Thursday, February 11, 2010

In defense of online dating: The Hulu Approach

In my opinion, the practice of online dating sits in a DMZ type area between totally socially acceptable and "dude, i'll bet you any amount of money that that 'girl' you've been talking to is a crinckley, old man." Despite the obvious popularity of online dating, as well as the commercial clips featuring the successfully matched and eharmonized, there remains a significant stigma attached to online courtships; people want to, but don't want to, and for many reasons. For one, it's likely that a lot of people are scared or nervous, which makes sense, as we have all seen To Catch a Predator... "please, have a seat".

What is worse though is that many people are ashamed of online dating, whether they are already in the habit or just considering. They think that it smells a little of desperation, or of a failure to find boys/girls via traditional means. First of all, it's important to note that norms change, including norms of courtship - organized marriages have been out of fashion. just like ya mama. But more importantly, online dating does not smell of desperation, but of our digital age. I use the example of Hulu to demonstrate this point.

We still have TV's, and we watch them. But more and more often we supplement our traditional viewing experiences with sites like Hulu, youtube, megaaaavideo, (or if you're feeling lavish, and don't mind waiting until the next day, the iTunes store). For it seems silly to flip through channels and then eventually settle (on Law & Order), when you could - with a few key strokes - compare the attributes of many different shows so as to find a show that you really really wanted to see. Then you go from there. The parallel is that bars and other snail-dating venues offer you a limited selection of prospects, which encourages you towards that stale, Law & Order equivalent. Online dating lets you choose what you really want. This is not how we used to watch TV, nor how we used to date, but the change in norms is far from inherently bad. It is simply that the internet has changed every aspect of our lives by making products/information/boys accessible on such an enormous scale with an unimagined degree of efficiency. Why do the changes feel weird only in relation to dating?

Hence, your decision to online flirt is not a product of your person, but rather a reflection of today and tomorrow.

But this argument is expiration dated, as everyone of our kids, or at the slowest our kids' kids will have online dating accounts. Then they'll say "yo dad, you used to meet girls in person? how fucking conservative, you loser."


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