In a time before Snapchat and at the height of MySpace, there was Facebook. Rather, The Facebook. Today we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the social media giant and thinking back on those old days when “poking” was still a thing, I am reminded of one significant event: my first online date.
Facebook started out with only Ivy League schools, but by late 2004 most of the big universities were a part of the network. You couldn’t tag people, there weren’t any apps or games and the newsfeed concept didn’t exist. Pretty much the only thing you could do was flip through your high school year book or university directory looking for people to search. The stalking officially began for me on October 31, 2004.
I was a perky coed at Penn State University and my sexless winter was starting to get to me. Months after I joined The Facebook, on a boring Sunday afternoon a friend and I decided to “poke” hot guys. Now, a “poke’s” intention has never had a concrete meaning. It could mean, “Hi” to a friend, or, “Heyyyyy you’re looking tasty.” Maybe you slipped and hit the mouse at a very random moment and now your RA thinks you’re hitting on him. It was a vague concept and still is.
We must have “poked” half the guys from the neighboring men’s dorm, another 10 from student government and a decent selection who lived off-campus. We were not expecting any responses beyond a friend request. Chris “poked” me back (gasp) and sent a message. I can’t quote the message exactly because he deleted his profile for a period of time (poor foresight to this post Chris). I’m pretty sure this is how the message played out:
Chris: Hi, why did you poke me? Not that I’m complaining.
Me: I thought you were cute.
Chris: Cool. You’re cute too.
Romantic huh? Chris had green eyes, dark brown hair and was a manager for our celebrity-esque football team, and he was a senior. If the hashtag had been invented, it would have been a #score.
We setup our first date for the Friday before spring break. I walked down College Avenue to Starbucks he looked even better than his profile photo. (At this point I was still too new to online dating to be inherently skeptical.) He paid for the coffee and we talked for two hours. It got even better when he offered to drive me home and while enroute we agreed to go back to my empty dorm to watch, wait for it — The Incredibles. Bow-chica-bow-wow.
My very short list of sexual partners had never included sex on the first date. I had moved through two firsts within four hours, online dating being the first.
We chatted occasionally throughout the next week while I was home in New York for the holiday. He stayed back in Pennsylvania where he was from. The evening I got back to school we met up, which in my mind was the beginning to a beautiful relationship, but in actuality it was the beginning to my experience with the morning after pill. Riding In Cars With Boys took on a whole new meaning after that night.
After that Chris started to distance himself and then eventually dumped me for his future ex-wife. Years later, after Chris reopened his Facebook account we became “friends” again. Every once in a while I see pictures of his kid and get to see how mismatched we were, but that’s OK. Of all the exes I’ve had, he turned out to be a pretty decent guy.
I’ve never deleted my Facebook account or wiped albums of photos from the face of the Internet because at this point, Facebook is a history of my young adulthood and early dating life. Even rehashing this experience left me laughing and cringing, appreciating the harmless nostalgia of it all.
My first online dating experience temporarily marred my opinion of online dating because that’s where we met, but really it wasn’t such a bad idea. Looking back, it seems kind of ballsy that at 18 I was willing to take that chance. My tactics have since changed: no longer choosing mates based on their eye color for one, and I haven’t used Facebook to find a date since.
Well, two years ago I tried it again, but apparently people find it creepy now.