Twitter, Instagram, and Across The Street


crush on social media

If I couldn’t find a job, maybe I could find someone whose DMs were worth sliding into? After months of rejection, even for entry-level jobs, I was feeling defeated and unsettled. A comedian by night, I couldn’t believe finding another day job just to pay the bills was getting so difficult. I was so unhappy with my current position in the mail room at Portland’s most conservative Catholic university and discouraged by the long search that I began to distract myself with a popular single girl pastime, daydreaming about getting a boyfriend. If I couldn’t get a job that would bring me endless supplies of my favorite lunch spot’s famous meatloaf and the satisfaction I was looking for in life, maybe I could find a man who would.?

  One late Saturday night, I decided to mash these fantasies together. Wanting to find a job that would allow me to use my creativity, I searched the internet for Portland design firms, hoping for any position that could help me get my foot in the door. Since most design firms had a staff page with links to their employees’ Instagram pages, I figured while I was there I might as well creep around, judging various graphic designers’ headshots . Maybe if there wasn’t a job for me, there would be a copywriter worth having a coffee with, it was better to know this then get the job and pine for the man in the cubicle next to me. After a few moments of scrolling past his wistful headshots containing oiled bears and scorpion neck tattoos sticking out of collared shirts someone caught my eye. It took about two seconds to see he was the one – sexy, stylish, and a writer. I followed him on the linked Instagram account with gusto.

His middle name was Lionheart. A name perfect for fantasy romance, he might as well have shown up on a white horse. In his bio he joked about how daunting it was, a name he could never live up to. I felt otherwise. He was a dashing and successful head writer with many famous clients. A serious guy who didn’t take himself too seriously. I needed a crush and he immediately became my next victim.  

I’ve always loved having a crush. As a lifetime professional obsessive, I know how to track a guy down, but make it look casual. I know exactly what to text him to get him to text me back, at least for a while. Despite having an honorary Ph.D. in crushology,  my extensive field work has so far brought me zero luck of getting any to man I longer for to fall madly in love with me. But I would do and have done anything for a crush, including getting on an airplane for a guy who texted me back once out of every three times I texted him. I was the girl who would stand outside your house at three in the morning begging you to love me. 

Obviously, this approach has a success rate of about negative infinity. I was known as the cuckoo, boy-crazy girl. My friends made fun of me constantly calling me “Taylor Swift only actually crazy.” I loved to spend an evening on the internet stalking a new interest to find out new things about them, building up an infatuation. Looking for details that proved we were perfect for each other. He likes dogs, I like dogs. He wants to be a producer, I want to write for television. He likes pasta, I have a tomato garden. Each crush was in my mind, a perfect match.  That is until I tried to show whatever Larry, Joe, or Curly how perfect we were for each other by casually showing up at their roommate’s party I found about through Instagram but wasn’t invited to.

 I was always rejected immediately, or worse, the next morning. One night a boy I had been crushing on for more than six months accused me after a comedy show of having “unhealthy delusions” about the state of our relationship. The more I thought we were perfect for each other, the less they seemed interested in me.

I hit follow on Lionheart’s Instagram but wasn’t confident enough to send a message. This guy was out of my league, both in appearance, success, and obvious even through a screen charm. The cyber hole I fell into went deeper when I discovered his decently funny blog and Twitter account. (I started following him on Twitter too.) A little wine-drunk and high off of my new internet crush, I tweeted that I was researching design firms by looking for their hot employees. Lionheart liked my tweet and followed me back. I was hooked. 

It started slowly, but consistently. He liked any new Instagram photo I posted first, always. He watched every story I posted and would occasionally reply to a tweet. Our social media friendship was casual but sexually tense. A rare comment on an exceptionally good photo. Something casual like “where is this, it looks like the inside of a potato-meets-sixties living room?” For the following three years, I thought of Lionheart as my Instagram boyfriend, even though he never slid into my DMs and visa versa.

