In his book Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari talks about reframing our ideas about dating apps, choosing instead to treat them as introduction apps. He quotes Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and match.com advisor, as saying that dating services should be rebranded as “introducing services,” because “they enable you to go out and go and meet the person yourself.” This suggestion seems so simple and not that genius, but when I read that I found myself nodding vigorously and thinking OF COURSE. And even though I finished Modern Romance months ago, I’m still chewing on that idea and trying to unpack it.
Let me stop right here and say that I met my current boyfriend on Bumble, the “feminist” app that allows only the woman to make the first move. Once both parties swipe right on each other and a match is made, only the lady can start the conversation. I downloaded the app like many college students do: with my friends, for entertainment. I never thought I’d take it seriously; as a teenager I’d thought of online dating as sketchy and sad. And yet here I was, at a phase in my life when I was trying to say yes to more things despite my anxious tendencies. Josh was one of my first matches and the first guy I struck up a conversation with, and within three weeks we were DATING dating. What dumb stupid luck.
I think one of the reasons people judge dating apps in particular and online dating in general is that the name itself implies that all of the interaction is happening in the digital sphere. For some couples that is definitely the case, whether due to distance or anxiety or any number of other reasons. But for dating apps especially, distance isn’t really an issue because the whole point is to connect users with people close by.
Looking back at Modern Romance, I found another quote about this issue that resonated with me. Aziz quotes Laurie Davis, author and online dating consultant, as saying that “online dating is just a vehicle to meet more people. It’s not the place to actually date.”
Sounds good, except that it seems like every 20-something I know who uses online dating does not adhere to that idea. Most people text and send Snapchats and interact via social media than actually meet face to face. They’ll go back and forth for days, weeks even, before deciding that the other person might be acceptable enough to meet in the real world. There’s obviously that safety concern with online dating, but wouldn’t meeting the actual person in a public place be more telling than getting to know them through carefully constructed messages?
Josh and I realized we had several mutual friends and met face-to-face at a party four days after being introduced to one another online. Obviously I know that our situation is not very common, and that bad dates certainly happen all the time. But how can you be sure unless you go on that bad date and get it out of the way and come out on the other end with a good/weird/funny story? Seems better than drawing out an online interaction for longer than necessary.
Read Modern Romance!! It’s non-boring non-fiction that is actually relevant!