Early in the day I announce to the internet I will be retiring from online dating with one last date. This sparks a stream of messages telling me ‘good luck’, ‘you must be nervous’. I don’t understand these at first, I’ve been doing this for a month, by now I’ve gotten over my worries about technical glitches or the whims of the workers. What I didn’t anticipate was how different I would feel when people I know might be tuning in. Before the date I am anxiously bouncing around double checking my code for bugs, searching out the perfect bar with adequate lighting, low noise levels, optimal seating arrangements. I locate one that yelp describes as ideal and confirm with my date. Shortly before the date I decide to visit to make sure there’s enough cell coverage for a good stream and discover that it’s a complete dead zone. I write my date asking to switch to another location, but don’t hear anything back immediately, and I start worrying I will get stood up. Is there anything more embarrassing than getting stood up in front of everyone online? Maybe having your art project totally bomb in front of everyone online? Trying to create a backup plan, I turn into that girl on okcupid writing random guys, heyy cutie what are you up to tonight? Putting me out of my misery, I hear back from my date, it’s on. I take a moment to laugh at myself and the absolutely absurd situation I let myself take a little too seriously for a bit there.
By the time I arrive, I feel much more relaxed and ready to just have fun with this end to this intense month. However, I quickly realize it’s one thing to be watched and directed by anonymous MTurk workers, but thinking my friends, family, and colleagues could be out there, I feel so much more exposed. The date goes along ok, but I feel my attention pulled in different directions in a much more intense way tonight. I’m split between checking my phone trying to make sure the stream is staying up, thinking about the people out there watching, and trying to be present with my date. Compounding this is a general feeling of being all over the place that has been steadily building over this month of experiments. He is sensing my energy and responding and it’s throwing both of us off balance. The worker directions are actually holding me together tonight. ‘DO be honest’ is the cue as my date asks me about artists I admire. Well, ok. I tell him about the work of a couple of my favorite artists. The date goes on uncertainly for some time longer, then we part amicably and I’m done! It feels too good.
I return home to find an email from one of the aforementioned artists, whom I don’t know too well, letting me know he was watching. I am so busted. I feel new weird levels of exposed. Thinking more about exposure, I also realize if I thought I was hopeless with love before this, if anyone I know was even thinking of dating me, they were able to tune in and see just how completely awkward on a date I really am. I spend a short while feeling some strange soup of ecstatic to be done, uncomfortable with how much I have shared, sheepish and worried remembering one of my professors telling me once ‘lauren, nobody wants to read your diary’, high on the rush of crazy energy I’ve felt this month…
Then all at once, a moment of calm. I remember writing one of my goals for this project last december before I had figured out anything about what I would do. I wrote: I want to use technology to change my understanding of myself and my relationship to others. Then I wrote: If I already feel ok with myself, am I all right with changing that, risking possibly changing it for the worse? Then I wrote: I can’t feel ok with myself if I don’t feel like I can change.