Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Trying Too Hard With Too Many? I

As modern dating evolved over the last century, a problem became clear: Dating is often terrible. The hardest part? Meeting someone. It’s worse than a matter of chance: It’s chaos.
What if we could change dating by letting people meet even more people? We could defy the random laws of attraction by matching people to their algorithmically determined ideal mate. But what if it turns out that relying on algorithms doesn’t make dating less chaotic, but more so, in a whole new way? What if, instead of finding our way to a partner, following certain algorithms leads us only further away?
. . . Dating is a numbers game, people say, but the direction it’s taking online and in apps means ever bigger numbers. The number of people you’d never talk to in a million years.
. . . Here’s the problem with bigger numbers and endless possibility: They don’t go well with humans. We don’t have the processing power. Dating is not simply about finding like-minded people, but about limiting your potential set of choices. When we’re making a selection from what sociologists call a bounded set of choices, we can “satisfice” — that is, reach a kind of threshold of satisfaction. Once we find something above that level, great, let’s try it.
When the number of options increases, we become maximizers — unsatisfied with those options, and wanting more . . . When faced with boundless choices, can we ever choose?
Having done a bit of online dating myself, I can’t help but wonder: in a business-driven city, within an achievement-oriented community, are New York’s Jewish singles treating the search for love too much like a job, and ourselves as products to be marketed?
. . . are we simply trying too hard? And could our businesslike, problem-solving approach to finding love be self-defeating?
Because, despite no shortage of matchmakers, dating experts and love coaches, fewer Jewish New Yorkers seem to be settling down . . .
Even some Jewish dating experts think we ought to relax and quit approaching love like a job with a deadline.

If falling deeply in love requires getting to know a person, and that process demands focus on an individual, is it any mystery that, in a place and time when singles perceive romantic choices as limitless, finding love is such a challenge? Does a multitude of options lead us to deeper, more fulfilling relationships?
. . .“You see it at singles events, where even as people speak to each other their heads are like roving radar towers — just scanning constantly, looking for who’s better,” said the rabbi.
New York City Jewish singles seem to agree that, ironically, the abundance of online dating sites, apps and meeting opportunities can make it hard to focus on anyone in particular.
. . .[Joey says,]“Now if I’m on a date, my plan is to enjoy the date and not think about anyone else. Like ordering a dish I like. So part one is, you want to pick your dish and stick with it.
“Part two, enjoy the dish.
“And if she’s a lifelong dish, I won’t order anything else.”
"This Is How We Date Now" by Jamie Varon:
We say romance is dead, because maybe it is, but maybe we just need to reinvent it. Maybe romance in our modern age is putting the phone down long enough to look in each other’s eyes at dinner. Maybe romance is deleting Tinder off your phone after an incredible first date with someone. Maybe romance is still there, we just don’t know what it looks like now.
When we choose—if we commit—we are still one eye wandering at the options. We want the beautiful cut of filet mignon, but we’re too busy eyeing the mediocre buffet, because choice. Because choice. Our choices are killing us. We think choice means something. We think opportunity is good. We think the more chances we have, the better. But, it makes everything watered-down. Never mind actually feeling satisfied, we don’t even understand what satisfaction looks like, sounds like, feels like.
. . . Then, we see these other happy, shiny couples and we compare. We are The Emoji Generation. Choice Culture. The Comparison Generation. Measuring up. Good enough. The best. Never before have we had such an incredible cornucopia of markers for what it looks like to live the Best Life Possible.
. . . We realize that this more we want is a lie. We want phone calls. We want to see a face we love absent of the blue dim of a phone screen. We want slowness. We want simplicity. We want a life that does not need the validation of likes, favorites, comments, upvotes. We may not know yet that we want this, but we do. We want connection, true connection.
"Emerging Stronger," a video by Marc Spear and Yitz Brilliant:
"Intimacy doesn't necessarily grow . . . when you're in a forced, overly pressured kind of setting."—Dr. David Pelcovitz
"We used to go out to have fun, and then if we met the person having fun, that was great. Now everyone's going out to find the bashert, and there's just no more fun left."—Gail Hochman
"Online Dating That Matches as You Do, Not as You Say" by Belinda Luscombe:
Essentially since the dawn of Internet-dating era, we've been engaged in a massive longitudinal study of mate selection. To conduct the experiment, we've opened the partnering floodgates. Finding a consort has gone from choosing between maybe two options presented by your family to finding a suitable person in your neighborhood and social circle to cherry-picking from among the scores of contenders you meet at school or college or work to scrolling through thousands of faces on your phone. In terms of choice, that's like going from eating whatever Mom is serving for dinner to carrying a plate by every restaurant in the world while people dump food onto it.  


Daniel Saunders said...

OK, I'm going to throw a crazy pet theory of mine at you and see what you think. Feel free to shoot it down.

Maybe, just maybe, the 'singles crisis' or 'shidduch crisis' (if it even exists) has nothing at all to do with dates, singles, shadchanim, online dating websites, singles events, settling, being choosey or anything else to do with dating.

It's pretty well-established that as a demographic group becomes upwardly mobile, as more of its members reach more high-status, high-income careers, its members delay marriage and children to focus on their careers. Jews, particularly American Jews, have had great success at upward mobility over the last couple of generations. Is it any wonder they are marrying less and having fewer kids?

I'm not saying people, particularly frum people, are consciously putting off marriage, but unconsciously I would not be surprised if this tension is there, even among frum people. But in the frum community you can't be single and not dating and you certainly can't date casually, so instead people are dating endlessly and unhappily and then agonizing over the whole process.

I don't mean to say everyone unmarried is like this (I have my own reasons for not dating, for example). I'm certainly not thinking of particular individuals. Obviously many people do want to get married and are dating seriously without success. But on a social level, I would expect this to be a factor for many people.

Princess Lea said...

For one thing, people go backward and claim that in Europe everyone was married at 19. My grandfather didn't marry (before the war) until he was 30, my grandmother was at least 25, if not older.

Back then, men couldn't get married unless they had a business with which to support a family. It simply wasn't possible. My Babi would say that the tears of the spinsters brought on the war. (I'm not exactly holding by that, as I am not sure what she meant, but my point is that no one cried "shidduch crisis" back then.)

While there can be many reasons, or none, for starters, when was it decided that there is such thing as an "older" single? When did 25 become the end of the world?