especially if this person is currently on “trial” to be a potential someone that we’d perhaps share our remaining lifetime with. And that boundary would differ from person to person, no matter how trivial it might seem. To think that we might figure it out a bit too late, it’s just a bit of a bummer for me.

I’m glad that A and I met at university so it was quite easy to do background check on each other since we basically had a couple of groups in common. I feel like the universe knows how excruciatingly painful it’s going to be for any of us to have to discover everything about someone not through mutual circles due to our preference and personality, since there’s going to be way too many question marks involved. Hence, our very conventional, non-unique way of getting to know each other.

Meanwhile, some people who are more open to endless possibilities and feeling adventurous towards this kind of stuff might find this boring and monotonous. And that’s okay too. In fact, I do really appreciate and even salute those who can manage with this whole dating-a-stranger avenue and even create a lasting relationship through these mediums. While this approach has been very common in western culture for so long, as far as I know it has only started to become popular in the last decade in the eastern side of the world and therefore not so many people here are used to it or even the idea of it.

Therefore, I especially respect my friends who are willing to get out of their comfort zone of meeting someone through mutual circles only, and allowing themselves to be open to and present in this relatively fresh way of meeting your potential significant other. This is by no means an easy process, although some seem to find it (and its corresponding challenges) interesting. After all, it has never been anything less than fun to hear their stories about their journey on navigating through these dating episodes with complete strangers.

I guess my conclusion is, I’m simply not built for this modern method of finding your other half, and therefore I’m grateful that I (hopefully) won’t have to be back in this game of cupid, especially when it has evolved this much. Besides, A has known me long enough to know every darkest moment I might have, along with my personal moments of triumphs, that it feels almost impossible for me to have to recap all those stories with anybody else. A has also discovered all my digital imprints even back to the year of 2010 thanks to my old Plurk account, which might record the oldest digital trail of mine since the ones before that have been deliberately erased due to my self-consciousness and self-awareness issues back in my senior high school era.

On top of that, not only that rummaging through the web for someone to do a full background check on me might be an intimidating job to carry out due to the enormous amount of trashy content I dumped on the web, but also, I too – as a perfectionist – would have a problem having to digest all the information about a particular someone thanks to the possible amount of their digital footprints. Even if that person turns out to not have a digital track record whatsoever, which might seem to make this task a lot easier, but… Nope. What kind of sociopath does not have any online presence these days, especially not even a LinkedIn profile?

TL;DR – I’d be a horrible (online) dating candidate due to the enormous amount of digital footprints I intentionally dumped into the internet across all possible platforms throughout the years. I’d also suck at finding my other half through this medium because of my unhealthy perfectionism. Thus, kudos to all of you, especially those who were raised in eastern culture households, who can keep up with this whole dating-a-stranger phenomenon and even create a lasting relationship through these mediums. It’s no easy task, as finding your soulmate in itself is never easy from the beginning, especially compared to the more conventional way of finding the one through shared circles and so forth.

(Picture was taken from an old still life project of mine, see more here.)

Written by

A geologist, self-taught photographer, hobbyist writer, and wanderer who loves subtle colours, sunrays, mother nature, wilderness, adventures, flowers in the afternoon, quiet corners of a city, being literally - yet not figuratively - on top of the world, solo travels, trips by train, fascinating rocks, vintage postcards, and aesthetically pleasing urban landscapes.

14 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Wah sama banget, kadang-kadang suka kepikiran kok bisa ya ada orang nge-date/nikah sama orang lain yang berada di luar circle pertemanannya. Literally orang asing gitu. Bener-bener gak kebayang bagi saya yang socially awkward ini wkwk

  2. Sebagai anak yang kepo aku selalu ngelakuin background check tiap kenal orang (kenal langsung atau dari social media). Bahkan aku bisa stress sendiri kalau misal ga nemuin info apapun di internet tentang yg bersangkutan. Ya sama sih ujung ujungnya jd wondering, orang macam apa yang gapernah share apapun di internet?

