All Double-Tapped Out: On Seeking Love, Unfiltered

All Double-Tapped Out: On Seeking Love, Unfiltered

I’ll start by admitting my relationship status: greenhorn. I’m twenty-seven, and I’m just trying to get my sea legs in dating. Man, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I can tell you one thing: Instagram is not helping me.

If I were to take my relationship advice from Instagram, I should expect the following:

1. Dates on top of mountains. He’ll pack a cold-brew coffee, a pair of croissants, and a Mexican blanket. YES!

2. Dates in canoes. He’ll paddle the oars, and I’ll be impressed by his triceps as he rows. I’ll also be tres chic. Fedora? On my head already. A coffee cup against my pursed lips? Done.

3. Dates in fancy restaurants. We’ll order dessert too. We’ll talk endlessly about a thousand things, because everything he likes, I just so happen to like as well. We’ll start with puppies, light tan, and serving the Lord. “Everything you just said is MY favorite thing to do, EVERY DAY.” When he laughs at a joke I made, I’ll snap an impromptu picture of him. He’ll be so unaware, and he’ll look really cute.

These dates sound ridiculous. I KNOW they are ridiculous. But I’ve believed it. I have accepted the suggestion that if my love story doesn’t look like something seen on Instagram, then I’m missing out. It is a miserable way to live--especially since "Instagram-Love" isn’t real.

I’m not trying to be a hater, or say that people’s love isn’t authentic, but I just want to know the facts. That’s why I’ve been sleuthing through Instagram Love Stories for a while now. Fairy tales bring me hope and point to the truth, but they are not the truth. When I’m lost on Instagram, looking at pictures of indie couples I don’t even remotely know (they are just a friend of a friend... of a friend), I see all the magic.

Here’s a picture of them holding hands next to a waterfall. There’s a picture of them in front of a garage door. He’s giving her a kiss on the cheek, and they’ve just gone shopping for their capsule wardrobe at H&M. Here’s a picture of him silhouetted and a hat on his head. She captions it, “Can’t believe I found him. He is my best friend. I love everything about him.”

The luster begins to shine upon me. I sigh and think about my own dismal life. I haven’t worn red lipstick and gone to the woods with a boyfriend for a VERY LONG TIME. Maybe even... never.

I sleuth a bit more. I scroll through the squares. I find when this adorable couple started dating. Two months ago, he showed up on her Instagram. Hashtag blessed. Awkward photo of them standing “kinda” close together.

They have been together for two months, and she says that “she loves everything about him.” She declares that he is her best friend.

Girl, seriously? There’s no way you know EVERYTHING ABOUT HIM. Two months isn’t that long. You haven’t even gone through the seasons with him! You don’t know if he gets spring allergies or if he hates Christmas shopping, or if he’s buying that capsule wardrobe only because he likes you.

It’s become a habit, now. I scroll through to find out how much of it is real. Now, I’m not saying you can’t fall in love quickly because I know you can. It just breaks the spell of Instagram-Love a little bit. “Oh,” the Sherlocking tells me, “Some of this is an exaggeration.”

Some of this is staged.

Have you ever asked happily married couples how they met? I always do, because I like a good fairytale. One spouse always takes over the story, and the other pipes in with a few sly remarks. They tell the story like a good joke. There is the set-up and then the resolution. It’s good memories spoken aloud. It’s humanity’s history.

I love these stories, but as I listen, I’m aware that I am hearing their version of the Instagram-Love story. I’m getting the highlights, the perfectly positioned coffee cup on the table. When I get to know the couple more, I ask them to tell me the REAL story. “I already told you,” they’ll say, but I ask them again. Did you ever miscommunicate? Did you like EVERYTHING about each other?

Then the rest of the tale will begin to unfold, and I'll recognize it, because it sounds more like one of mine instead of like a photo shoot with smoke machines in the background. There’ll be “he would forget to call me for days,” and “we were not on the same page,” and “we had no money, so we couldn’t go anywhere fancy.”

So, I’m starting a new Instagram relationship page that shows the real deal. Here are some captions:

“Me and my man, miscommunicating. Holla.”

“Going to Walmart together AGAIN. #allthefeels #datenight

“He still hasn’t texted me back after two hours. I hope distance is making him fonder.”

“Ran out of things to talk about on our date. Now, we’re just watching funny Youtube videos.” #personaltime

Yeah. Everybody is going to follow me. I would, because if I just get rid of those unwarranted Instagram-Love “relationship goals,” then maybe, I could have a real one. Not a staged one--not one so other people believe I’m in love. A relationship that has joy, conflict, and resolution in it. Because what I’m really looking for in the squares is something true, something (forgive me) authentic.

Instagram is not the place to look for authenticity. It is a place to look for beauty and be inspired. It is a manufactured fairy tale. It holds glimpses of reality, but it’s just a beautiful and well-crafted set.

So, no more for me. I’ll let Instagram inspire me, but not dictate the rules. I want something real. I don’t need every date to be coffee in the woods or a hike to an Icelandic waterfall. Here is an authentic truth:

Sometimes, it is magic enough to have a man standing at your door waiting to take you on a date--even if that date is to Walmart, because he forgot to buy milk.

Hope Index, Vol. 11: Empathy, Omniscience, and the Truth About Fiction

Hope Index, Vol. 11: Empathy, Omniscience, and the Truth About Fiction

Nurturing Craft in an Age of Content: An Interview with Marilyn McEntyre

Nurturing Craft in an Age of Content: An Interview with Marilyn McEntyre