From Meg & Tom to Aziz: How Online Dating Really Took off — But for the Better?

Do you think many women open up their tinder inbox and think this same thing? (Thank you, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks for showing me the mystical qualities of 1990s Internet, for you have forever set my expectations of inbox love exchanges far too high — if I were to have any)

From generation to generation, society and its norms and values are continuously shifting, as evident in the several adapting qualities and activities of the four eras studied in Digital Culture & Society — and dating, it appears, is another activity that joins the ongoing list. As Aziz Ansari mentions in his book, Modern Romance, generations of the past had a very different way of meeting people, restricted by their location, resulting in a smaller pool of “fish” to choose from. Take my grandparents, for example — They grew up in the same town, went to the same grade school and highschool and eventually had class together — chemistry, I know it sounds like a cheesy romcom — my grandmother was fifteen and my grandfather sixteen. Three years later, at eighteen and ninetten, they married. And two years after that, my grandmother gave birth to my mother (I cringe at the thought of having a child at the age of twenty now).

Continue down this chronological tracking of my family, and look at my parents. While they did not grow up in the same town, they met each other in college — Penn State. Both eighteen, eventually marrying right after graduation at 22, but (thankfully) waiting ten years to have children, as they aspired to reach their own dreams, attending graduate school in Boston. Times were different. When my dad f-ed up (as many college boys do) he would go to her autitorium sized class room, wait at the door with a boquet of flowers, hoping to find her exit, and swoop in to apologize. Thinking about my current relationship — of which I am very happy in — this would never happen. For the majority of our relationship was long distance (although only by an hour). For him to drive up to my UNH campus and apologize to me for whatever it was would be a hassle and he did not know my schedule my heart — honestly, he could barely tell you the title of my courses, and thats fine with me. Technology has changed relationships. Without cellphones in the seventies, when my parents we’re in college, my dad was kind of forced to know my mom’s semester schedule, how else were they to know when to meet up and hang out? I’m not even entirely sure if they had individual phones in their dorm rooms, but I doubt it. Today, with the presence of cellphones, relationships have shifted. For me, an apology may consist of a thoughtful text message, not my partner and a dozen roses waiting for me outside my comm class.

But my story is an outcast among my generation. I have actaully never tried — at least not seriously — online dating (A few summers ago, my coworkers and I would try to match as many people on tindr as possible to see would could make the most matching, a strange boosting of confidence, only possible in the technological age). Today, people swipe right and left on their cellphones, and that is considered dating. But I, agreeing with Aziz and Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist who advises Match.com, think of dating sites best as “introducing sites.” Fisher argues, “there is only one way to determine whether you have a future with a person: meeting them face-to-face” (107). The brain, she believes, is the ultimate truth teller, over any algorithm. And despite loving all things Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, this is we’re You’ve Got Mail screws up. The two spend almost the entire movie emailing back and forth with one another (despite knowing each other in person, they have no idea the other is the one on the other side of the email). Perhaps YGM set us up for failure.

Add to this ongoing of back and forth messages, which are really just small chitchat between two people who are obviously on the site for a reason but inherently afraid to take it to the next step. And I understand, ladies, sometimes it seems frightening to meet a guy from the Internet IRL. But all you need to do is figure out your own algorithm of questions, which will ensure you he either is or is not a sereal killer. There is also Google and Facebook these days, take advantage — look him up, but a friendly reminder: You’re not stalking him, just take a breif look. But imagine this in combination with the almost unlimited amount of choices. It can easily get exhausting. Especially concidering the “paradox of choice” — It’s impossible to meet everyone that is online, but despite this inability we can still see so many options… when do we stop the swiping or scrolling of profiles?

This is just a result of the Internet really, not just dating websites and apps. Think about the way google is set up — you search something and you have a billion pages of results to swift through until you stumble upon what you were searching for. For me, recipe sites get me — from bon appetite to epicurous, I could scroll through their recipe blogs for days… for days, I tell you. (I am also starting to realize most of my blog posts have related to food someplace or another, and I think Aziz and I should meet up IRL and spend a billion hours searching yelp to find a place to eat, and share our love of food together). I go scoll/click crazy, always thinking, “but what if the next page will have my future favorite gnocchi recipe?!?” — This is the same for modern dating today. We have to many options, even if we stumble upon a good gnocchi recipe, we might think we’re settling.

And the key is — between reciping snooping and potential date swiping — SETTLE. Stop thinking “is there something better?!” — be content. As long as you are happy, that is all you need. If the gnocchi dish is delish, then that should be an achievement. The longer you search, the more you will find the bad in every recipe, or date. So stop with all the options. Get down to a select few. And start spending quality time with one another. If it’s going well — keep at it! I don’t love absolutely everything about my boyfriend, and I’m sure he feels the same about me. But I’m okay with it — I’ll take my chances watching him spit on the sidewalk occasionally, and he’ll take his chances being coaxed into washing dishes most nights (as I am lazy — but also convincing — and my parents did not instill good qualities in me as a child, like washing the dishes after dinner).

I think learning to be satisfied with one another, and dealing with each others quirks is ultimately better. Yes, find someone who is compatible to you and not just an “easy find” like your next door neighbor, but don’t think that you’re going to find the ~perfect~ person for you. That is an illusion in your mind. You’ll find a soul mate, but that soul mate might have a few kinks, and you’ll love them even more for it.

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