By the time you swear you’re his, / Shivering and sighing. / And he vows his passion is/ Infinite, undying. / Lady, make a note of this — /One of you is lying. ― Dorothy Parker
Edward Royzman, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, asks me to list four qualities on a piece of paper: physical attractiveness, income, kindness, and fidelity. Then he gives me 200 virtual “date points” that I’m to distribute among the four traits. The more I allocate to each attribute, the more highly I supposedly value that quality in a mate.
This experiment, which Royzman sometimes runs with his college classes, is meant to inject scarcity into hypothetical dating decisions in order to force people to prioritize.
I think for a second, and then I write equal amounts (70) next to both hotness and kindness, then 40 next to income and 20 next to fidelity.
“Oh wow,” he says.
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Last week, I joined Shaadi.com, India’s oldest and most popular matrimonial website.
Call it anthropological curiosity; call it a metric of my own narcissism. Call it acclimating to the Indian single life after coming of age in the West, where India is often seen as a country of arranged marriages and impenetrable glass ceilings. If there’s truth to caricature, then call my joining the online matrimony network a modern-day leap onto a bandwagon of millennia-old social custom.
“Shaadi” is the Hindi word for wedding; Shaadi.com is, intuitively, a wedding arranged via the Internet. It’s one of more than 100 Indian websites that comprise the country’s thriving online matrimonial market, where an individual can browse for his or her ideal spouse among a catalog of potential candidates organized by the personal information that apparently matters most: religion, caste, income, fairness of skin, family background, and so on.
Read more. [Image: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters]
Two billion dollars. That’s how much online dating companies are expected to make in 2013 by helping lonely hearts find love on the Internet. The industry has been growing steadily for half a decade, so it’s no wonder that older digital yentas like Match.com and eHarmony.com are seeing competition from app startups like the enthusiastic Let’s Date, the gay and bisexual service Grindr, and the somewhat-forward Down (if you must ask the question “to do what?”, maybe you’re better off sticking with eHarmony). A number of these kinds of apps have earned the reputation of being meant for hook-ups rather than dating, whereas eHarmony and Match.com emphasize just the opposite: Both sites often crow about the number of marriages that started on their sites.
Hinge wants to be somewhere in the middle. It’s a “social app” that helps people find and rate friends of people they know on Facebook, which they say is better than the free-for-all on sites like OkCupid. ”Our goal is to create more high-potential first dates,” said the company’s founder, Justin McLeod, at The Atlantic's forum on small business on Wednesday.
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My brother, Hussein Al-Nasrawi, sits in his bedroom with his MacBook in his lap, clicking away on the keyboard. Hussein has olive skin and lanky arms. As he stares at his computer screen, he never cracks a smile; in fact, he doesn’t smile very much in general. He logs onto the dating site OkCupid and begins answering some questions.
“What are you looking for?” the site asks.
“Someone to go out with,” he says to himself as he types each letter with undivided concentration.
“How do you feel about falling in love?”
“I like to just let it happen.”
Hussein knows everything there is to know about Disney. He can hear a song on the radio and play it note for note on the piano. He’s funny, but he can’t tell a joke. He’s loving, but he never shows affection. He is single, 22 years old, and autistic.
In 2008, Artist R. Luke Dubois joined online dating sites across the country to collect data about dating in America. He can tell you how many people in your zip code are “shy.” He can tell you that online dating profiles made in New York City use “now” more frequently than any other city, and that Seattle’s profiles are full of “heartbreak.” He can show you America’s soft side in a way the census can’t; his art is “a way to explore the emotional impact of data,” he said during an interview for Atlantic Video’s Creative Breakthroughs series.
The positive aspects of online dating are clear: the Internet makes it easier for single people to meet other single people with whom they might be compatible, raising the bar for what they consider a good relationship. But what if online dating makes it too easy to meet someone new? What if it raises the bar for a good relationship too high? What if the prospect of finding an ever-more-compatible mate with the click of a mouse means a future of relationship instability, in which we keep chasing the elusive rabbit around the dating track?
Read more. [Image: R. Kikuo Johnson]
ALSO READ: Alexis Madrigal’s response to this piece.