I have had a variation of this conversation on Facebook many times. Someone reaches out to me. Hi, they say. As an out queer woman, I say hi back. It’s less necessary now, but there was a time when not many people were out and able to tell people about queer groups in different cities in India.
They ask me who I am and where I’m from. I tell them, repeating my profile page information. I’m a queer woman based in Bangalore. I’m 35 years old. I’m bi, pan. I’m cis. I’m single.
The rest of the conversation is an exercise in futility for both of us. They are waiting to figure out how to ask me out, how to build a rapport to figure if they should ask me out. I am hoping they want anything at all rather than to ask me out.
A frustrated young woman once asked me, why are you on Facebook if you don’t want to talk to people? I told her, I’m on Facebook for my friends and community, and the way you’re behaving right now, I don’t want you to be either my friend or in my community. It was harsh, but it was true – I didn’t like her assumption that I *had* to be available to her. I *had* to date. I *had* to talk with her about sex. I *had* to date somebody, and why not her.
I’m 36, so I remember the bad old days of IRC. I remember what it was like to log into a chat space and have to separate out the people who were there to talk, the people who desperately pinged you for sex. There were specific chat rooms for dating and sex, and I didn’t go there because hey, that’s not how I wanted to get sex.
In the real world, I’m much the same. I want to build a relationship of knowing with someone before I’m ready to ask them out or be asked out. I dislike, tremendously, being asked out in a coffee shop by strangers. Or a bar. Or anyplace. I generally have dated people I knew for a little and grew to like, love, and lust for.
But if I go to a dating space – speed dating, singles mingle, an online app, those rules change. The context changes. In this space, I am not here for coffee. Unless it’s, you know, *coffee*. 😉 On an app like AYA, everyone here is here for a reason – the primary purpose of the app is to look for people, to find romance, to find that spark. On AYA, *you* are not waiting for chance and time to serendipitously send you romance in a nice meet-cute – you’re taking charge of your love life, your sex life, your dating life. And you deserve to meet people, vetted by the AYA team, with safeguards in place to ensure your safety, who want the same thing you do.
Facebook and Instagram are worse than the real world for safety, in many ways. They are unregulated, have their fingers on too much of your data, and generally is an incoherent space. Communities and groups do form which allow specific activities including dating, but the original sin of your online safety remains.
Saying hi to a random person who doesn’t know you on Facebook because you think their profile picture is hot is the equivalent of going to someone at a coffee shop, saying Hi You Don’t Know Me, Wanna Date? They’re not in the coffee shop to date you. They’re not on Facebook or Instagram to date you. Nothing there is set up to take care of you in this delicate, fun, exciting process.
But here you are, taking the reins, setting standards for who you are, what you want, and whom you want it with. A lot of the people here are like you – I hope you find the person or people you’re looking for, and I hope they find you back.