I actually never had to read the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby during high school. Believe it or not, I even made it through the entirety of my undergraduate and graduate college career without ever having to read it.
But it turns out that the new dating trend that people are calling “Gatsbying” doesn’t have so very much to do with that piece of literature after all. If you also have never read the book, don’t worry. It’s pretty easy to understand this trend with just a quick look at modern social media usage.
If you’ve never read the book (or watched the movie adaptation), here’s a quick synopsis. The book’s main character, Jay Gatsby throws lavish parties all in attempts to catch the attention of his crush, Daisy. “Gatsbying” follows the same trend, but uses social media to get the attention of others.
Making attempts to get the attention of someone we have a crush on might seem like a pretty natural thing to do. But taking it to the level of Jay Gatsby, even if only the online sphere, can turn out to be a dangerous and slippery slope for several reasons.
The trap of competition
Never before have we had the ability to showcase to anyone, anywhere, just how cool we are, as we do today with social media.
It can be tempting to make as much use of this ability as possible. This can be especially tempting when we see our Facebook friends posting impressive “casual” selfies. Instagram stories filled with pictures of someone’s amazing night out don’t help, either. Would it really be a big deal, we might ask ourselves, if we exaggerated a little ourselves?
This type of temptation is probably nothing new if we’re active on social media. After all, why wouldn’t we want to look as good as we can online?
But it starts to become a bigger problem than just plain old vanity when we begin to use an impressive image on social media in place of old-fashioned interaction with potential dates.
Before we know it, we could begin to think that, if we only make our lives look more appealing, more exciting, more perfect online, that guy or girl we like will be interested.
This type of mentality is a trap. We will never be perfect, online or in person. Our “friends” online will always seem more perfect to us from the outside than we’ll seem to ourselves.
What if it works?
What happens if our “Gatsbying” is successful? Say we actually do catch the attention of our crush by showcasing and exaggerating how perfect we are. What type of person are you going to attract with that type of behavior? Will he or she be merely a shallow, worldly sort of person? What if they have no interest in spirituality, holiness, or getting to Heaven?
It’s important to note that this probably wouldn’t always be the case. But that possibility would be a lot more likely here than with someone you’ve attracted through simply being yourself. Relying on mere appearance alone (and an exaggerated one at that!) could very well be a recipe for disaster as the start of a future relationship.
What’s real can become hazy
Trying to look impressive online can become a bad habit. The more we showcase a falsely impressive online version of ourselves, the more we lose track of what’s important. We can begin to blur the lines between what is real or exaggerated on others’ online profiles, too.
Maybe you’ve been doing your best to impress your crush with your social media for the past few weeks. You’ve been comparing your own posts and pics with friends whose online lives look amazing. Now, you start to (perhaps rightfully) wonder what’s actually genuine online.
There’s plenty of exaggeration out there. But the more wrapped up we become in it ourselves, the more we’ll fail to recognize when something real and genuine comes along.
It could start to become difficult to recognize someone else for how truly amazing they are. The more we obsess about appearing amazing ourselves, the harder it will be to know when we should be legitimately impressed with a potential date.
The remedy (and there is one!)
So what is the answer to the dangerous new trend of “Gatsbying?” It’s actually fairly simple. Be genuine. Be sincere. Be direct.
I know, I know, it’s also much easier said than done.
It’s hard to sit idly by while other people make their lives look identical to the lifestyles of the rich and famous. It’s tough to deal with the worry that that person we’re interested in might find someone else more exciting and appealing than they find us.
But in the end, the quest for the appearance of perfection online is a trap. It’s an endless cycle in pursuit of the unattainable. At best, it could be an unfulfilling obsession; or maybe a less-than-stellar, rather unromantic start to a possible love story. At worst, it could be a dangerous game that attracts just the sort of person who won’t give you the love you deserve.