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During the pandemic, I’ve heard from an increasing number of people who feel wounded after spending sometimes hours talking/texting with someone each day, only for it not to blossom into the friendship or romantic relationship they expected. They often feel messed about, duped, used. In this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, I delve into why we have to be careful of letting our imaginations and expectations run the show, especially when we don’t really know someone at all. Sometimes, it’s more like we’ve been getting to know a hologram!

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Nuggets from the episode

  • One of the traps that people have fallen into during the pandemic is assuming that the restrictions made us more honest and authentic. It’s a cognitive leap, though, to assume that video chats with someone who might be significantly out of routine are exactly the same as if you’d been dating in person.
  • In contexts where we’re not making romantic assumptions, such as when we’re being friendly with people online, we tend to be more aware and grounded. We are aware of the context. While we might bond over a shared experience or activity, it won’t necessarily cause us to decide we know them inside out. We won’t map out our future.
  • When we assume romantic intentions, have romantic feelings or where it’s implied by the situation (dating app/site), we seem to lose all sense of context. Because of what we hope to get or avoid, we let our imagination, expectations and even delusion take over.
  • When we’re texting, DM-ing, Facetiming back and forth with someone we haven’t met in real life yet, especially every day or in intense bursts, we think that we’re getting to know the actual person. Depending on how real we and they are being, though, it’s more like two holograms hanging out!
  • Talking intensely with someone we don’t know creates unrealistic expectations that set us up for a fall. It’s not sustainable. We might not realise how dependent we’ve become on the pattern of contact until the other party deviates from it.

If, before the pandemic, we tended to get caught out by our expectations and imagination, we now have an even greater duty of care to get grounded.

  • Humans have a habit of putting themselves across in the way they want to be perceived instead of how they are. The less self-aware we are, the more likely we are to shift to suit the context and person.
  • A virtual setting, so where there’s no in-person experience to draw from causes people to play-act, whether intentionally or not. Throw in a pandemic where someone may have been out of their typical routine and so had all day to sit on their phone and be whoever they (or we) wanted them to be, and it’s easy to see why we end up believing that we’re in something deeper than we are.
  • We must be mindful about what it takes to actually get to know someone. If we are less inclined to be driven by unrealistic expectations and our imagination, we will be far less receptive to charming people who are unhealthy or even dangerous.
  • Having ‘bestie’ expectations of a friendship that really isn’t that creates undue pressure and might even cause great discomfort for the other party.
  • Getting honest about our original intentions and motivations helps us to manage the disappointment we’re grappling with. If we started chatting to an ex on Facebook because we were bored and lonely and this person was the perfect distraction, it’s OK. We’re only human. But we’ve got to keep it honest instead of rewriting the past and beating ourselves up. Acknowledging the truth helps us to understand why we got caught up in a fantasy or created unrealistic expectations.
  • Only chatted with someone online or over the phone/video? There’s a second getting to know. This allows you to reconcile what you think you already know with reality.

Links mentioned

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