I am an admirer and fan of The Atlantic‘s stable of world-class bloggers. In particular, I religiously read Ross Douthat, Megan McArdle and Ta-Nehisi Coates. One of those whom I don’t read is Andrew Sullivan, for reasons that Alan Jacobs pretty much nailed here.
It was through Ta-Nehisi Coates that I found out that another blogger (are you still reading?), Ann Althouse, got engaged to one of her commenters. I don’t read Ms. Althouse either, although I am aware of her. But I was arrested by Mr Sullivan’s response to what ought to be a celebration-worthy event — an engagement! —: his post was titled No Comment Possible.
Of course, saying “no comment possible” is, by itself, a ton of comment. In fact, Mr Sullivan comments further: “Ten days of emailing … and she was ready” (the slut!) and quotes another blog, the famously moderate and even-keeled Pandagon: “OMFG.”
The disdain is palpable.
This is where, to make this post even more tedious than it already is, I chime in with my own life story. My fiancée and I, the woman with whom, as a young Catlick, I fully intend to spend the next 60 to 80 years, we met through Facebook. We met through a common (real life!) friend, but we first interacted through Facebook. Since she was working abroad at the time we learned about each other through months of exchanged messages. We met up on the day she landed in Paris and basically moved in with each other in the first week after we met. A few months (a few months!) afterwards I proposed to her.
I feel the need to point out, by way of context, that neither of us are “losers.” We were both (still are) students at top schools, I am very active socially, and haven’t had any problems meeting women since that awkward phase in high school. I point this out not to brag but because a lot of people assume that people who meet on the internet are simply people who can’t meet people romantically any other way. This was not our case. (By the way, people say that as a bad thing, but I actually think it’s fantastic that people who otherwise couldn’t date can do it that way. 1 out of 8 couples married in the US 4 years ago met online, and that’s great.)
Suffice it to say, plenty of people we know were not overjoyed. In fact, it revealed a lot more about some of our so-called friends than about us. How long have you been together? How old are you, again? How did you two meet? On Facebook? That’s, ah, uh, interesting…
Most of these “friends” commented sparingly (some, not so much), but that did not make their disdain for the situation, if not us, any less palpable.
So I just wanted to write in defense — since attacks there are… — of Ann Althouse. I think more people need to understand that the internet is not a fad, it’s here to stay. It creates and facilitates genuine human connections between people. I think more people, most importantly, need to mind their own damn business and refrain from passing such glib and facile judgment on other people’s private lives. Is it possible to fall in love at first sight? Damned if I know. But if one of my friends does it? Mazel tov!
Of course, one of the reasons I feel compelled to write here is because of the cognitive dissonance: Mr Sullivan is, after all, one of the most talented and articulate proponents of same-sex marriage, and no doubt needs no education on the discrimination, both soft and hard, that can befall human beings based on their relationships. Yet he doesn’t miss a beat in responding derisively to Ms Althouse’s engagement even though… Who cares?
What should be treated as an unremarkable event, worthy of cheer if anything, is held up for derision, by someone who ought to know better. So I felt the need to speak up.
(Of course, the New York Times story on the engagement is even more risible, but I didn’t expect any better from the NYT, although the story fails at basic rigor, common sense or humanity.)