Love and Technology = A Modern Romance
For a long time now I’ve had a curiosity about modern romance, specifically how technology changes the way we meet and date potential partners to find our perfect match. As luck would have it, I found just the book to cool my curiosity. Entitled “Modern Romance,” it is written by none other than Aziz Ansari, the world-renowned love guru, errr I mean, comedian. He partnered with Eric Klinenberg, an esteemed sociologist, to do primary research and analyze studies on romance, love and marriage for credibility’s sake.
I pursued “modern romance” for about 3 months. I was a Match-dot-com-er back in 2010 after I was ready once again to jump into the adventurous world of dating. Prior to this, I had met all my boyfriends in the physical world - at a gym, in college and on spring break for example. Several months after a break up however, I was intrigued to check out what everyone else was talking about, online dating.
But, only three months in, I opted out. I met Greg (my hubby) through a mutual friend and very quickly left the virtual dating world behind.
(Image courtesy of Ruvan Wijesooriya)
As you can see, my experience with online dating is limited. But over the years, it has become the new normal. And it seems REALLY hard. What is going on? There are so many great people, many who are my friends. Why is it so hard for perfectly great people to match up in today’s world? And that’s where the insights from Aziz’s book come into play….
Enter Chapter 4: “Choice and Options.”
First, a study about the paralysis of choice. In this study, researchers set up in a grocery store and offered people who walked by an option of 6 different jams to taste in one group and in the other, they offered 24. Though the researchers who offered 24 different jam choices had more people taste the jams, the group with 6 jams resulted in more purchases of the jam they taste-tested. How does this relate to dating?
The more options we have, the more we can maximize our happiness, right? Not so. According to Barry Schwartz who discusses the paradox of choice, when we have more options, we are less satisfied and have a harder time making a choice at all.
In today’s society, we are used to having many choices from everything to choosing a taco to selecting a romantic partner. Let’s take the taco reference for example, actually Aziz’s example. You can Google taco places in your area, then go to Yelp for reviews on those restaurants, then text your friends to see if they have any recommendations, all while going to the websites to look at the menu. Finally, you may have narrowed your choice down, but not before closing time and you’re stuck making a PB&J at home. Thus, not getting what you wanted in the first place.
This example may seem ridiculous, but it’s a good parallel of how online dating can cause paralysis. Online dating opens the door to be a more picky dater. We’re looking for the best, our soul mate, and when you’re doing that, it can take a while. In essence, Ansari relates it to creating a “fantasy person.” We’re swiping through profiles to find someone who checks ALL the boxes without even meeting them.
When we think we've found someone who could be a great match, we do make it to a first date. But here again, the cards are stacked against us unless you learn a couple key tricks:
Make your first date exciting! Ask most people and the typical first date is dinner or a drink and the conversation is somewhat like a job interview, tallying off your life’s work over an hour or two. The irony is that daters are looking for a partner who excites them and makes them feel a connection. That type of outcome isn’t likely associated with resume reading over dinner. Several studies concur that when couples participated in activities that are novel and exciting, they show an increase in relationship quality, meaning an increase in our attraction for the other person.
Go on a second date with the same person. Novel, I know! Similar to the fact that the type of first date you have can make a difference in how you feel about the other person, so too can the number of dates. Many daters never make it to date two, but when they do, the attraction builds because you are more familiar with the other person. Thus, turning a 6 into an 8 just by going on a second date.
“People’s unique values and traits are hard to recognize on a first date,” Ansari said. “There’s something uniquely valuable in everyone and it will pay off if we take the time to let it evolve.”
In closing, while dating for your soul mate, be willing to give people a chance, go on exciting dates and make it to the second date more than you would normally because your soul mate is more than a click away.
If you wish to learn more about "Modern Romance," pick up Aziz's book. It's chalk-full of explanations on how relationships have evolved and how technology influences our dating lives.