    Ya walaupun aku bisa aja tanya langsung tanpa sok sok jadi mata-mata. Etapi kalau bisa ribet kenapa harus cari yang gampang kan? Wkwk

    1. Hahha setujuu dan kayak seru aja gaksih kalo tiba2 nemu suatu info tentang orang tersebut yang kayak “wow” dan unexpected banget, apalagi kalo misal lagi ngepoin orang yang dari awal kita udah mikir “Wih keren nih orang” trus makin dicari tau ternyata kok makin2 ya kerennya? 😀

  3. It’s unavoidable to date online here because of the culture. Strangers just don’t walk to you in a bar asking for a date. That might be possible in the US ( and Hollywood movies ) but not here, and that’s why Tinder is soo popular in here. There’s someone (a journalist) who wrote an article about how she had experimented to date without using an online platform in Denmark, it was so difficult according to her opinion.

    Btw, I wrote about that subject here https://sikoperbiru.com/2017/09/02/for-the-love-of-the-scandinavians/

    1. Yeah I always suspected those movie scenes are just way too dreamy to be true😄 I don’t know for sure but maybe online dating is almost only suitable for those who are looking for a bit of a challenge? While esp. for many Indonesians we’re good with the very conventional way of meeting through groups in common.. And it’s probably a bit cultural as well, Idk.

      Anw, will read your post in a bit!

      1. Yes, Asian culture is so much more communal, you tend to have a large group of friends and each of your friends have probably the same amount of other friends, hence it’s easier to get to know new people (not necessarily for dating) in the traditional way (via someone). Here, it’s nothing like that, people tend to have smaller amount of friends and we’re very private in a way that we don’t just go around and introduce people or get them together in a group if they don’t know each other beforehand.

        1. Right! Although it’s interesting that most of my western friends (read: Canadian and some other international students – which were *very* limited by numbers, so statistically not very convincing) also happened to found their s/o via their friends in common. Idk if it’s because I knew them from the research-based grad school that we went to so naturally they probably wouldn’t have that much of free time to get into the hassles of online dating etc.. Also I’m generalizing “western” here while every country must’ve had different views..

  4. Hi! Stumbled on your page and I love your posts! I think as an Indonesian that tried online dating I would like to leave a comment. I tried my first online dating when I was studying in the UK, literally forced by a friend (probably he was horrified I hadn’t even tried) and he assured me that not all men were creeps (he lied, 95% were). But after endless meaningless chats, I talked to a really nice guy, and after weeks of texting we decided to meet for a coffee. Now, he’s my husband. So yeah, my only experience in online dating. Funnily enough, I talked to an elderly gentleman about how I met my then bf, and he found the idea very strange. “Why can’t you just say hi and start talking to a girl you meet in a cafe/bar?”. I guess the way we communicate has shifted, you don’t just give your number to a stranger without doing a thorough background check (read: facebook, insta, twitter, LinkedIn check lol). That being said, meeting someone naturally, i.e. not because an algorithm matched your interests, is still the cutest.

    1. Aw I think your story is a cute one too! It’s still hard for me to imagine having to take that leap of faith of trusting someone that is not so long ago a stranger and allowing them to eventually play a major role in your life, but I guess it works for many people. Can’t try walking on their shoes as well since I’ve got my own person, but I adore that somewhat “adventurous” journey that you guys took to meet your other half!

  5. Oh, wow. This was an interesting (and scary) read. I won’t lie, I do perform online checks on prospective dates if they barely have a social media presence just to know what I’m going into. However, I’m worried about myself because when I search my name I leave a huge digital footprint on google, but it’s mostly connected to my blog.

    1. Yup that’s a good precaution right there! Some people would just wing it for the sake of the adventure but I personally can never be that kind of person lol. Thanks for taking the time to read btw. 🙂

    1. Yeah agreed! I just think it’d be overwhelming as well for the other party to dig up any information on me online since I left way too many digital trails across all possible social media lol

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