There is an article here that’s getting a lot of play around the internet. Essentially, this guy is upset at online dating because it works so well.
The internet is changing the way society communicates, processes information and knowledge, and configures its relationship towards authority. Some of these developments are exciting and challenging, but in one particular sense the internet poses a fundamental challenge to the way humans interact. The following criticism and concern regarding online dating is not at all intended as a criticism of good and heartening personal stories – I, too, know people who have met their significant other through online dating.
So have I. I’ve been surprised at the number of married people I’ve met who met their spouses on places like Match.com. Not that I care. The vast majority of them will end up divorced or in an affair just like the rest.
Today, internet dating has become more or less accepted as a way of forming relationships. There has been some criticism, but it has usually been of the functional and operational kind, regarding subscription costs or users providing false pictures or information. There has been little thought or comment on why matchmaking websites might be a bad thing per se.
Online matchmaking is premised on the notion of making rational choices. It is perhaps fitting that the language of economics and business has finally – in our late capitalist society – permeated the most irrational, the most human of all areas: the interpersonal. Internet dating is like shopping at LoveMart. We watch and read the adverts (people’s profiles) and – based on what we are told is factually relevant data – we then, allegedly, make a rational decision to try the product. The more choices available (i.e. the more popular a matchmaking website), we are told, the better for those making the choice.
Sounds great to me! Online dating is awesome! Even 20 years ago before the internet, I always thought that dating services were a good idea.
Yet it is these intrusions by business speak into the very inner workings of society that should be of great concern.
This is further emphasized by the manner in which these processes are explained by proponents of online dating, as “opening up options” and “putting yourself out there”. One site, match.com, offers both efficiency (“Receive your compatible matches straight away”) and informed choice (“Choose who you’d like to get in touch with”). The irrational and unpredictable nature of something very human – love and the interpersonal – is turned on its head and transformed into a rational product.
And there it is. Let me translate what he’s saying into normal English: “Drama and chaos is a normal part of romantic relationships. Online dating attempts to remove this. This is bad, because drama is ‘human’ and therefore good.”
1. Drama and irrationality (what he calls “irrational and unpredictable nature”) is BAD. It is NOT GOOD. Moreover I would argue that drama and irrationality are among the worst things about humans beings there is.
2. I just wrote a post about how people like to defend negative behaviors and feelings by calling them “human”. This is exactly what this guy is doing. He’s pointing at negativity, problems, drama, and irrationality and saying those things are good because they’re “human”. Which frankly, is compete horseshit.
Putting negative experiences and emotions on a pedestal is human, but it’s a STUPID human. A smart human, a mature human, a successful human puts positive experience and emotions on a pedestal and removes all the negatives ones from his/her existence (as much as possible).
Eating a bowl of live beetles is “human”. Certain cultures in Asia and Africa do it all the time. Eating a turkey sandwich is just as “human”. So why the hell would you ignore the sandwich and eat those beetles and declare you’re being more “human” while you’re puking up insect guts?
Furthermore, the way dating websites calculate matches distorts the very core of interpersonal relations. Online seekers of partners and friends rely on computer calculations of a set of hard questions. There is little room (if any) for subtlety, deviance, or exploration. The questions that many of these websites use are so mind-numbingly awful (“Are you happy with your life? A. Yes, B. No, C. Most of the time”) that it cannot even be claimed to replicate real conversations.
This one point I agree with. OKCupid’s matching features and questions are just ridiculous. I ignore them all.
If I were asked most of the questions used to calculated compatibility on a normal date in a pub, say, I would run a mile. And that’s the point: this is not an extension of humanity and human interaction; it is a fundamental shift. Interpersonal relationships are being transformed into products that can be (supposedly) objectively measured and objectively chosen, even though such relations represent the exact opposite.
What’s wrong with objective measurements? If I like blonde women with big boobs between the ages of 18 and 29 who are within a 45 minute drive from my home, I’m using objective measurements to find a woman when I search a dating site based on that criteria. Why is this a bad thing? On the contrary, this is a wonderful thing that human beings have wanted for decades, if not centuries.
Perhaps he might respond with something like “Well, that kind of stuff is okay. What I’m talking about is looking for the personality compatibility of a possible mate.” Again, what’s wrong with that?
In his book Éloge de l’amour (2009), Alain Badiou noted two slogans for two online dating websites. The first claims that one can have love without the unexpected (“Ayez l’amour sans le hasard!“). The second promises that one can be in love without falling in love (“On peut être amoureux sans tomber amoureux!“). Love – this great irrational driver of humanity – has become an object, which people wish to be fully informed about, choose rationally, and not suffer any unexpected disappointments from. It is, as philosopher Slavoj Zizek has noted, like caffeine-free coffee.
Not “no” disappointments, but certainly less disappointments and with less time and randomness involved.
We want to enjoy these essence-free products, but without the irrationality of consuming bad things or accepting the spontaneous and unpredictable nature of emotions and feelings.
YES! Yes, yes, yes! That’s exactly what I want, Mr. Genius. If you want your romantic life full of “irrational, unpredictable, bad things” that’s great. Go ahead and swim in your drama and arguments and lies and oneitis and neediness and rules and breakups and divorces. I’ll be over here being happy.
Everything that makes culture and society real, impulsive, and often erratic is stripped away in favour of rational choice-making.
Holy shit. Do you see that? He did it again. He’s now using the word “real” instead of the word “human”. Take a bad thing, call it “real”, and suddenly it’s okay. Wrong. It’s still bad and something to be avoided.
We don’t want to harm ourselves; we don’t want suffering; we don’t want hardship; we don’t accept difficulty and disappointment.
Yep. That’s exactly what I want. Why is it you want suffering so badly, Mr. Columnist?
We simply want (and demand) the 100% consumer fulfillment of obtaining products based on rationality.
Yes, ideally, that’s what I want. I will never get it 100% of course. It’s an imperfect world; but I would like to get to as close to that as possible, yeah.
This guy’s a real masochist. Sadly, a lot of people think like him. I see them on the forums all the time.
This criticism can be extended of course to other forms of online communities, such as Facebook, where contact-less friendships are reduced to pokes, LOLs, and vacuous innuendos.
Yeah, I have my own complaints about the shallow nature of Facebook. However Facebook has gotten me laid A TON, so I’m still a huge fan.
Some critics, such as Badiou, have suggested that online dating is taking society back to a pre-modern version of arranged marriages. I would say it is worse. Society has invited the language and practice of market rationality into its midst. It has taken over not merely communal aspects of society, but the very essence of what it means to be human.
Again that silly word “human” used to justify negative. When I talked about this “human” excuse in my prior post, did I call it or what?
Just because it’s human does not mean it’s good. Some is good, some is bad. Get as much good as you can. Eliminate as much bad as you can. Don’t choose the bad on purpose and call it “human”.
Man. I need a drink.