Four stories of dating on Twitter

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As you are aware, modern life presents dozens of new venues for finding romance, each with their own complicated set of roadblocks, pitfalls, and potential horrific disasters. People love to wring their hands over these options, asking whether it is even possible to meet a person organically in a physical space in 2017 and subsequently care for them, or if Tinder and its ilk have inured us to each other’s feelings and faces, making the human species more flighty, distractible, and mean.

There are so many questions, and one of them is this: is it cool to date on Twitter? I’m asking because I spend my whole day there, and out of respect for the person I was at age 16, I am nurturing at least half a dozen Twitter crushes at any given time.

I believe it was Drew Barrymore’s character in Never Been Kissed — Josie “Josie Grossie” Geller, a fictional cub reporter for the semi-real Chicago Sun-Times — who best articulated the importance of crushes: they are the thing “you get up and go to school for in the morning,” in addition to your education or whatever. My Twitter crushes are how I make myself get up and get ready for work. Can I date any of them? Should I? The question presented me with the perfect occasion to talk to people who have already tried it, in a one-time-only podcast event called “Four stories of dating on Twitter.” Here we are.

Recently, The Washington Post published a useful report titled “Dating via Twitter? Yes, it’s possible,” citing the hashtag #WeMetOnTwitter, which has been used about 500 times. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but the report also deploys some compelling anecdotal evidence and discusses the recent advent of the app Loveflutter, which is an awful lot like Tinder except 10 recent tweets are included in your profile. The app has about a million users, according to co-founder Daigo Smith. It seems only logical, actually, that as Twitter eases into its second decade of existing, it would also become embedded more naturally into the social fabric.

If we’re here all day anyway, then why not? Here are four stories that I hope will help answer the question.

How to give up on dating apps and start dating on Twitter

Maya Kosoff, a tech and politics writer for Vanity Fair, was the impetus for this entire investigation. The very first time I met Maya, she told me that, for a long time, Twitter had been the only “dating” app on her phone.

I didn’t believe her, and that’s where our story begins. “It wasn’t on purpose,” she says, and yet it happened. In exchange for Maya’s story, I told Maya a story of my own. That’s how friendship works.

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How to slide into a girl’s DMs on Twitter

Andrew Marino, The Verge’s audio engineer, is a boy that I know. We’re familiar, friendly even, so I already knew that he had, at some point in time, met a young woman on Twitter and taken her out for dinner at the Times Square Olive Garden. I was very curious to learn: how did Andrew pull this off without coming across as a huge creep and getting blocked forever? Whenever I receive Twitter DMs from strangers, I delete them immediately because I’m no idiot.

I’m not trying to call Andrew’s date an idiot. I’m just trying to understand.

Luckily, Andrew is aware that this is a sticky question, and readily admits, “When you go on Tinder or Bumble, you know that both parties are there for that reason. On Twitter, you don’t want to be like a predator, and you don’t want to come off that way either. But there’s nothing wrong with having a crush.”

Here’s the story of a crush and a DM slide:

How to get dumped by someone you meet on Twitter

Matt Ortile, an editor at BuzzFeed, wrote an essay two years ago about falling in love with somebody he met on Twitter, and what happens when someone who lives in your online social circle breaks up with you. Reading his crush’s tweets for a long time before they actually started dating, Matt says, created “an inflated sense of familiarity.” It led to a don’t-meet-your-heroes experience in which getting to know a person he’d built fantasies around resulted in disillusionment.

Is that reconstruction of reality meaningfully different than the narrative-building we do when we meet an utterly contextless blind date for the first time? Yeah, Matt says, it is… and it sucks.

How to marry someone you meet on Twitter

I’m so glad we got to save this one for last. It’s the best, no offense to me or my other guests. Joanna Stern, personal technology columnist at The Wall Street Journal (and former senior reviews editor at The Verge), told me an excellent story in which she met her wife on Twitter and then never had to bother with any of these terrible questions ever again.

From the nerve-wracking opening DM to a marriage proposal sent in a tweet, it’s one of those unlikely stories that doesn’t exactly sound possible to re-create. But it’s lovely, and contains a little piece of advice for everyone: “It’s an important thing, when you’re going to date someone, to see how they are socially and in your world. Twitter actually, in some ways, mimics that.”

So, is it cool to date on Twitter?

According to Maya, dating on Twitter is a great option if you’re “really lazy.” According to Andrew, dating on Twitter is enough like dating in the real world that it’s not much of a question. He had a nice time at Olive Garden, and that’s enough for now. According to Matt, dating on Twitter is only okay if you’re confident that you can keep your expectations in check. According to Joanna, she’s “too scared of the internet now” to really recommend that you try to mimic her success.

According to me, after thinking about it with the help of these four, it’s not “cool,” because as platforms go, structurally, Twitter is probably closer to LinkedIn than it is to a dating app. You’re likely to interact with people who work in the same field as you — people you might one day find yourself stuck with professionally. Dating on Twitter is also not cool if you don’t have the self-control to resist checking a date’s tweets, replies, and likes all day long.

The same way a teenage crush could debilitate you at school, an internet crush can debilitate you at work. (If you work on a computer, that is. Otherwise, go for it!) Also, if you’re someone who likes to tweet jokes and complaints about your love life, dating a person from Twitter will make that difficult.

On the other hand, maybe dating on Twitter is “cool” if you prefer to re-create something resembling the social network of real life and then choose dates from there. It’s more — pardon me — romantic that way. If Twitter took off as a dating app, it would be the rare one that doesn’t use an algorithm to pair you up. You’d end up connected to people in a way that’s pretty organic, similar to the way you might wind up crossing paths with someone in the offline world: friends of friends, friends of co-workers, former co-workers of current co-workers, a stranger who says one good joke loudly enough to catch your attention, etc. It’s nice to have context for people, or as Darcie Wilder wrote for New Hive last February, “When you’re picking someone from the internet: They already know you. Or they already know who you’re pretending to be.”

It’s almost summer, the official season of taking a gamble, so you might as well try it. If it goes terribly, that’s fine. That’s how most human interaction goes, if you think about it.

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