The Great Wall of Snark

It’s always a good week when you see an article on your Facebook news feed that sums up everything you’ve been thinking about that week, especially when you have a blog.

This week’s winning article is from Charlotte Lieberman, a recent graduate of Harvard, whose Carrie Bradshaw-esque article “Why is College Dating So Screwed Up?” has made its way from the Cosmopolitan website to every college girl’s Facebook wall.

Normally, I really hate Cosmo. My best friend and I spent a good part of our New Year’s Eve sleepover flipping through an issue, half laughing, half feeling like puking. But Lieberman’s article was an insightful surprise. En somme, she argues that the relationship problems that college students face are not caused by the so-called “hookup culture,” but rather by technology, sexual experimenting and what Lisa Wade, professor of sociology at Occidental College, calls the “whoever-cares-less-wins” dynamic.

I’m not qualified to talk about the first two causes, so I’ll focus on the last one: assuaging the fear of investing too much emotion and getting hurt by putting up walls of nonchalance.

My honors senior seminar class this semester has practically turned into biweekly group therapy. There are six students in the class, all female, and so our conversations can get pretty personal without fear. This week, our professor asked us to go around the circle and name one behavioral pattern we have noticed ourselves falling into. Mine falls directly under the “whoever-cares-less-wins” umbrella.

When I first try to make friends with a girl, I am very friendly, smiling, open and warm. Later on, as we start to become better friends, my alter ego that I like to call Snarky Vicky comes out. I’m sassy, but it’s all in good humor. When I try to make friends with a guy, it’s a completely different story. Snarky Vicky comes in full force, crushing every male ego in her path. Okay, not really. But I am not warm or open or caring or sensitive. Never. It’s only after I’ve known the guy for several months that I start to soften up, and for some guys, I never do.

And here’s the issue: I’m sick and tired of it.

I hate that I feel I have to put up this Great Wall of Snark to interact with guys, like Heaven forbid they take my attempts to be friendly as flirting! Lieberman recalls an experience where she met a guy at a party who said he’d text her to hang out the next night. He never did, and he avoided her the next day in class. When they met up again a month later, he said that he thought she was cool, but didn’t want to date her. In Lieberman’s words, who had ever said anything about dating?! I feel her frustration: when did the line between friendliness and flirtation become so blurred? If contemporary feminism promotes equality between the sexes, why do we still see guys as “males” before we see them as “human beings?”

I know several intelligent, funny and interesting guys whom I would love to call friends, not boyfriends. But instead of pursuing a friendship, we’re stuck in a “snarkship,” where our conversations contain more witty rejoinders than substance. I’m not saying that clever bantering isn’t a healthy part of a relationship, but there needs to be a balance between jokes and sincerity. You need to know that the other person will be there for you if you have a problem. I don’t feel like I could have a serious, intelligent, meaningful conversation with any of the guys I’m in a “snarkship” with, and that saddens me. There are few things I love more than a really good conversation.

So this is an open letter to any guy I’m currently in a “snarkship” with (you know who you are): I think you’re awesome. I admire you. I would like to get to know you better. I don’t want a relationship, just a friendship. I want you to feel like you can trust me, and that I can trust you. If I’m nice to you, if I ask you how your day is going, if I ask you a thought-provoking question, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m flirting with you. I just want to talk. And if you do too, let’s be friends.

A bientôt!

– Vicky

Are you currently in a “snarkship”? Do you have any other thoughts on Lieberman’s article? Share them in the comments!


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