I'm almost done, and I'm definitely out of love. I don’t mean to sound selfish, but after jumping into the sharing economy with gusto, just as I leaped onto dating sites when separated and divorced, I'm slowly pulling away. Less kiss and tell and share.
I made several new online relationships, but it's time to shut down some of the sharing venues 10 years after I started posting personal snippets about my life online, reading about others, and critiquing places.
Extreme? Some friends and family may think so, after regularly reading about my latest adventures, seeing photos of my family, and reading which restaurants, lodgings, tourist sights, and shops I've loved and wanted to share, good and bad. I now want less of a public forum with a few exceptions. I need to regain my privacy and reserve energy for different tasks and people that are more meaningful to me.
Here’s a chronology of how I fell in love and am now starting to part ways.
Dating sites from Jdate to Match and The Right Stuff seemed the perfect matchmaker once I was dumped after 31 years of marriage. Heartbroken, I tried the various venues as a way to test the waters of meeting someone eligible since I had been told it was the surest way at my advanced sixtysomething age. Dating strangers initially was fun, but proved exhausting as I tired of retelling my story and why I had landed in this predicament. And then I metaphorically walked away after 350 dates, which my writing partner and I chronicled in one humorous chapter in our last book, Suddenly Single after 50 (Rowman & Littlefield). I wanted a break, more me time.
Facebook came next, after my then college-age daughters approved my going on the site, though they initially weren't willing to friend me, which seemed fair. I fell in love with the rush once I started. I couldn’t resist going on more frequently as the site began to eat up too much of my time--morning, noon and night, in between writing assignments. I've always found it difficult to do anything with less than 110-percent enthusiasm, which, in this case, meant scrolling daily and multiple times through new postings. I felt compelled to comment or click a "like" by someone's new job, wedding anniversary, trip--ah, Venice, and its canals for one colleague, and treasured antiquities and blue waters of Greece for a high school bud whom I had never been friendly with in high school. She found me years later and we bantered online freely. There were also favorite recipes to try, especially from a San Francisco design friend whose choices were as appealing as the interiors she puts together.
In time, I invested too much time in this virtual love fest posting my news and photos. I felt good when a posting had multiple “likes” such as my recipe for a Wisconsin grilled cheese sandwich contest I entered, and felt dissed when another birthday rolled around and only a small percentage of my supposed 600-plus "friends" remembered me. FB and I are on the verge of a bit of a separation. I made a pact with myself to stop posting some time in 2018 but also only to read FB posts each morning for a set amount of time. This would be a gradual withdrawal. There will be one big exception: the FB pages for my work site and books still need promoting in this digital age. So, when you don't see me raving about anything you've done, know that I still care greatly. We can email or better yet--talk on the phone—what a novel idea—or even send a note sent through the U.S. mail service.
Yelp and TripAdvisor are totally off my radar. The attraction had been immediate and mutual. I became compulsive about reviewing restaurants, resorts, stores, even a few disappointing contractors. And then I embarked on a massive ego trip as I felt egged on to comment about every morsel I ate or mattress I slept on. The sites also encouraged me in the same way one former beau's great flattery in wooing me had. I felt caught in the web. TripAdvisor offered similar satisfaction as it sent me notifications each time I posted to write just one more with the reward of moving up and gaining its next level badge. Who could resist? I was in love with these sites as my hormones exploded.
Even more ego-building was my love affair with readers who checked off that they liked my reviews for their insight, humor, helpfulness, and get this--coolness. This was such a heady affair, and attention begot attention. Some even emailed questions, which to me were the beginnings of a budding friendship, if not romance: Do you have to pay for every amenity at a (super posh) resort where I stayed one night? Well, almost, except for walking in its rarefied air, using its swimming pool, and eating the three great meals served a day because of the required American Plan. Another person wanted the low-down on some Adirondack chairs I had purchased. And another wondered if there was an elevator on one side of the Walk Across the Hudson bridge, the longest pedestrian bridge in the country.
At the same time, I felt unloved when three restaurants didn’t live up to the hype. I wrote why to each. The first emailed me back about how important good reviews are to its business, but never encouraged me to return. The second, which I read about proved even more disappointing with its food and rude staff. Four days later it received two stars by the New York Times' restaurant critic Pete Wells. The owner asked me to return for a group tasting and when I couldn't, wrote again to send us a coupon. I thanked her profusely, and said, of course, we'll hope to try again. And a third restaurant I used to love and found wanting in many ways in the last year was very upset with my review and what I felt was constructive criticism. I thought I was being helpful. But I realized I was a self-appointed critic with good taste but not the New York Times and certainly not a professional. I decided to step away, let others do the thumb's up or down, and go out to eat or relax and enjoy (or not) meals and stays without following up. Au revoir Yelp and TripAdvisor!
Yes, I’m curtailing much, though not all of my cyber life. Will I experience withdrawal? Feel out of the loop not being part of all these newfangled relationships? Perhaps, but I’ll recover. I'm going to do what I did when I first divorced, was looking for healthy relationships and, maybe, love again. I will find what makes my heart pitter-patter by putting time, effort, and joy into my work, family and closest friend relationships, exercise, painting and cooking, and in warm weather sitting in my garden and smelling all the fragrances. I already have started to read more books again--and by holding them in hand and enjoying the text without the incessant intrusiveness of a cell or laptop, and intermittent beeps when another Facebook entry pops up.
How archaic yet delightful these musings. My life again will be more about the best place to put my time and energy. On one front, the cyber divorce proved Beshert. A few months after I stopped the Internet dating frenzy, a long-time couple fixed me up with someone the husband had met. The guy and I met for dinner without knowing that much about each other. We had shared a few phone calls. We clicked slowly and found that sixtysomethings can enjoy a romance and sharing that's become five years later far richer for me than any cyber pairing.