Somewhere in the back of my mind, I always knew this was going to happen.
I was talking to an aquaintance the other day, a fella who has to be in his late 20s. I was getting a bit conversationally frustrated trying to bob and weave around the iPhone6 parked in front of his face when I finally ran out of patience.
Rather than calling him what he was being, which is a rude and annoying little twit, I opted for a slightly more diplomatic approach. "What are you so busy looking at?"
He said he was just reading a text from his girlfriend. He fiddled with the phone for a bit, then showed me a photo on the screen.
It was a pretty girl, all blond hair and green eyes and perfect Colgate teeth, trim and well dressed. Looking for all the world like a Nautica catalog model.
Oh? How long have you been dating?
About six months. Isn't she great.
Yeah, perfect. (Quite possibly too perfect). When do I get to meet her?
Oh, I don't actually see her.
Say what now?
We date online.
Yep, I knew this was coming, and yet it still left me with mouth agape.
How do you date... online?
Oh, mostly on Instagram and Facebook. We spend hours together. Look, she send me an ecard on my email. She doesn't like Skype, she finds the camera inhibiting. I text her first thing every morning when I wake up, and last thing before we go to sleep at night.
Wait - I'm really not sure that meets the definition of dating. Are you telling me you've never actually met your own girlfriend?
I just told you - I meet her every day on Facebook. You should try to pay better attention.
Well, if you've never seen her, except online, how do you know this is really her in the photos? In fact, how do you even know she is really a she?
Oh I know. (Conspiratorial nudge.) You know.
No, I don't. Goodness help me, I really don't.
It took me a long time to understand the concept of internet dating sites. I'm still not sure about the idea of picking out relationships on a computer screen the way you choose hiking socks on bassproshops.com, but at least the aim of those sites, I think, is that you will eventually actually meet the people you choose and go on some type of physical date where you actually exist in the same space for at least an hour or two before filing mutual restraining orders.
As I understand it, this fella's relationship exists on line, only online, and is intended to stay that way.
Sure, most of us probably have friends online, because they are simply too distant or busy to see often, or at all, in person.
But having a partner you play poker with online, or the high school friend you haven't seen except on Facebook since back in the day, is a bit different than conducting your love life entirely in pixel format.
I'm really not surprised it has come to this. And I'm not so sure that Juaquin Phoenix movie about the guy falling in love with his adaptive computer operating system software voice is so farfetched.
Still, if I recall correctly from the jurassic age, there are one or two elements to dating that even Samsung and Apple cannot totally deliver. So I'm hoping that offline dating still has a bit of a future.
And for the record, put down the damn phone when someone is talking to you.
Do you really have to spend every waking moment on Facebook, Instagram and all the rest, nosing into the minute of people's daily lives and sending out a social media bulletin every time you have a thought, or a fart?
Is it really necessary to send a thousand texts a day? Will people forget you if you stop for ten minutes?
Have you ever tried to eat dinner with someone who has their phone or tablet out the entire time? Have a creative work discussion while everyone is pecking away a text or re-posting cute kitten memes? Talk to your kids while their phone is glued to their face (and yet they can never manager to answer an important call from you)?
Maybe you haven't, because your nose in your phone at the same time. Or if you have, and said something about it, you're a technological dinosaur who can't relate.
Connectedness is great. But when life is happening to you only over the internet, something's wrong.
It's called eye contact. Try it sometime.