Following my recent manifesto about relationships, I noticed an article by Casey Johnston at Ars Technica focused on online dating. Dating websites are apparently now the second most common way for couples to meet (behind, I assume, the meet cute), more than doubling in the past ten years. The authors of the meta analysis Johnston discusses note that this makes meeting people less intimidating but can also cause us problems because we don’t know what we really want:
According to the surveyed studies, users can list things they like to see in a potential date’s online profile, but often a completely different set of preferences emerge in real-life encounters. When users selected dates, the degree to which a person’s profile “matched their ideals” did not predict their romantic interest after a meatspace encounter. People can go on and on about what they like, but they have a less-than-perfect idea of what they will be attracted to.
The authors also found that it was better to meet in person after a short time (I unscientifically agree – context-free texts seem like a terrible way to get to know somebody).
Coincidentally (or not, given that Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching), a friend of mine also posted a few articles about love on her blog (this is the same friend who initially asked for the manifesto, bringing things full circle). The third post that she links to demonstrates the way that our digital communications can provide a (potentially devastating) record of our past relationships. The first post she links to, by Jonathan Franzen, echoes my call for honesty (I’m choosing to ignore Franzen’s love affair with birds):
The simple fact of the matter is that trying to be perfectly likable is incompatible with loving relationships. Sooner or later, for example, you’re going to find yourself in a hideous, screaming fight, and you’ll hear coming out of your mouth things that you yourself don’t like at all, things that shatter your self-image as a fair, kind, cool, attractive, in-control, funny, likable person. Something realer than likability has come out in you, and suddenly you’re having an actual life.
Suddenly there’s a real choice to be made, not a fake consumer choice between a BlackBerry and an iPhone, but a question: Do I love this person? And, for the other person, does this person love me?
There is no such thing as a person whose real self you like every particle of. This is why a world of liking is ultimately a lie. But there is such a thing as a person whose real self you love every particle of. And this is why love is such an existential threat to the techno-consumerist order: it exposes the lie.
Unlike Crazy, Stupid, Love, this is an approach to relationships that I can support.