Ann Beattie sympathizes with the young generation, in that they are ordered to prove themselves via third-party recommendations ("The Incessant Selling of the Self").
Young people have been educated to believe that self-promotion is essential. Being excellent is only part of the scenario, and quick personal advancement is mandatory. Otherwise, all will be lost. All the talent, all the hope, all the achievement. Those things are not meant to speak for themselves: They’re kindling for the fire, and the fire must be breathed out of the mouths of young dragons that have no fear (with tongue piercings removed for job interviews).
How sad for everyone, that they’re expected to have their narrative — facts are to be spun into fiction; they’re prompted to make up a coherent story, though life itself is hardly that — while they’re still developing. Then they’re expected to be “adult” and to ask another adult to endorse them.
Oh, so it's not just us?
"References" on profiles are a hot topic. It's all in how you select them, earnest young singles are warned. But some may be wolves in sheep's clothing, lurking in their guise as friend when they are truly foe. Shidduchim have been ruined!
I don't think we can say words like "bashert" when someone you think well of can undo that which is heavenly ordained. Seems a little impossible, as Jews, I would think.
A couple of Shabbosim ago I was struck by these pesukim in the haftorah. Yirmiyahu 17:5-8:
Thus saith Hashem: Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from Hashem. For he shall be like a tamarisk in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in Hashem, and whose trust Hashem is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out its roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but its foliage shall be luxuriant; and shall not be anxious in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
Those who I believe are mature, kind, and profess to like me, I have on my information. Once I was told by someone who tried a shidduch on my behalf that a reference managed to put her foot in her mouth, rendering the date a "no-go"; I casually replaced her.
But I did not bear her ill will that she "ruined" the means to my soulmate. If it was bashert, it would be bashert. I try to look upon people as messengers of Hashem's will, not as the means in themselves.
As for calling references regarding a potential date? If I choose not to go out, it's usually based on the basic information and some Facebook research. If that is insufficient means to form an opinion—well, if I do not know the reference in question:
I’m skeptical about the benefit of soliciting so many opinions. Surely, the crowd should be discomfited, as so many inflated balloons increase the risk of more students’ eventually sinking from sky to field. People on the receiving end have become inured to hearing that everyone is the very best, the very brightest, and though the recommender does not care for poodles, even the person’s dog ...
Every guy is the "best." He's wonderful, he's charming, he's good-looking, he's chock-full of personality. You know how many times that description has actually rung my doorbell? Almost never.
There’s already been a cry about grade inflation. Letters of recommendation are an equal problem. If all the letters stopped, the burden might be shifted. What are the standards of those offering opportunities? Couldn’t they conduct interviews and form opinions based on the person and his or her work, rather than amassing letters by seemingly objective authorities that by now everyone takes less than seriously?
To quote Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola, "It's Just a F***ing Date." No references. A meeting is the best gauge.