About a week ago I realized I hadn’t been reading enough non-fiction books this year. So I picked up Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance which had been on my radar for a while, but I had admittedly been hesitant to try because I don’t always find his kind of humor funny.
Fortunately this book turned out to be less autobiographical and more qualitative data driven. He clearly spent a lot of time talking to different people from different demographics and getting their personal anecdotes about dating and relationships.
Most of what he said reaffirmed things that I already knew either from my college class on Sex and Technology or just generally from being a single woman in my mid-twenties attempting to date. So the reasons I liked this book had far less to do with any revelations the data revealed to me than the way it was presented and his concluding advice. Basically Ansari made his readers aware that they were not alone in their frustrating navigations of the modern dating world and then offered some friendly, but serious advice about how to make use of the new tools we have available, without letting them change the depth of any relationships.
The positive sides of modern dating are that it’s easier to do than ever before and that there are new tools to help facilitate communication. Basically, your network is wider and that means you have a bigger pool of people to search through to find your One True Love.
If you’re anything like me, then you’ve probably experienced a time or two when you’ve been in a room full of strangers and just not clicked with any of them. And it can be frustrating when your evening or class or whatever is restricted to just those same people over and over again. You think to yourself, “Boy, I wish there were more people here. Or someone different to talk to.”
50 years ago, a twenty-something’s social network would have been limited just like it is in that classroom. You would know your family, neighbors, some friends of friends, and maybe people who went to places of worship or school with you growing up. If you didn’t click with anyone romantically, basically you were out of luck. Technology gives modern daters a chance to widen that network. We don’t have to settle for something we’re not happy with; we have more opportunities to find our Happy Ending.
The downside is that sometimes there’s just too much choice. When you constantly have more options, anyone you pick has the potential to feel like settling for less. Why give the awkward first date a second chance when you can hop on Tinder and move on to someone new in just a few swipes?
To prevent this from happening Ansari insists that we need to practice investing in our potential matches. Sure we have a wider network, but 50 years ago when it was smaller we took the time to get to know someone before writing them off entirely. We were a little more lenient, a little more understanding.
“For me the takeaway of these stories is that, no matter how many options we seem to have on our screens, we should be careful not to lose track of the human beings behind them. We’re better off spending quality time getting to know actual people than spending hours with our devices, seeing who else is out there.”
Every potential profile and conversation has an actual real live person behind them. A person with feelings, sometimes bad jokes, sometimes a terrible case of first date jitters, and sometimes a shared love of something obscure that you can bond over. And you’re not going to know anything about who they really are as a person if you don’t give them a chance to get there. Does this mean you should go back to someone that was truly awful again and again? No, of course not. But simply judging a person based on their favorite television shows or that one misspelled word in their text does a disservice to them and to yourself. You have to actually try and get to know them, to invest in them before making a decision. It might not pan out, they might not be your One True Love, but if you let every tiny flaw dissuade you, then you’ll never be satisfied.
Technology is changing the way that we meet people, but it doesn’t have to change the way that we date, too. It just takes a conscious choice to block out the flood of options and focus on who’s in front of you until you finally find the right person. The good news is that while modern dating might be a lengthy process (young adults are marrying later than ever before), it’s also statistically more likely to end in happiness than relationships that formed in our grandparents’ generation. Choice isn’t bad; just sometimes overwhelming.