A recent New York Times piece lamenting the "end of courtship" mentioned something most of us in the 21st-century dating scene have known for a while: details couples once reserved for first-date conversations can now be unearthed far too easily with a few web searches. And why not? You may well have met the person online or out dancing and want to verify certain claims. Perhaps you need a good picture for girlfriends to see how hot that guy from the bar was. Or maybe you just want some help making conversation.
I once used to do my share of online sleuthing, to be sure, but in almost every case the research was my response to a gap of some kind. Either we lacked common friends who could serve as a character reference, or our connection was too haphazard or casual to grant me what I really wanted.
You see, for much of adulthood, I formed aspirational crushes. It wasn't ever deliberate, yet somehow I usually fell for men whose esteem or rejection came to influence my self-worth. In a phrase Tim Keller often uses (probably quoting Lewis or Tolkien), I longed for "the praise of the praiseworthy."
With this mindset, even little tastes of intimacy or access to a crush acquired a disproportionate sense of value, and every exchange mattered far more than it should have. Yet in the end, any intimacy I found in via Google search … or even electronic communication with the crush proved largely false.
It took me a long time to figure out why. Then one Sunday morning in a church class on dating, I heard this formula: Intimacy = talk + time + togetherness. As John Van Epp explains in his book How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk (on which the class was based), Internet-based relationships are often rich ...1
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