For some odd reason, I've been on the receiving end of more than one social media DM asking me out on a date, or inviting me to Facetime to get to know each other better. I've mostly heard from people on Instagram, but I've even had a few people reach out on LinkedIn.
LINKEDIN, y'all! It's a wild world out there.
I'm currently working on my Masters degree and recently decided that it might be good to put dating on hold so that I can save my emotional energy for the 200 page paper I'm writing. When men have reached out to me asking me on dates, I write them a polite but short note letting them know that I appreciate their offer and I'm grateful that they asked, but that I'm not looking to date at the moment. What's happened next baffled me:
One man asked me out on Instagram and when I sent my response, he did not respond to me at all and then unfollowed me, and removed me from following him.
Another man who I had originally connected and chatted with on LinkedIn was Snapping me, and when he asked if we could FaceTime, I told him what I had told everyone else. He also didn't respond, and he went as far as to unfriend me on Snap AND to remove our connection on LinkedIn.
Neither of these situations were heartbreakers for me because I survived the MySpace Top 8 era of social media and nothing prepares you for social media rejection quite like being number nine on the stack ranked list of a friend. But it was confusing to offer a kind "no" and to have people take such drastic actions without even a word. It prompted the following question:
Are we part of a generation that struggles to operate with kindness when a response doesn't match our expected or hoped-for outcome?
I don't have the answer, honestly. For every one guy who has acted this way, I have 2 stories of men who have responded politely and with kindness. Unfriending/unfollowing without a word seems like an extreme measure in response to someone politely saying "no."
I thought a lot about what I should do to operate in this new world of social media dating, unfollowing/unfriending culture and "cancel" tendencies. Should I change my approach to people? Should I just not respond at all?
Ultimately, I decided to change nothing. I live my life by a set of morals that I've carefully selected based on what I believe to be necessary to operate in a healthy way in this world. One of the main ideas that I adhere to is the idea that kindness is more important than being right. Does it apply in every case? Maybe not. It's subjective. But I do believe it applies most of the time. When someone asks me out, I'm going to continue to offer them kind words when I say "no" because I believe that kindness has a way of showing people they are valued and cared for, even when they have no intention of showing kindness back.
If we take the "an eye for an eye" mentality into the ever evolving dating world, we will continue to harden a place that is already tough to endure. If our kindness costs us nothing, and if it comes from a place where we believe it has power no matter how people respond to it, our kindness can be a salve for the people who have been wounded navigating the dry and scorched land of the dating apps and social media.
So, maybe I won't meet the love of my life on dating apps or social media. (Maybe I'll meet him in law school?) But should anyone I've interacted with ever think of me randomly while they're waiting for their Uber or making their dinner, I hope that they'll feel like they were valued, even though they might have felt 'rejected' in the moment. That's the power of kindness - it outlasts most of our person-to-person interactions and can have far-reaching effects long after we've said our piece. And I...I think that's worth it.