Private life in the public eye

You probably already know that Urban Dictionary has three entries for our little (adoptive) city. The first one just describes Maastricht as “the best Dutch city in the world”, but it’s the other two that spark drunken discussion. There’s the “Maastricht effect”, whereby the lack of attractive boys makes female residents fuss and bother with less-than-ideal partners. The “Maastricht syndrome” is apparently even worse: the absence of partners and excessive school workload combine to cause a “lasting, location-dependent sexual low”. Ouch.

So I wasn’t surprised when the Spotted: Maastricht University page took Facebook by storm, with 2,000 people liking it in the first three weeks. We seem stuck on the idea that finding a date is difficult in the Limburgish capital, so there’s nothing wrong with a bit of technology-mediated flirting. Yes, some of the posts are cliché, lame or straight out disturbing. (“How about some white cream on your Danish Donut” – a brief story about my decision to renounce pastries forever.) But occasionally, there are the sweet, thoughtful posts that probably brighten somebody’s day.

But recently, things got… heated with a post on Sharing and Caring, another Facebook phenomenon in the Maastricht student community. Under the tagline “Stop spotting, start screwing”, a new group is trying to gather young men and women who are interested in friendships with benefits. So far, the page has 6 likes and the group, only one member and an impressing set of rules; my personal favourite threatens to throw out those who “don’t screw but only screw up”. Oh, puns!

And that’s what threw me off. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hopeless romantic and I do think that flings, casual dating and even one-night-stands are perfectly valid forms of interaction. What’s more, I’ve never been one to ask questions about others’ private lives. But that’s just it: the keyword used to be “private”. You’d find a special (or not) someone, have a great time (or not) and then discretely gossip about it with close friends (or not). But now we’re joining social media groups and straight out publicizing our, uhm, desires of the flesh? Is it really that hard to find someone in real life? Is it now acceptable to shout in the Internet public square that our beds are too big for one?

What do you think, guys? Are we going a bit far in trying to translate the Alla atmosphere onto computer screens? Or am I just ridiculously old-fashioned?