People make a big deal out of first impressions making a big impact. With the rise of online dating and the role of social media in our relationships, the way that you describe yourself and present yourself can make a huge difference on whether or not people swipe right or left on you, whether it's in a romantic capacity or platonic manner.

The other day, I was talking to a potential new friend, Erin*. I had just met her and I was in the stage when I was trying to assess whether or not we would get along. We haven't met in person yet, so all our interactions were online. I noticed that as we were chatting, we did a lot of the typical "dating profile" type things. We mentioned our hobbies, our favorite television shows, our favorite musical artists. We were stating a lot of facts, throwing them out there to see if one would strike conversation over some commonality.

And I guess that it makes sense. You see if you like someone based off of common interests. Online, I connect with a lot of people with a shared interest in blogging. It's a great way to get a conversation going and eventually a friendship.

However, it got me thinking. While we were stating all those facts, I remember thinking that the fact that she likes Shawn Mendes' music wasn't going to make or break whether I was friends with her or not. If she liked a television show that I didn't like, that wouldn't necessarily mean that we wouldn't get along.

It occurred to me that the people that we describe ourselves to be in the "dating profile" or fun fact style probably won't make or break situations of whether or not two people will get along. 

About a week ago, I stumbled upon clips from the British television show, Love Island. I don't actually watch the show because I am American and thus cannot watch it, but I found the few clips that I saw to be quite entertaining because they were full of drama. One statement that stood out to me was that a lot of people were saying things like "Laura's 100% my type on paper." It seemed like a way to justify going after someone, but to me I felt like that didn't really guarantee that they would actually get along because it seemed that a lot of them didn't really hit it off that well despite being each other's types.

Whether it's friendships or romantic relationships, I started getting curious regarding whether getting along on paper will really result in a strong relationship. 

So on paper, am I even compatible with my friends? 

One of my friends, Alexa*, is probably not that much like me. Her fashion taste is edgier than mine, consisting of crop tops, boots, fishnet tights, and lipsticks, while I opt for peter pan collars, stripes, and embroidered clothing. She likes cartoons and YouTube gaming videos. I like baking videos and drama-filled television. She likes different music than I do. She eats healthy and tries all the foods while I eat less healthy and am more selective with what I eat. She has lots of gorgeous plants while I killed the air plants that she gave me for my birthday. While our appearances in terms of our style may not match and some of the fun facts that we state about ourselves might not align, we somehow still get along. 

Granted, there are some similarities in the things we like as well. We both like calligraphy and we both have an appreciation for musical theatre. However, in terms of the factual "on paper" ways to describe ourselves, it doesn't look like we're really checking a lot of boxes. 

But when I think about it, we have a similar sense of humor. We're both nerdy and we like to have long intellectual conversations about the strangest things.

Something about our personalities, although I feel like I can't really translate it into words, just works.

On the other hand, I have another friend that I've known since we were in preschool, Olivia*. Olivia and I are slightly more similar on paper than Alexa and I would be. Olivia and I both play (we did at the time, I guess now it's played in past tense) the piano. We have more similar sense of style. We both liked drawing, but just as a hobby, nothing crazy serious. We work on paper and in real life. 

I guess that what I'm getting at is that there are some friendships that can be full of factual similarities and other friendships that can be full of factual differences, but both can work. 

However, if I had solely judged them based off of who they are on paper, perhaps I would have become friends with Olivia, but maybe I wouldn't have become friends with Alexa. Imagine if it was like on Tinder. Based off of what was presented before me, perhaps I would have swiped left on Alexa without ever giving her a chance and seeing that somehow we fit in real life even though there are so many differences.

Related: Why You Should Spend Time With People Outside Your Social Circle

So beyond the factual things that make up who we are on paper, I think that often we use the people that we are on paper in social media. We present forward who we think we are and how we want people to see us. It's kind of like when people ask you for fun facts about yourself in those awkward icebreakers, you're not going to say the boring stuff, you're going to say the kind of things that you think people will be interested in and will present you in the best light.

Erin and I added each other on social media and I scrolled through her Instagram, trying to figure out the kind of person that she is and whether or not she might become a friend. Her Instagram wasn't much like mine, but the style of photos and captions did remind me of the Instagram of a close friend that I already have, Tanya*. So would that mean that we would get along? I guess that I don't really know. Maybe, but also maybe not. I won't know until I meet her in real life and see how her personality truly is.

People mention not online-stalking someone that you're romantically interested in because you might end up making assumptions about them or building this expectation of the kind of person that they will be before you meet them. And I see that. I can't tell the kind of person that Erin is from her social media or the kind of person she presents herself to be on paper.

Sure, I could make the assumption that because her social media is in a similar style to Tanya's, that would mean that we would be friends. However, I think that the things that make Tanya and I friends aren't the things that are on her social media. It's not her hobbies or fashion sense. It's the way that I feel comfortable talking to her about a lot of things that I don't feel comfortable talking to anyone else about. I don't know why I feel that way, I just do. Like my friendship with Alexa, I can't always translate that into words.

To me, I think that relationships (any kind of relationship) is more than just the first impressions, the facts, and the facades. A lot of it plays into personality, the dynamic of the relationship, and the connection that you feel that you might not exactly be able to describe.

Don't close yourself off to potential friendships, romantic relationships, and general relationships because at first glance you don't see an instant click. I feel like now we are becoming more superficial than ever in our relationships and it's time to stop letting first impressions drive your overall opinion of people.

Give it time and take the time to get to know people and see past what's on paper. 

I am beginning to make an active effort to stop trying to let a first impression dictate how I view someone. I am trying to avoid looking up people on social media in order to stop that from shaping my assumptions regarding who they are and I am trying to see people for who they truly are, not on paper, not on a dating profile, and not from who they are on social media. I wouldn't want someone to judge me based off of just one quick encounter, so why should I do the same?

At the end of the day, all I'm looking for is connections and meaningful relationships with people. And I hope that I can find that by being more open-minded and looking beneath the surface.


*names changed for privacy



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