By aziz ansari
My parents had an arranged marriage. This always fascinated me. I am perpetually indecisive about even the most mundane things, and I couldn’t imagine navigating such a huge life decision so quickly.
I asked my dad about this experience, and here’s how he described it: he told his parents he was ready to get married, so his family arranged meetings with three neighboring families. The first girl, he said, was “a little too tall,” and the second girl was “a little too short.” Then he met my mom. He quickly deduced that she was the appropriate height (finally!), and they talked for about 30 minutes. They decided it would work. A week later, they were married.
And they still are, 35 years later. Happily so—and probably more so than most people I know who had nonarranged marriages. That’s how my dad decided on the person with whom he was going to spend the rest of his life.
Let’s look at how I do things, maybe with a slightly less important decision, like the time I had to pick where to eat dinner in Seattle when I was on tour last year. First I texted four friends who travel and eat out a lot and whose judgment I trust. I checked the website Eater for its Heat Map, which includes new, tasty restaurants in the city. Then I checked Yelp. And GQ’s online guide to Seattle. Finally I made my selection: Il Corvo, an Italian place that sounded amazing. Unfortunately, it was closed. (It only served lunch.) At that point I had run out of time because I had a show to do, so I ended up making a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich on the bus. The stunning fact remained: it was quicker for my dad to find a wife than it is for me to decide where to eat dinner.
This kind of rigor goes into a lot of my decisionmaking. Whether it’s where I’m eating, where I’m traveling or, God forbid, something I’m buying, like a lot of people in my generation—those in their 20s and 30s—I feel compelled to do a ton of research to make sure I’m getting every option and then making the best choice. If this mentality pervades our decisionmaking in so many realms, is it also affecting how we choose a romantic partner?
Today’s generations are looking (exhaustively) for soul mates, whether we decide to hit the altar or not, and we have more opportunities than ever to find them. The biggest changes have been brought by the .4 billion online-dating industry, which has exploded in the past few years with the arrival of dozens of mobile apps. Throw in the fact that people now get married later in life than ever before, turning their early 20s into a relentless hunt for more romantic options than previous generations could have ever imagined, and you have a recipe for romance gone haywire.
In the course of our research, I also discovered something surprising: the winding road from the classified section of yore to Tinder has taken an unexpected turn. Our phones and texts and apps might just be bringing us full circle, back to an old-fashioned version of courting that is closer to what my own parents experienced than you might guess.
Where Bozos Are Studs
Today, if you own a smartphone, you’re carrying a 24-7 singles bar in your pocket. As of this writing, 38% of Americans who describe themselves as “single and looking” have used an online-dating site. It’s not just my generation—boomers are as likely as college kids to give online dating a whirl. Almost a quarter of online daters find a spouse or long-term partner that way.
It’s easy to see why online dating has taken off. It provides you with a seemingly endless supply of people who are single and looking to date. Let’s say you’re a woman who wants a 28-year-old man who’s 5 ft. 10 in., has brown hair, lives in Brooklyn, is a member of the Baha’i faith and loves the music of Naughty by Nature. Before online dating, this would have been a fruitless quest, but now, at any time of the day, no matter where you are, you are just a few screens away from sending a message to your very specific dream man.
At our focus group on online dating in Manhattan, Derek got on OkCupid and let us watch as he went through his options. These were women whom OkCupid had selected as potential matches for him based on his profile and the site’s algorithm. The first woman he clicked on was very beautiful, with a witty profile page, a good job and lots of shared interests, including a love of sports. After looking the page over for a minute or so, Derek said, “Well, she looks O.K. I’m just gonna keep looking for a while.”
I asked what was wrong, and he replied, “She likes the Red Sox.” I was completely shocked. I couldn’t believe how quickly he had moved on. Imagine the Derek of 20 years ago, finding out that this beautiful, charming woman was a real possibility for a date. If she were at a bar and smiled at him, Derek of 1993 would have melted. He wouldn’t have walked up and said, “Oh, wait, you like the Red Sox?! No thank you!” before putting his hand in her face and turning away. But Derek of 2013 simply clicked an X on a web-browser tab and deleted her without thinking twice. Watching him comb through those profiles, it became clear that online, every bozo could now be a stud.
