Cue the T-Pain

Spring is sprung, and it’s time you were, too.

Bronwyn Miller

The change in seasons can mean only one thing — time for a spring fling.

Look no further than the University of Minnesota Secret Admirers Facebook page to find plenty of people who agree. Between heavy emoticon usage and puns ranging from witty to weird, it’s confirmed: People all over campus are feeling thirsty.

In many ways, the page is quite entertaining. Writing about someone is a surefire way to make his or her day, and leaving a more cryptic post engages others as they try to figure out who the subject may be. The ability to reveal one’s desires completely anonymously is appealing. Also, the idea of a secret admirer is notoriously embraced by our culture, an infamous and exciting “movie script” experience.

However, while some of the posts on Secret Admirers are simply meant to serve as “random act of kindness” compliments, many of the things people write have a genuinely wistful, disappointed tone. People lament how they allowed the chance to talk to a particular person slip through their fingers. This reality, coupled with the intense — and instantaneous — popularity of the page, begs the question: Why are countless people failing to strike up conversations in person, then taking to the digital world to publicly share how much they regret missing the opportunity? Why, in an environment brimming with young, sexually interested individuals, is this medium necessary?

It’s certainly not the first of its kind. Missed Connections has been a major highlight of Craigslist since its inception. And am I the only one who was here when LikeALittle.com got huge? Fruit names? Still with me?

With Secret Admirers, the concept has become more specified, elaborate and sophisticated, with a heavy emphasis on crowdsourcing. We have developed a deliberate, highly crafted method to accomplish exactly what the simple act of going up and talking to someone would do but without that whole putting-yourself-out-there part. Yet it hardly feels like an achievement.

Our lives have become so saturated by technology that we have begun using it as a crutch, not because we have to, but because it now feels most natural. Our obsession with technology risks dehumanizing our culture to such a degree that striking up a conversation with a stranger, commonplace for every prior generation, feels too confrontational and imposing.

So, we keep our headphones in and our faces buried in our phones, occasionally struck by a cute passerby. We think about approaching him or her, but the unprecedented control we have over our presentation and communications through orchestrated and oft-retouched texts, emails, posts, Instagrammed photos and tweets makes the realness and intimacy presented by a spontaneous in-person interaction feel way too threatening. Perhaps knowing we have Secret Admirers (or Facebook in general) as a resource causes us to feel optimistic enough about the opportunity to later “interact” with this person that we can justify avoiding any real expression of interest. That way, we can avert the risk of rejection.

But we’re missing out. Secret Admirers might be a prime source for a temporary feel-good moment, but if anything, it’s further distracting us from engaging in real-life relationships. Settling for online communication means missing out on the incredible moments to be had by living three-dimensionally, like nightlong make-out sessions and getting finger-banged in the alley behind Mesa Pizza. I want these things for you.

Rid yourself of the crutch that technology so alluringly provides. Look people in the eye as you go through your day. Take a chance.

Your pool will never run so wide and deep as it does right now. If someone does not return your affection, learn from it and keep moving. But you have to dive in first.