by Matt Mattson
The year was 1993. I was about to go on one of my first “real” dates. And get this… my date was a year older than me (and could drive!). I was utterly elated. We had a movie picked out (I just agreed with the first suggestion). I had a ride (not my parents). This was going to be amazing.
O.K., so it all started off fine. I got picked up at my house, rolled my eyes at my mom saying something about “be careful” and we headed out. I think we had a quick dinner at Fazoli’s (not making that up). And we headed to the movie theatre to see… wait for it… Sleepless In Seattle. Tom Hanks. Meg Ryan. Rosie O’Donnell. ROMANCE!
Pause. If you’re not familiar with the premise of the movie, here’s a quick recap. Tom Hanks’ character, living in Seattle, is a widower. His young son calls a sappy nighttime radio call-in show (Have you listened to Delilah? Like that.) Hanks ends up talking about his love for his late wife in beautiful terms, and the whole world falls in love with him. Even Meg Ryan (who lives in Baltimore!) Fast forward, bada bing bada boom, Meg Ryan + Tom Hanks = DEEPLY IN LOVE and it all happened before they ever even met in person. Gush.
Want more like that? You’ve Got Mail. Same movie. Just email this time instead of an old-timey typewriter!
Here’s my point… We (humans) have known that building real, meaningful, long-lasting relationships from a distance through whatever communication technology was hot at the time has been not only possible but not really that hard. I mean, if you’ve seen Hamilton, you know about the letters between Alexander and Angelica! Building relationships via Zoom, or DM, or text message, or Snapchat, or phone calls… this is something we can do. And when it comes to recruiting new members for our fraternities and sororities, there’s no way that we’re going to let a little fumbling through the learning process of a relatively new medium get in our way.
I predict that 3 years from now we’ll look back at 2020 and say, “We were so silly. Now 90% of our friendships and recruitment efforts start via video/social media. We were all so scared of Zoom recruiting that summer.”
Back to the date…
I’m not going to lie, things went downhill really fast after Fazoli’s. I (literally) fell asleep during the movie. Then we drove home in relative silence. Then there was a goodbye kiss in my driveway as I was being dropped off. And you know that urban legend that’s like, “If two people who both have braces kiss, they’ll get stuck together.” Yeah, so that happened. Not every date is a winner.
Here are a few things that Sleepless In Seattle knew back in 1993 about distance-created relationships that we should probably remember today.
- Humans are connected by emotions. We are drawn together by our hearts, not our brains. When Tom Hanks opened up and got real, the world loved him. Please share your real emotions and your real you with people while you’re recruiting.
- Novelty has always worked. When Tom Hanks chose to be a publicly vulnerable man (in 1993 America), he may as well have been an alien. It was so surprising and novel. It surprised every listener and drew them in. Please surprise people by being more than, or different from, what they expect sororities and fraternities to be.
- The medium doesn’t matter. Meg Ryan used a freaking old-timey typewriter. A typewriter. Here’s what that is if you have no idea. Your hipster cousin in who lives in a van probably has one. Anyway, a typewriter worked for these two lovebirds. You have the luxury of seamless video calls and instant social media background info. Please don’t overthink this…
Oh, and by the way… big shout out to my date that night. We weren’t a match, and it didn’t really go great, but they are a really great person and I’m grateful that I could recall this story with a smile on my face.
See you on Zoom!