But dealing with this new digital romantic world can be a lot of work. Answering messages, filtering profiles—it’s not always fun. Priya, 27, said she’d recently deleted her Tinder and other online-dating accounts. “It just takes too long to get to just the first date. I feel like it’s way more effective utilizing your social groups,” she said. “I would rather put myself in those social situations than get exhausted.” For Priya, as for so many of the online daters we met in different cities, the process had morphed from something fun and exciting into a source of stress and dread.
Even the technological advances of the past few years are pretty absurd. You can stand in line at the grocery store and swipe through 60 people’s faces on Tinder while you wait to buy hamburger buns. (Note: The best hamburger buns are Martin’s Potato Rolls. Trust me!) That’s 20 times as many people as my dad met on his marriage journey. In the history of our species, no group has ever had as many romantic options as we have now.
Soul Mate vs. Laundry Detergent
It’s easy to find and get the best, so why not do it? If you are in a big city or on an online-dating site, you are now comparing your potential partners not just to other potential partners but rather to an idealized person to whom no one could measure up.
But people don’t always know what they’re looking for in a soul mate, unlike when they’re picking something easier, like laundry detergent.
While we may think we know what we want, we’re often wrong. As recounted in Dan Slater’s history of online dating, Love in the Time of Algorithms, the first online-dating services tried to find matches for clients based almost exclusively on what clients said they wanted. But pretty soon they realized that the kind of partner people said they were looking for didn’t match up with the kind of partner they were actually interested in.
Amarnath Thombre, Match.com’s president, discovered this by analyzing the discrepancy between the characteristics people said they wanted in a romantic partner (age, religion, hair color and the like) and the characteristics of the people whom they contacted on the site. When you watched their actual browsing habits—who they looked at and contacted—they went way outside of what they said they wanted.
When I was writing stand-up about online dating, I filled out the forms for dummy accounts on several dating sites just to get a sense of the questions and what the process was like. The person I described was a little younger than me, small, with dark hair. My girlfriend now, whom I met through friends, is two years older, about my height—O.K., slightly taller—and blond. She wouldn’t have made it through the filters I set up.
A big part of online dating is spent on this process, though—setting your filters, sorting through profiles and going through a mandatory checklist of what you think you are looking for. People take these parameters very seriously. They declare that their mate “must love dogs” or that their mate “must love the film Must Love Dogs,” about a preschool teacher (Diane Lane) who tries online dating and specifies that her match “must love dogs.” (I looked it up on Wikipedia.)
Maybe it sounds shallow. But consider this: In the case of my girlfriend, I initially saw her face somewhere and approached her. I didn’t have an in-depth profile to peruse or a fancy algorithm. I just had her face, and we started talking and it worked out. Is that experience so different from swiping on Tinder?
“I think Tinder is a great thing,” says Helen Fisher, an anthropologist who studies dating. “All Tinder is doing is giving you someone to look at that’s in the neighborhood. Then you let the human brain with his brilliant little algorithm tick, tick, tick off what you’re looking for.”
In this sense, Tinder actually isn’t so different from what our grandparents did. Nor is it all that different from what one friend of mine did, using online dating to find someone Jewish who lived nearby. In a world of infinite possibilities, we’ve cut down our options to people we’re attracted to in our neighborhood.
Passion and Patience
In the U.S., marriage rates are at historic lows—the rate of marriages per 1,000 single women dropped almost 60% from 1970 to 2012. Americans are also joining the international trend of marrying later; for the first time in history, the typical American now spends more years single than married. So what are we doing instead?
Look at my parents: they had an arranged marriage, and they are totally happy. I looked into it, and this is not uncommon. People in arranged marriages start off lukewarm, but over time they really invest in each other and in general have successful relationships. This may be because they bypassed the most dangerous part of a relationship.
In the first stage of a relationship, you have passionate love. This is where you and your partner are just going crazy for each other. Every smile makes your heart flutter. Every night is more magical than the last. During this phase, your brain floods your neural synapses with dopamine, the same neurotransmitter that gets released when you do cocaine.
Sometimes these couples are able to transition from the passionate stage to the companionate one. Other times, though, they transition into a crazy, toxic relationship and/or get divorced.
The second danger point is when passionate love starts wearing off. This is when you start coming down off that initial high and start worrying about whether this is really the right person for you.
