An increasing number of Americans are looking to social media and online dating sites like Tinder or OKCupid to meet potential romantic partners. They’re shopping for human beings, commodifying people.
In a Friday column, David Brooks reviews the data presented by the book People who date online are not shallower or vainer than those who don’t. They have access to very little information that can help them judge if they will fall in love with this person.
They pay ridiculous amounts of attention to things like looks, which have little bearing on whether a relationship will work. When online daters actually meet, an entirely different mind-set has to kick in.
They have to stop thinking in individual terms and start feeling in rapport terms.
Brooks calls this “the enchantment leap”—when “something dry and utilitarian erupts into something passionate, inescapable and devotional.” The algorithmic relies on the measurable, and thus most often depends on the physical, as Brooks points out.
Through apps like OKCupid and Tinder, we’ve learned to emphasize the temporary and the sensually gratifying in our pursuit of love.
But enchantment requires us to look beyond ourselves and our temporary desires—it requires us to give up control, or as Brooks puts it, to become “vulnerable.” Part of the reason we love quantification—of our love lives, our vocations, even our pastimes—is because we love having a sense of control, the reassurance of a pleasurable outcome.
Even those of us who would never use online dating sites will still often Facebook-stalk someone before a date.
We take the Meyers-Briggs personality test and various strengths-finder quizzes in order to determine whether we’ve picked the right job.
We use Yelp to check every restaurant, pick movies via Rotten Tomatoes, use wine apps to purchase the perfect bottle.
Because we are so anxious to control outcomes, we are unable to take any real risks.
But we forget, in the midst of our controlling, that it is absolutely impossible to eliminate all risk.