Considering I “met” Lionheart on the internet I was never able to casually bump into him. But I made up for it by devoting all my thoughts to him. He was my most frivolous activity that got my heart rate up and my mind off my real problems. Nothing felt more intoxicating than loving a man who would never love me back. It was a  safe and fulfilling pastime that provided me with endless things to dream about.  I loved being able to project onto another human being I would never have to face in public, yet could have small interactions with occasionally to fuel the fire. 

And when things were bad in my real-life love life, Lionheart was there. When I was stood up, Lionheart was the first person to like the photo of my first date outfit only the internet would ever see. When I was dumped by a guy whose on-again-off-again relationship was for sure on-again, Lionheart was there engaging me in a Twitter conversation about National Bagel Day. Surely, none of these scrubs were worth my time of day when I had a man as attractive and interesting as Lionheart replying to my stories about Carly Rae Jepsen with such enthusiasm.  

One particularly boring afternoon three years after Lionheart  and I had first hit follow, I sat at my new downtown office job and sent out one of my weekly comedy newsletters. A few moments later, I got an email notifying me of a new subscriber. It was from an email address I recognized but had never seen before, Lionheart’s. I was giddy to be getting more attention. And also, a little smug. “Following me on more than two platforms is a flirt,” I tweeted. Lionheart liked the tweet. Definitely a flirt.

That evening before I hosted my monthly comedy show, I gushed in the green room to the other comedians about my incredibly stimulating un-romance. In order to give them the full story, I Googled the design firm where Lionheart worked, where I had first discovered him three years prior. I had not been to its website since that night and was shocked to discover it was across the street from the office building I had been managing for over a year. Lionheart and I had been working less than 300 feet away from each other for hundreds of days and I had never noticed. 

Upon learning of our close proximity I felt the familiar rush of knowing how easy it would be to bump into him. We shared no friends or common bars, only Instagram and now a few feet of pavement in between our downtown offices. Maybe I could figure out which of the two coffee shops in his building he went to? Maybe he also was a fan of a certain ketchup covered lunchtime loaf? I pictured us locking eyes over the deli counter. It was all becoming too real too quickly. 

My crush brain has decided solely  from Lionheart’s Instagram that he was perfect for me. I also knew nothing would shatter that illusion more than actually meeting him for coffee. Like with all the boys before, I already had made up too much of the story in my mind. The real thing would be a letdown. It was fun to imagine what our romance would be, it would be less fun to discover potential bad hygiene or a strained relationship with his mother. With all the boys that came before, I would shatter my perfect crushes by attempting to make my fantasies realities only to discover the fantasies were more fun and the realities a letdown. The crush is about the person having the crush, not about the person the crush is on. (We were also both in relationships, but alas the crush world predated both so logic did not stand).

I made a mental foray down the broken road of crushes past, most of them I didn’t even speak to anymore. If that happened with Lionheart, I would be devastated. Who would I casually flirt with? Who would like my Instagram posts first? This crush was too good to risk with the harshness of reality. Because that’s what it was — a crush. And in that form, it was at its most meaningful. 

A season later I was on my lunch break walking on the same street at the same time I always had. I was thinking about how I shouldn’t spend money on meatloaf — and then I saw him. He was shorter in person and his skin was irritated, possibly from the sun. The first flaws I had seen. He was filterless and despite this, he was take-your-breath-away beautiful. The only words that came out of my mouth were, “Wow, in the wild.” 

“I’m sorry,” he said. He didn’t recognize me.

 “In the wild,” I repeated. 

“Oh, social media,” he said as if the last three years were that and nothing more. 

“I’m Andy,” he said, holding out his hand for me to shake as if I didn’t know his name, birthday, and top five favorite video games. 

As I walked away, I knew I could have said more, but I didn’t want to. Instead, I went back to my desk and tweeted about seeing my Instagram crush In the flesh. I followed it up with another that I took as a sign from the universe that I deserved the meatloaf I had been wanting. It got one fave, from Lionheart, the crush I get to keep.  

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