|Well, I bet E-harmony worked for these two.|
It seems that since the rise of the internet and cell phone, the world is a busier place. Busy not in the sense that we have more to do, but the level of information has grown tenfold, providing us with more content that we have to process on a daily basis. To counteract the possible chaos, I’ve noticed that I’ve had to hone my organizational skills and, whether I realize it or not, prioritizing has become a necessity in my daily life. Now, this could coincide with my transfer into fulltime adulthood, but I suspect that daily lives, as well as social lives (due to entities like Facebook) are busier in general, even if you aren’t actually going out as much. And while this prioritization comes in handy when dealing with practical needs, the advent of online dating has probably unintentionally tapped into this new way of thinking, causing the, what I term, commodification of love.
I don’t mean this in the sense of dating sites seeking profit off providing a service, but, instead, in the organized, functional fashion they force us to look at something that, at one point, was more spontaneous and chaotic. Though I am no expert in the history of relationships and love, it is common knowledge that, over the course of time, marriage has had a functional value, as did having children. After all, if you needed help plowing the fields or whatever the family business required, having children was an answer. This has gone by the wayside in modern society and has been replaced by an emotional need. And online dating somehow melds the two into a Frankensteinian monster of emotion, need, and societal expectation.
But how do we view each other as commodities? Think of your run of the mill marketplace site like Amazon.com. If you need a book on gardening, you probably type gardening in the Amazon search engine and compare/contrast different titles based on your needs, cost, entertainment value, etc. Similarly, if you decide that you want to enter the dating pool and are looking for a mate, you may go on match.com, fill out a few questions regarding what you seek in a mate, and are provided a list of choices or profiles that actually dehumanize (for lack of the better word) a person, assigning them a personal value to your needs based on looks, interests, etc. Essentially, they become a product that has right of refusal. You compare their value to other similar profiles (or products), make your decision on who to contact, and hope you get the response you desire. It’s essentially a buffet: some of the food may satiate your taste, while others may give you explosive diarrhea.
Now, if you’re lucky enough to earn a response, many dating sites actually provide suggestions on how to correspond to best serve the future of the potential couple. If these rules are followed, and you decide to meet for a “date,” congratulations, you essentially just signed up for an interview to see if you’re “compatible” in the same way you may try some crappy ab machine you bought off an infomercial but have the right to return in sixty days. Though one can make an argument that any first date may unfold in a similar fashion, a non-online one, in my experience, seems less regimented (more organic) and less like a quid pro quo business transaction since both of you shopped your interest like buying/selling a used car. In fact, in my experience, these “dates” usually started with a handshake followed by a conversation about likes and dislikes. They feature no foundation of commonality like a random meeting probably provides or even a set up organized by a mutual friend. Not many feel comfortable answering the question “so why did you sign up for match.com” like they would “how long have you known Earl?” or “it was crazy meeting you in the antacid aisle at Ralphs, how long have you had issues with heartburn?”
I do know my hypothesis is, at least, partially true as I have friends that will corral 3 or 4 potential online mates at a time while comparing and contrasting their strengths and weaknesses in the categories of potential sexual compatibility, future relationship possibility, among other things they’ve thought entirely too much about. Perhaps this has something to do with supply and demand of the site, and I do feel there is comfort in the knowledge that if none of the potential suitors work out, they can easily re-enter the website’s vast dating pool to try again.
Perhaps I’m personally jaded to the world of online dating, but is there romance in an online date? The premeditated nature of the entire thing causes it to seem like a job interview to see if your possible future significant other has the potential to be the “perfect mate,” as if such a thing is a necessity in life on a functional level. Perhaps the online dating site is just a conduit to the eventual romance, but spontaneity and people’s obsession with the relationship of love and fate certainly do not apply to this world. What would Shakespeare say about this relatively new form of connection?
So, is online dating just a sign of the times? Are people just afraid of each other and prefer to communicate behind the internet wall? Or have we come to view relationships differently? Maybe it’s just easier? Anyone have any thoughts on online dating in general? Would love to hear from you on this one!