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The White Lotus shows people not being on social media is a dating red flag

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After many, many indications that something is awry, Monday night’s episode of The White Lotus sees Gen Z assistant Portia finally come to her senses about her British boy toy Jack.

What leads to this realisation isn’t that he gypped a restaurant over a $1 arancini, his ‘cowabunga’ neck tattoo, or the fact that he’s *Jennifer Coolidge voice* kind of … f**king his ‘uncle’.

No, Portia, like everyone born between 1997 and the early 2000s, hears alarm bells when she tries – and ultimately fails – to stalk him on social media.

“I don’t do that sh*t,” Jack tells her the next morning, an arm wrapped around her neck, completely ignorant to the fact the woman he’s spooning is experiencing the ick in real time.

“Not even Instagram?” she questions, voice growing smaller.

Portia’s not the only one who views this as a red flag – the ominous music that swells during Jack’s confession tells us that we, as the audience, should see it as one too.

“The fact Portia missing all of Jack’s red flags to ONLY get sketched out by him not having an Instagram is the most gen z thing I’ve ever heard … RUN DUMMY,” one person tweeted.

While another wrote: “Seriously love that the major wake up call red flag moment for Portia is when her hot sketchball British boy reveals that he isn’t on Instagram.”

“Still chuckling at the absolute bone-chilling fear Portia exhibits while being held in the arms of a man she can’t stalk on Instagram,” a third said.

Discourse over recent years dictates that, all of his other … flaws aside, Jack’s lack of engagement with social media should actually be kind of sexy.

Last February, a picture of two stick figures holding hands went viral on Twitter – with one labelled “extremely online” and the other “no social media, happy”.

“The perfect couple,” the caption read. It was clear, judging by the tweet’s 86,000-plus likes, that many people agreed.

“No idea what ‘goblin mode’ means? Never heard of Francis Bourgeois? I’m yours,” Serena Smith declared in an April piece for Dazed titled “Why are people with no social media so damn hot?”.

In the absence of apps, people have cited their attraction to “thought-evoking and insightful conversations” (apparently only possible if at least one party has never engaged with the creations of Mark Zuckerberg).

There’s also an assumption that a lack of online presence creates a more trustworthy partner because access to other romantic interests doesn’t lay at their fingertips.

“As the majority of us become ever more addicted to social media,” Smith said, “someone who isn’t instantly seems like a breath of fresh air – plus … there’s really nothing sexier than mystique.”

Portia’s come-to-Jesus moment, though, is just the latest in a series of content that implies a potential partner having no online presence could be more red flag than green.

In Mimi Cave’s January thriller Fresh, protagonist Noa, after a string of disastrous internet dates, falls for the decidedly-offline Steve.

While he swears he’s not on socials because “no one ever says anything smart on Twitter”, Noa’s friend Mollie becomes suspicious, convinced he must have a secret family that he wants to keep hidden.

Noa continues to see him anyway, only to discover that Mollie was right: Steve is hiding something, though it’s not six children and a wife, but the fact that he’s a cannibal.

Of course, this is an extreme example. It’s highly unlikely that just because you can’t find your Tinder date on Instagram, he’s going to chew your arm off.

But as Alicia Lansom pointed out in her Refinery29 review of the film, while an “unplugged” partner appears more desirable, the trope can be just as much of an illusion as the persona crafted by someone whose profile might be verified.

“Yes, someone’s reason for being offline could derive from a hatred of performative behaviour and poorly spelled tweets; equally, it could relate to bad online encounters or – worse – be an attempt to hide troublesome information,” Lansom wrote.

“As much as Fresh takes the horrors of modern dating and turns them up to 1,000, it makes an important point about the safety of women and the precautionary measures that have become part and parcel of trying to meet someone in the digital age.”

As senior lecturer in psychology at Swansea University, Dr Alex Jones, told Dazed, many women rely on social media to “screen” dating app matches before meeting them.

“For women, meeting a date who they have initiated contact with online could carry physical harm risks,” Dr Jones, who specialises in the psychology of attractiveness, explained.

“Someone without any accessible background probably would look very suspicious.”


Story Credit: news.com.au

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