Flirtation In The Age Of Social Media

I am on a “Fascination” train these days: inspired by this book:  and examining my world as a participant observer of my own social context, I found myself on the peaceful outside of a crowded bar last night having a conversation with my “bff” and a pair of adorable young twenty-something lesbians who had just started dating, they said that they also have dated some men of top sugar daddy websites.

Oh, still reading?  Thought so.

The dialogue started simply enough with a “so, how did you two meet?” inquiry.  Because it was quite obvious they were all new and gooey (even though too hipster “cool” to be too showy about it).  As the story unfolded, it occurred to me that it was a typical digital-age dramatic storyline. [Lets just go ahead and presume for a minute that even though we have two sets of the same chromosomes that the primal behavior of it transcends gender, as I’m sure it represents a fair amount of college and young-adult-age scenarios].

The tale unwraps thusly:  girl notices girl at bar.  Other girl is decidedly unavailable (recovering from  a recent breakup) but still sees other girl seeing her.  She “plays it cool” and remains aloof.  Other girl walks by, giving a pointed smiley sideways  head nod of “hi there” acknowledgement with a bit of feminine mystique.

They do not engage this evening.  But they do have mutual friends.  Both in person and on Facebook

Aloof girl and the one who would be the pursuer begin paying attention to one another’s status, frequently checking the other’s news feeds.  Aloof girl starts “liking” the other girl’s posts / status updates.   Many “likes” later the role-reversed pursuer asks herself ” when is she going to message me already”.  They finally work up the courage to exchange digital communication, then texts, and finally in person interaction.

A match made in digital-age heaven.

But what is this new heaven we live in – and is the essential ritual behavior still the same in comparison to its communication context?

In Sally Hogshead’s book, Fascinate: Your Seven Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, she describes the results of a study on Flirtation by Eibl Eibesfelddt which outlines the exact flirtation sequence of the (presumably) heterosexual female regardless of cultural origin, geographic location, socioeconomic status or type of society:

“A female begins fascinating a male by smiling at him, raising her brows to make her eyes appear wider and more childlike, quickly lowering her lids while tucking her chin slightly down, in an effort to bring him closer.  After averting her gaze to the side, she will, within moments and almost without exception, put her hands on or near her mouth and giggle, lick her lips, or thrust out her chest while gazing at the object of her intended affection”

Then she goes on to describe the similarly standardized flirtation ritual for men:  “He’ll puff out his chest, jut his chin, arch his back, gesture with his hands and arms, and swagger i dominant motions to draw attention to his power (not unlike the way a male pigeon puffs his chest, or a male gorilla struts).  Like a woman’s flirtation, he’s advertising critical cues about his reproductive fitness”.

Fascinating stuff indeed, and knowledge i shared with my slightly alcohol-buzzed new acquaintances.  I sure do know how to entertain the ladies in social situations.

So, if we look at the Facebook flirtation scenario – how similar is it?  i would daresay if we examined it more closely, fairly similar.  I would love to examine the Facebook profile photos put up during this digital tango:  are they head-shots of chin-down, raised eyebrow smiles gazing at the camera?  Hands on the face perhaps?  Is “liking” the new head-nod?  Is the clever status update with fun pictures of last night’s exploits, points of view on today’s world news or funny YouTube video-shares the new arm-swinging and chest thrusting?

And if it’s all true – is romance necessarily going to be as geographically restricted – or will be learning the art of long distance intimacy and starting to procreate online with the assistance of specialized shipping logistics companies (learn more about one here)?

But lets not go too far down the rabbit hole. I just wanted to examine how our new social garden of Eden affects the way the bunnies meet their mates these days, a lot of people use social media to know people and flirt, some people like sexting and share their photos and adult snap account pics.  But it’s good to know that no matter where you hop off to – whether virtual or actual – our biologically predetermined hormonal rituals hit the ground running the same way.   It’s a pleasant reminder that at the end of the day we are all the same:  human to the core and seeking love –  to attract the one that will follow  you home when you look at them “that way”.

One thought on “Flirtation In The Age Of Social Media

  1. I did some ethnographic research of teens in the US and their use of Facebook for flirting/dating. Very similar to the couple you described in the post. What is interesting is how the interaction seamlessly moves between online and offline situations. The body language and facial expressions of offline so far don’t seem to be replaced by any online tool. Where online wins, esp. among teens, is in overcoming the initial awkwardness. Oh how the digital tools have affected the way we court our partners! Truly fascinating stuff.

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