Dating websites elicit unwarranted stigma

Yesterday, my brother, ignorant of the fact that I was writing a piece on online dating, recounted a “disturbing” tale of one of his high school friends who met his long-time girlfriend on a dating website.

Excited, I pressed him for why he found this strange. His answer is one that I’m sure is common among people his age, indeed, of every age in this country: “She was a stranger. He didn’t even know her.”

With divorce rates exceeding 50 percent, Americans need to relinquish this deeply-rooted preconception that has existed since the genesis of online dating. It’s important to create strong relationships wherever you can.

Is it not more arbitrary for two people to meet in a bar, probably drunk, than to meet through carefully orchestrated and deliberate measures? In fact, more than 40 percent of the U.S. population uses online dating websites, and more and more are attaining successful relationships each year.

Yet the stigma persists. As a measure of curiosity, I installed the dating app Tinder on my iPhone and perused the local ladies. While reading their profiles, I found a surprising number of bios including something along the lines of, “We don’t have to share how we met.” or “Don’t think I’m lame for using this.”

The only people who can see these excuses for using the app are other people who use it!

In this sense, online dating is a bit of an anomaly. While every other piece of technology is embraced and then quickly integrated into society, online dating still causes considerable discomfort.

This can be attributed to the base nature of attracting the opposite sex. A gorilla beats his chest, a bird fluffs his feathers and humans sit in dirty bathrobes and torn underwear, clicking through pictures while eating a cold slice of pizza. The most primal assertion of dominance has now been made impersonal. Notice the disconnect?

This biological reaction is construed in our 21st century consciences as “that person must be lying about their age, weight, etc” or “that person doesn’t have the guts to talk to someone in person.”

In reality, it is something that humans have been doing since the dawn of time that has experienced a paradigm shift. It weirds people out.

I recently saw the new Spike Jonze film “Her,” which explores this idea of digital communication to the hyperbolic limit. In the film, Joaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love with an operating system who talks, laughs and feels just like a real human without the physical body.

The movie takes place in a very recognizable Los Angeles, exemplifying its similarity to our world today. Perhaps falling in love with a computer is a bit exaggerated, but the movie shows that people need to adapt to these new standards of intimacy. Dating websites offer calculated matches, uninhibited by the blinding nature of lust or inebriated desire. We are gorillas no longer.

 

Reach the columnist at iagilber@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @izzyg25