Connecting Through Story: Swipe right on a good story

Photo of Mona Awad promoting her event at the 2023 Whistler Writers Festival.The theme of the 2023 Whistler Writers Festival is “Connecting Through Story.” Katherine Fawcett, author and festival board member, shares her take on what this means to her as we prepare for the festival in October.

I’m done with Bumble, Match, Plenty of Fish and all the rest. I’ve deleted the on-line dating apps and “muted” my profile. For a number of reasons (initials: S.L.) I never plan to scroll away the late night hours again.

But to be honest, I kind of miss it.

Not because I like the flirty, will-you-be-mine? nature of on-line communication or the sifting process, the weeding out, the near-misses, the awkward first dates, the bullet-dodging, the stench of desperation. I’ll happily live without the preening selfies taken in condo bathrooms or home gyms; the holding-a-trout, petting-a-dog, playing-a-guitar, hiking-a-trail pics.

I don’t miss that at all.

What I do miss is reading the little micro-stories people tell the world — or, rather, tell the eligible singles living within 50 km of them who ticked off most of the same boxes on the questionnaire — the stories that proclaim they are a person worth knowing. These tiny tales radiate optimism. They shout from the virtual rooftops that hope is not lost. That love is worth trying for. I have a story! they say. I’ll tell you mine if you’ll tell me yours! Some of these stories are strange. Some are vulgar. Some are heartbreaking and some are hilarious. Some are probably written by AI. Others, by a sister, a friend. A doting mother.

“I have eight harmonicas, two bicycles, one llama and six adult children. Looking for someone to share the rest of my life with. Widower.”  

“I am the man you’ve been waiting for. Lived off-grid in the Yukon for two decades. Loved the series Fleabag.”

“I have six fingers on my left hand, including the thumb. I can’t play the piano but I give a great back-scratch. Swipe right to see for yourself.”

“Please be kind, I’m new to dating on-line. But I really miss dancing. Note: not really into polyamory anymore.”

Of course, anyone in my age demographic who is putting their best foot forward on a dating app most likely has a back-story of heartbreak and loneliness that has yet to be revealed. A plot that has twisted and pivoted, sometimes wildly and unrealistically. A main character that has acted inconsistently. An unreliable narrator.

The act of writing a bio for a dating app probably wasn’t in the outline of the love story that person dreamed of as a child. It probably wasn’t part of the first draft at all.

On-line dating bios are a small stories that vie for connection. But don’t all stories vie for connection in some way? Don’t they all look to reveal universal truths through small details? Aren’t stories how we all come together? We read each other’s stories; we hope ours will not be forgotten, and we share just a little piece of each other, for a few seconds, or for a lifetime.

I’m not saying the Whistler Writers Festival is one big dating game (although I do know some romances have blossomed at the annual event at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.) But I am urging you to listen. Read. Write. Connect. Pay attention to the small details.

Swipe right on the Whistler Writers Festival, and give stories a chance. 

Katherine Fawcett moderates Insights from Insiders: Navigating Canada’s Traditional Publishing Landscape on Oct. 12 and Bunny, BookTok, and a Bizarre New World: A Case Study with Mona Awad on Oct. 15. Tickets are available now.