It was a small circle, you could say. The bar was packed full of us, some of us in tortoise shell frames and some of us were gripping iPhones in our hands. We didn’t know everyone, but this was a familiar group. We checked in and followed one another on various mobile applications.
I was introduced to a girl he slept with who had arrived with a guy that had unsuccessfully tried to date me. Funny how that happens. Amusing how often we collided into one another, an awkward exchange of pleasantries following an inordinate array of cyber interactions.
We were together, but it had only been a few weeks. It wasn’t a secret, but it wasn’t public knowledge.
So we sat on opposite sides of the bar exchanging looks and taking slow sips from our glasses. It was a game. We pretended not to know one another. He was terrible at it. He kept breaking out into a wide smile that made his blue eyes soften.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
We drank another round of scotch, this one sliding down our throats easier than the last. Our back to the crowd, our eyes closed, we kissed slowly, drunkenly, the way people who have only been dating for a few weeks kiss. We forgot about the group behind us, raising their chins and lowering their faces over the blue glare of their cellphones.
Later we slipped out into the night and kissed on a side street and walked off to dinner at a cafe nearby. We both checked in on our favorite location-based social network. He left his iPhone on the table next to the wine list. My blackberry rested to the left of my fork.
“We keep checking into Foursquare together,” he said through bites of bread. “People are going to find out about us.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Find out about us?”
“Not that I care! I meanâ€”I care. Not that it’s a secret. I just mean… we keep checking into restaurant and bars togetherâ€”and at brunch the next morning. We’ve got a lot of mutual friends following us on a lot of different social media apps. Foursquare is a giveaway. Don’t you think cat’s out of the bag?”
“You don’t think making out in public could have just as easily gave it away?”
He laughed. “I guess so.”
I rolled my eyes. It was a good thing he was so damn cute.
It used to be the case that your private affairs were just thatâ€”private. Just like the appearance of the diamond engagement ring, Facebook changed the way women went about broadcasting their relationships. The change of a relationship status in one’s Facebook newsfeed has become a technological rite of passage for new couples. The moment one chooses to announce their new status, the comments and interactions pour onto the website like a receiving line of emoticons and typos.
If Facebook acts like a couple’s own press release, then Foursquare could very well be a couple’s “how we met” narrative. Checking into venues together is a sure way of shining a light on a relationship without making any declarative statements. Suddenly, covert hookups are not so secretive. Social networking can happily shine a light on a successful first date, or else ruin a happy hour rendez-vous with a
sexy work acquaintance.
We were as covert as Sarah Palin’s left hand.
We tweeted replies to each other and exchanged inside jokes on our Facebook walls. We Tumbld. We argued on the same commenter threads in the same popular blogs. We fought over Foursquare mayorships.
After only a month of dating, we went away for a weekend on the shore. We checked into the hotel together and tweeted about our ocean view.
That night, drunk on whiskey and the sunset over the bay, I said it was time to call me his girlfriend. It had been only a month, I knew, but we were getting serious. We were away on vacation together, tweeting to all of our friends about our romantic getaway.
“So what do you think?” I pressed.
He shook his head. “I don’t think those titles matter. We’re together. I like you so much. You know that. Why do I need to call you my girlfriend? Why does Facebook need to know how we feel about each other?”
Tears welled up in my eyes. I wasn’t expecting this. “But everyone knows! We check in together everywhere! I’ve met all your friends and you hold my hand in public!”
“Of course! Because we’re together. And I like you. And I don’t need validate my feelings to all our various social media followers.”
He kissed my forehead. I sobbed.
I didn’t tweet that night or check into the restaurant he took me for dinner. It was nobody’s business. If he didn’t care about my feelings, I wasn’t going to share my feelings with strangers.
When we got back to the city, he had lost interest in Foursquare but not me. Instead of competing for mayorships and tweeting about our relationship, he spent time getting to know my best friends. He watched my favorite movies and patiently explored my family photo albums.
The month prior, I knew where he was every minute of the day, and I knew what he was thinking with every tweet. I wasn’t an obsessive woman, but someone I had stumbled onto a diary-like survey of his every move. It was too much. I locked my personal blog. I stopped reading his Tumblr. I put my blackberry in my bag when we went out to dinner.
One night we ended up back at a crowded bar with the usual suspects milling about, quietly scrawling their judgments in their Twitter feeds. He held my hand and squeezed it when I checked into Foursquare. I was introduced to a girl his best friend dated who had worked with my coworker on an event.
“Hi,” he smiled, wrapping his arm around my waist. “Have you met my girlfriend?”