» Technology vs. Romance
  • Technology vs. Romance

    Oct 10th • Posted in love, personal

    Or: How OKCupid Singlehandedly Killed the Serious Romance

    Let’s be upfront and honest with each other. This is going to get intimate anyway, so I might as well cut the tension now: the topic of technology and romance might be overdone. There are so many articles about how millennials are single-handedly killing romance, or re-inventing dating by removing the labels and “hanging out.” But when you have a sociological and scientific phenomenon that booms like the development of technology in dating– it’s hard to fight it off, and sometimes you just have to let it happen. At this point in time, the majority of twentysomethings that I know have at one point or another, decided to try their hand at online dating. I’ve known people who have been broken up with via text message– or even worse, the victim of the “slow fade,” in which a person decides they are not interested in the other person they are dating and they slowly fade their texts to the point where they no longer contact the other person. Hearing stories like this (while acutely aware of my own experiences) frustrates me. Call me a hopeless romantic, but what happened to people at least being completely honest with one another and having some common decency for other people? I guess my point of is this: What the fuck, you guys? What has happened to dating? And where is it going from here? Can it be stopped?

    One of the biggest topics of concern with technology affecting romance is the advent of online dating. Online dating was, is and will continue to be a mixed bag. I have extremely conflicted feelings on the subject (despite my own experiences,) but I know that many have found the love of their life online. Meeting “the one” online has increased over the past couple of years. The University of Chicago conducted a study  that found that more than ⅓ of marriages between 2005-2012 began online, and that online couples have seen to have more marital satisfaction in their marriages. One of my old high school teachers and dearest friends, Pete, met his wife online through match.com– and they have been together for the past ten years. Online dating holds a stigma, and Pete has mentioned it to me in the past when he talked about meeting his wife: “Whenever someone asked my wife where we met, she would always freak out and claim that we met each other at a random event or a bar. It’s funny because I didn’t and still don’t go to bars often.” Stories like this give me a little hope when it comes to online dating, and it is supported by the Cacioppo et. al study: the internet seems to be providing a higher sense of satisfaction in marriages and seems to be improving the dating climate. However, the majority of people that participated in this study were older than 30… what about the millennial generation?

    The thing that can count against the millennial generation or “Gen Y-ers” in terms of dating is the fact that we (yes, I know– I am one of the guilty ones) are so consumed and engrossed with technology and how convenient it is to communicate with one another. This makes dating difficult– even without the online aspect of meeting others. Due to the amount of time I spend in school or at work, I mostly spend my time communicating with my friends through text messages or through Facebook Chat. Through these venues, I’ve grown accustomed to instant gratification, and developed awareness that the person should be able to respond within minutes. Social cues no longer exist with instant messaging and texting, and I don’t have to deal with having to pay complete attention to them because I can push them aside. I make this a point of contention with technology because instead of playing by the rules and waiting three days for someone to call back– people have become lazy and impatient. I certainly know I am guilty of this: many of my ex-boyfriends have accused me of being clingy because I prefer consistent texts. (In my defense, I have an extremely busy schedule so I don’t want to waste my time with you if you don’t want to invest time in me.) This makes online dating even more difficult for busy people like myself, because we have a more independent mindset, and prefer to go after what we want. But because of the technology and resources we have, millennials go after what they want and they want it now!

    I suppose that’s why I have a mixed view on online dating: it allows us to cut through the bullshit of what my parents have referred to as “courting,” and helps us filter through people in the comfort of our homes. People use online dating sites like OKCupid for various reasons. Personally, I used it when I first moved to Chicago because it was an easy way to meet new people, and now to make new friends and see where it develops. My best friend started using OKCupid to expand her social circle and to get over a difficult breakup by dating around. One of my closest male friends uses the online dating site (as well as iPhone apps like Grindr or Growlr– yes, apparently there is a niche dating app for ‘husky gay men’) for casual sexual encounters, and as he claims, “maybe to find someone, but I’m not over my ex boyfriend yet–  so I’m really on it to get laid.” To each his or her own, right? Online dating is like the world’s best and worst bar: you can check out whoever you want at your most comfortable, but it causes you to become hypersensitive to flaws, you become extra picky and selective. You miss out on more people than you would in public because you’re so concerned that someone has to fit all your necessary criteria. Some people are there for fun, others take it way too seriously and are intent on finding that special someone right away. It’s fun for everyone, until you go on the first date.

    Because the majority of the interactions happen online before you just jump in and meet them, the art of face-to-face communication is lost. Things get awkward, and it is difficult to get past the awkwardness, or perhaps you know way too much about someone because you’ve Googled them ahead of time. (Also: guilty as charged– I’ve done that way too many times to count. I am affectionately called the “Facebook Queen” because of my stalking skills. I’m starting to feel like this essay is just one huge cautionary tale about people who date me.) I mean, at this very moment, I am observing a couple on a first date having a conversation about online dating while they discuss why they online date. It’s hilarious because it’s so meta, but technology has caused us to become the dating process to turn into ‘me, me, me’ rather than ‘me, you, us.’

    I’m frustrated with dating because technology has opened a new wormhole and host of problems that previous generations didn’t have to deal with. Admittedly, technology has provided ways for people (especially women) to become more selective and more proactive in their own romantic lives. However, there are so many ways of fucking something good up nowadays that people become exhausted, relationships become shorter, the idea of dating ceases to exist– and ‘hanging out’ for something ‘more organic to pop up’ rules the mindsets of Generation Y. The marriage of technology and dating might not ever go away, but it is important for those who want to date in this climate to understand what they’re getting into, and to at least become accountable for themselves and their actions.