Dan Slater's piece in The Atlantic's first issue of 2013, "A Million First Dates: How Online Dating is Threatening Monogamy," explores the phenomenon of online dating and the threat it poses to monogamy. Slater claims that such a robust online dating scene has made people acutely aware of all the "options" available with the simple click of button, rendering us indifferent and noncommittal.
It was fairly incredible... I'm an average-looking guy. All of a sudden I was going out with one or two very pretty, ambitious women a week... Did online dating change my perception of permanence? No doubt. When I sensed the breakup coming, I was okay with it... I was eager to see what else was out there.
This easy, immediate exposure to dating opportunities cultivates a delusional worry that there's always someone else -- nay, someone better! -- to message and meet tomorrow. "Sure, he is great, but look at this stud's profile! It says he went to law school in 'Cambridge!'" With this mindset, it's no surprise that online daters would then be molded into perpetually dissatisfied, commitment-phobic singletons... right? Wrong.
As Alexis Madrigal argued in another Atlantic piece, "There's No Evidence Online Dating Is Threatening Commitment or Marriage," there's -- um -- no evidence. Online dating is emerging as the new, highly successful norm. In fact, I have an online dating profile and, if you're single, you should, too.
Despite its prevalence among my cohort of friends and acquaintances, online dating is still taboo. It seems almost... desperate. Growing up in a society that idealizes romance and promotes unattainable standards of perfection grâce à Hollywood, it's hard to come to terms with meeting someone in such a lackluster way. Wouldn't it be so much nicer if I could tell my grandchildren that their grandfather and I met under the stars, while riding white ponies and listening to the strum of Spanish guitars... or something? Yeah, that'd be nice, but waiting around for some dude on a pony probably isn't going to do much for my dating life.
So, why not just meet someone organically, like in bar? Yeah! That's romantic! "Gather 'round, kids, and listen to how Granddad and I stumbled into each other after one too many gin and tonics!"
When trying to convince a newly-single skeptic to give online dating a try, he asked, "But don't you miss the thrill of meeting someone out? The risk factor?"
Not particularly. But if you're into that, it's actually much more "risky" to go on a date with some stranger who you met online. I mean, it doesn't take real guts to "flirt" with someone at a bar. You get turned down? Whatever. Move on to the next bleary-eyed patron or go back to your friends and have another drink. But with online dating, you're implicitly asking people to judge you as a potential partner. If you commit to seeing each other in some "dating" capacity, you will have to endure at least one drink with this person, alone. They could be wretched, but you have to make conversation. You have to seem interesting. That takes way more guts, not to mention, social skills.
Online dating is simply a necessity these days. People are so transient. As more and more people move to cities, the traditional American community is being lost. A few decades ago, it was totally normal to stay with one company, in the same town, for life. Now, people change jobs and locations with the seasons. We move away from friends and family for college, after college and throughout our adult lives. To Slater's point, if I were living in Smalltown, USA, I'd probably be engaged right now to my high school sweetheart. But no, I've moved six times since high school, and I now live in a big city with lots of options and many people coming in and out of both the city and my life.
Lastly, in the era dominated by the conventionless hookup culture, online dating is a very direct way of making it clear that you're not interested in pursuing the status quo. You don't want to shut up and hookup, you want to go out to dinner. You want to date. That is doing wonders for monogamy.
Trust me, if you're sick of the meaningless bar crawling and hooking up, and genuinely want to meet someone, online dating is the way to go. Give it a whirl. What have you got to lose?
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