Wasted Papercuts

Staff writer Rachel Brownjohn‘s post for this week discusses her personal experience with social experimentation.


In middle school I remember poring over Seventeen Magazine for the perfect flirtation techniques. Memorizing just how I should point my knees to convey interest, or how long to hold my crush’s gaze to let him know I ‘like liked’ him. Little did I know all I had to do was keep talking to him. That might be a bit of an exaggeration. Let me tell you a story.

I’m privy to a bit of a social experiment happening right now (the details for which I will provide you with in due time, don’t you worry!) and it’s blowing my mind… A lot. It started as a peek into the world of Internet dating for the opposite sex (in this case – a guy seeing the world from a girl’s perspective) and has turned into one of the most revealing endeavors I’ve ever witnessed. And it’s really got me questioning everything I know about flirtation.

When I’ve dabbled in Internet dating, I tend to respond very selectively, only engaging with people who seem genuinely interested in something about me other than my picture. I tend to ignore the messages that seem to have been copy and pasted from girl to girl, and I rarely even open the messages with lazy one liners like, “hey you”. Maybe I’m an Internet snob, but I prefer to think of myself as choosy. The point is, until now I never knew what was on the other side of those messages. This dark side of the web was a mystery to me.

Do you guys remember that experiment that they did at Stanford with the prison simulation? Some students acted as guards, others as inmates, and all kinds of sadistic scariness manifested? Remember that? It was an experiment that shed a really unflattering light onto the kinds of things of which people are capable. Not even crazy people, not murderers or sociopaths, just people. This is turning out to be one of those.

The research is going a little something like this:

1) Receive stock message

2) Reply incoherently

3) Receive MORE messages

4) Reply EVEN MORE incoherently

5) Continue receiving more messages!!!

Girls! We wasted too many hours and paper cuts thumbing through Seventeen. It turns out that for some people on the interwebs you can TRULY say ANYTHING and they will be on board. I am not exaggerating. You can tell these gents that you spent the night locked in the refrigerator, tube feeding your cat, while performing a religious ceremony and THEY WILL STILL ASK YOU OUT (Are you just itching for more details on this project? You are aren’t you? I promise I’ll tell you everything soon). I’m so serious.

And while I realize these probably aren’t Prince Charmings replying to these nonsense messages, it still has me wondering about things. Is anyone really listening to each other? Are we even paying attention? Or have some of us become so keen to find companionship that we are willing to see beyond absolute gibberish in the hopes of finding that special someone. That witty repartee is completely superfluous. Simply responding is enough. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe these exchanges are about one thing and one thing only; maybe these people aren’t interested in anything beyond one evening. But what if they aren’t? What if it’s just an exaggerated look into how much we are willing to overlook for the possibility of love? WHAT IF. What do you guys think? And what’s the craziest thing you’ve disregarded in the interest of continued flirtation? Tell me everything.