17 April 2013

The Need For a Social Filter

A bit ago while reviewing several profiles (and messages) that Chewie and I had looked at, we noticed what we believe to be a disturbing trend. Many of the women appeared to have no inhibitions or discretion in what they were talking about. Chewie and I call this set of inhibitions, modesty, and discretion as the "social filter."

Some would argue that this is a product of modern Western culture and its trends of glorifying sexual themes. To an extent, this is true. However, the availability and ubiquity of technical advances also make the sharing of information not just possible but extremely easy to do.

Why, you might ask?

For one, the technology wasn't there. Fifty years ago, for example, there wasn't a lot of ways of communicating with someone privately. Most houses only had one telephone that was wired in a central location. Cameras still used film, and unless one was skilled in photography one had to take their film to another person who would develop them into actual photos. Letters had to be written and sent, and the process could take days. And all of this is notwithstanding the differing mores.

The end result is that people had to really think about what they said and did because there wasn't as much personal privacy. Lecherous conversations could be heard by other people who could then use it as juicy gossip, for example.

Today, what do we have? There are smartphones with cameras and the Internet. People have easy access to email and instant messaging. Even many older people have cordless phones that can be taken to a private room to make calls. Relatively speaking, people feel that they can "do more" and keep it private. The Internet has effectively provided people with some semblance of anonymity (or at least pseudo-anonymity). Ergo people are willing to "push the envelope."

On a dating site, it's simultaneously no different and yet completely different. There is the "Internet anonymity" factor also means that you don't know who's on the other end--and if he or she would in turn use what one says as juicy gossip. It is naïve to assume that a person one is talking to is completely trustworthy just on the basis of their profile and maybe a couple of back-and-forth messages.

Chewie and I have seen this firsthand with messages we've been involved in. Very often, the woman divulges very sensitive personal information that really shouldn't have been mentioned at that point in time. For example, women have divulged things like:

  • Details about sexually-transmitted diseases
  • Income, debts, and obsessions with their credit cards
  • Lurid information about their bodies; here we're not just talking about letting their bra size slip. No, we're talking about graphic descriptions of their genitals and detailing their areolae and nipples down to size, colour, shape, sensitivity, etc. 
  • Their preferences for, ahem, "marital aids," "kinks," and adult cinema.
  • Topless and/or nude photos of themselves

...all before she agreed to even a first date.

I look at this from the angle of a security guy and I have to find this to be rather disconcerting, especially when it happens very quickly. As an example, I was talking to a woman in her early twenties who lives in a large city in the Midwestern U.S. and within three hours I not only had her cell number (and a request to text her), but her measurements (including bra size), living arrangements, bedroom activities, and a high-resolution topless picture of her. And all of this came as a result of asking rather mundane questions and "going with the flow."

Now, it's important to note that we mention these things not to brag or to be graphic. Nor are we saying that these things should never be mentioned. On the contrary, these things will either be revealed or pose a need to be said in due time and responsible adults will discuss them.

But, there is an appropriate time and place to do so. As a guy on a dating site who's reading these profiles and trying to get to know these women, I don't need to know right away what a woman's breasts look like in "Gray's Anatomy" detail or that she has a preference for a certain "marital aid" that shall remain unnamed here.

It would be another thing if she and I had reached an appropriate stage (e.g. agreeing to a "friends with benefits" arrangement, or a budding "traditional" relationship). At that point, then questions relating to personal habits and peculiarities become appropriate and prudent to discern.

Over the years, both of us have asked questions that invariably lead to her "spilling the beans" on her personal data. A lot of women readily answer the question and go into further detail. It's also worth noting that most of these women in doing so have revealed that they're ultimately not long-term relationship material in the process. Suffice it to say, asking a pointed but not graphic question such as "What are your measurements?" tends to lead them on.

The only way to "pass" this kind of test is to politely decline to answer that question and say something like "Let's talk about that at a later time when it's more appropriate." Out of all of the women I've conversed with, only one woman who had the sense to say "Look Cato, I don't think now's a good time to bring that up."

Can we rein in the candor and actually start thinking before we speak?  

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