I have a giant Twitter crush. In fact, I have more than one giant Twitter crush. The problem with Twitter is that it is a window into the sexiest thing about someone: their mind. The extra problem with Twitter is that it’s a curated space – people use their Twitter accounts to tell jokes and stories, or post funny pictures of weird things they’ve done. In short: it’s a place where all the guys I would usually fancy get to show off the things I am most attracted to.
Twitter crush versus old-school crush
Ten or twenty years ago, the world was not like this. In order to fancy someone, you had to meet them. At a push, you could develop attraction by corresponding with someone using the telephone or – shudder – a letter. You’d have to put in painstaking, one-on-one time with someone to learn about their quirks and foibles, tempting them to open up to you individually. People didn’t walk the streets with megaphones shouting their hot takes on political issues, or wearing sandwich boards with searing one-liners about the latest John Lewis ad. And because of our limited individual resources, there were only so many people we could meet, and therefore only so many people we could have crushes on.
Now, though, they’re everywhere. The hot men. The funny men. The Men Who Have Opinions I Agree With. It’s like Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds”, but instead of birds it’s hot lefty guys with jokes.
It’s a fucking minefield.
One minute I log onto Twitter to do some work (because technically that is what I’m doing on Twitter, even though it looks like I’m just pissing about), the next I am confronted by some whimsical, poetic bloke saying something that makes me want to tear his pants down and fuck him in the street.
Except it wouldn’t happen in the street, because this is Twitter, so instead of street-fucking I do retweets and smiley faces. I stare at their avatar dreamily, the way I used to stare at posters of boy bands when I was young – daydreaming about Taryll from 3T taking me to Alton Towers (we’d have such a romantic time and he would lend me his coat after I got wet on the water rides). I stare at my Twitter crush, read their timeline, and daydream. Then sometimes I sit on my hands to prevent myself from typing ‘WHY ARE YOU SO HOT AND FUNNY HOLD ME HOLD ME PUT IT IN ME.’
Best thing about Twitter crushes
But there is a benefit to this. I mean, apart from the fact that I get to spend a lot of my time staring admiringly at people I fancy. The benefit is that even if you never meet yours, your Twitter crush has given you an idea of the kind of things you like – and the kind of people who are out there.
Often people who don’t understand social media complain that youngsters spend too much time on their phones, and not enough time socialising. What they fail to realise is that usually socialising is exactly what we’re doing. We’re just doing it more quickly, more efficiently, and with a much bigger group. We’re lucky in that we get to meet hundreds or even thousands more people than our parents did back in the days of classified ads and blind dates and awkward introductions to a friend of a friend.
In seeing so many people – at their very very best – we get more of an idea of what we want in a person. Naturally Twitter is an idealised version of the ‘real’ person behind the account. But it gives us an idea. It shows us that there are plenty of people out there who share our opinions and senses of humour, and who we could probably love – even if only at a distance.
Twitter crushes are frustrating sometimes because they’re tantalisingly out of reach – like someone waving a delicious pie in your face but saying you can’t have any. But that frustration is very different to the kind my Mum will have felt when she was young: you miss that hot guy you had a crush on at the county fair, and it’ll be a whole year until there’s another fair, where you can meet men you don’t know already and develop a brand new crush.
Recently I read Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance (which is a very good book, btw, and an excellent present for Christmas if you know anyone who’s online dating). In the book, he talks about choice paralysis when it comes to dating: how our parents and grandparents often met and married people from their hometown or work, and their weddings generally came pretty early. You meet someone, realise ‘they’ll do’, and then pop down the aisle as a kind of prelude to the rest of your life. We, on the other hand, have so many more options, that hunting for someone who ticks more boxes, though time-consuming, isn’t impossible as it would have been before the internet.
There are down-sides to this extreme socialisation – where we meet and swipe more people in a day than my gran would have met in her lifetime – but there are up sides too. Whether it’s fetishists looking for a kindred spirit or people who’ve been fucked-over by an ex looking for someone who’ll love and acknowledge them.
Long-distance crushes may torture us with longing, but they also show us that our desires are not impossible. What we want can – and does – exist.
And even if we can’t have that particular person, there are plenty more fish on Twitter.