After having coffee with a male friend today, I came home and changed some of the information I share with my "friends" on Facebook. I felt incredibly conflicted doing this. The context of our conversation was the following: I've been asked out at a fairly normal, even healthy rate, by men I meet while out and about, but as soon as they 'friend' me on Facebook, there seems to be an extreme amount of vanishing going on. According to my male friend, my level of disclosure is too much for most men to stomach (in his words, men want "mystery" or at least to think that there is a challenge to getting a girl's number and information). Of course, my reaction was that any man that couldn't handle a few foursquare check-ins and posts about my son and life on FB wouldn't be man enough to deal with me anyway, so good riddance. However I wondered in the back of my mind if removing my phone number and tightening up the privacy settings just a wee bit wouldn't hurt anyway.
As I did this it occurred to me that there was a new 'class' of women emerging in the world. When I open up FB, most of the posts talking about personal lives, posting whereabouts and having deep discussions about sex and modern love are by the women I have as friends on FB. Many of them single. Most of them list their contact information, including phone number. The number of posts by women seem to be far greater than those by men - and I have more male 'friends' than female by far (it's the circles I run in). And this seems consistent with some of the most recent research about who is participating on social networks (more women). Only a few years back, though, it seemed to be the opposite.
Only 3 years ago, it seemed that women were more closed in their use of social web tools:
Women were keeping their Twitter accounts private, their Facebook accounts only open to close friends and they certainly weren't joining the social networks that broadcast location at a major rate. I'm not sure what the percentage is, but it does appear that women are dropping the "women need to be private for safety" line in exchange for the "women need to be public for success" line. At least in my circles.
Recently, this article came out proclaiming that, well, we as women don't really "need" men anymore as we are earning more money, more educated and have the majority of the buying power now. Hell, we don't really even need them to make babies thanks to modern science. My favorite line in the entire article is:
Guys, one senior remarked ... “are the new ball and chain.”
Still, as I remarked to my friend (who thought I repeated the line "I don't *need* a man" too many times to be a neutral statement), I would like to have a healthy, long term relationship with a man, so I'm trying to get to the bottom of the vanishing problem (and vanishing before I can even have an IRL date). As he put it, "You probably don't want to be dating normal men anyway."
Bingo. "The normals" is a term I've heard come up more and more lately. At one point it was used to describe non-early-adopter types that you want to attract to your startup. At some point, it became people who don't 'get' our crazy social web lifestyle. The lifestyle where we are recording every moment, happening, thought and occasion in some sort of digital form and quite often broadcasting it to everyone. It is quite addictive, really, especially when it is so full of every day rewards: increasing your friend base (geographically as well as numerically), getting you hired to teach others to do this stuff, small bits of fame here and there and interesting moments every day. Broadcasting and connecting with other broadcasters becomes a way for life to get super interesting quickly. It isn't trivial, either. The knowledge I accumulate through my random conversations daily has made me dangerous at a cocktail party. Who needs to read the paper anymore when we pass around articles before they are published and dissect them as a collective?
"The Normals" who are part of those conversations are left in our opinionated dust. In our crazy social web world, we gain one another's respect by our deep analysis of social issues. In the 'normal' world, we are seen as complete airbags. But there is nothing wrong with our neverending quest for knowledge or desire to share every bit of that knowledge accumulated (being the awesome knowledge brokers we are), it's just, well, a little abnormal...for 'normal' people.
And it's worse for women. A man who knows lots of stuff, shares it and gets excited by this knowledge is seen by most as industrious, ambitious and smart. Not all women, but many women see this man as attractive and someone with great earning potential. A woman who exhibits a keen desire to share knowledge (for instance, to talk about data, the future of economics and the changing socio-cultural climate) on the other hand is really ONLY seen as attractive by men who are excited by those conversations. For male "Normals", this woman is emasculating at best.
It's a stereotype stuck in another era, really. As the presence of women as the leaders in the workforce grows, it will be more an more crucial for women to be knowledgeable and ready to share and strut that knowledge. And not only will it be necessary for our professional lives, but, hell, it will become apparent that knowledge is freakin awesome, so we will want to pursue more of it. At some point, "The Normals" will occupy the minority, too, because survival will be directly tied to our knowledge and ability to share it...but that's a whole other post.
I knew there was a reason that I've found nerds sexier than jocks and rockstars as I've grown older (and wiser). They seem to understand that holding her own in a debate on the future of nuclear energy or whether China is the next superpower is the sexiest thing a woman can do and that a woman who blogs, posts her geo-location and scours the web for interesting articles to post on her FB profile is just being smart about her data. The mystery that turns nerds on is in figuring out how to read between the lines of her Twitter stream, how to decode the latest Blip.fm playlist to find out how she really feels about you and looking at her Flickr favorites to understand how she wants to see the world around her. Love is knowing that she shares what is happening with thousands of people, but her innermost fears with only you.
So I maintain that a man who asks for my number but cannot handle my level of disclosure is not the man for this modern woman. And I'm afraid it's his dating pool, not mine, that is getting smaller.