Your texts used to be so loving: It’s hard to focus on anything at work, ’cause all that’s in my head is you. Now your texts are like: Let’s just meet at Whole Foods. Or: Hey, that dog you made us buy took a dump in my shoe.
But Haidt argues that when you hit this stage, you should be patient. With luck, if you allow yourself to invest more in the other person, you will find a beautiful life companion.
I had a rather weird firsthand experience with this. When I first started dating my girlfriend, a few months in, I went to a friend’s wedding in Big Sur, Calif. I was alone, because my friend did me a huge solid and declined to give me a plus one. Which, of course, is the best. You get to sit by yourself and be a third wheel.
The vows in this wedding were powerful. They were saying the most remarkable, loving things about each other. Things like “You are a prism that takes the light of life and turns it into a rainbow” and “You are a lotion that moisturizes my heart. Without you, my soul has eczema.” It was the noncheesy, heartfelt version of stuff like that.
After the wedding, I found out about four different couples that had broken up, supposedly because they didn’t feel like they had the love that was expressed in those vows. Did they call it off too early, at their danger point? I don’t know, but I, too, felt scared hearing that stuff. Did I have what those people had? At that point, no. But for some reason, I felt deep down that I should keep investing in my relationship—as my father did, after those fateful 30 minutes of literally sizing up my mother—and that eventually that level of love would show itself. And so far, it has. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to figure out where to get lunch.
Watch video about online datingBB Ki Vines- | Online Dating |
Tinder is a bit less of a comprehensive matching site the way you might think of one. It's a little more...to the point, as it were. It's a mobile app only (iOS and Android). You're presented with images for each of your potential matches, and with a swipe or a tap, you can either dismiss them entirely or add them to your "like" list, full of people you may want to contact for a date. You have to log in via Facebook—Tinder uses Facebook to do its heavy lifting, and uses your likes, shares, and other profile information to help match you up with other users. Once you do though, you're off to the races liking and dismissing people. If someone you liked likes you, then you can communicate. If not, keep trying. It's probably the simplest approach to online match-making ever, kind of a blend between an online matchmaking site and speed dating.
Plenty of Fish (or POF) tries to combine the ease-of-use of a simpler matching service with some of the brains of a more robust, comprehensive dating site. It matches based on mutual likes, but the more information you add to your profile, the more intelligently it'll try to match you. It has a speed matching feature, called MeetMe, which will present you with singles in your area that match your interests quickly, so you can cut through the fluff and contact someone about a date. Alternatively, you can browse matches by interest or by people who live nearby. At the same time though, it retains some of the simplicity of other services—if two people like each other's profiles, you'll get a notification to connect right away. How much effort you put into finding a good match—whether you go by mutual likes and location only or you fill out your profile with tons of information—is entirely up to you. Oh, POF is also free, and offers mobile apps, just like the other services.
Now that you've seen the top five, it's time to put in your vote for the community favorite:
More information about online dating
As the internet plays an ever greater part in our social lives, with sites such as Facebook helping us to keep in touch with our friends, it's inevitable that we also use it to help us run our love lives as well. Here is the pick of the best dating sites - not forgetting our very own website telegraph.co.uk/dating, of course, with over 140,000 members, it's easy to use, safe and FREE to join.
Online dating is now one of the most popular ways to meet a new partner and there are more than 1,400 sites in the UK alone, catering for people from all walks of life and interests.
So whether you’re mad about dogs, passionate about green issues or a connoisseur of fine wines you’re sure to find someone who shares your interests.
The 20 best dating sites in the UK
My Single Friend
The place for those well-meaning types who can't believe their best friend is single. They push your qualities so you don't have to.
Webcam chats, an online magazine and plenty of Good Housekeeping-style tips and advice.
The net's biggest Jewish dating service, with often hilariously self-deprecating personal descriptions.
Probably with the broadest reach of the hundreds of lesbian and gay sites on the net, plus news, features, travel tips, fashion and gossip.
Launched in September 2000, Christian Connection is the largest, and longest established subscriber based UK Christian dating site.
If you’re partial to the country life – then this rural Online Dating Site for Single Farmers, Rural Singles, Equestrian Singles and Country Friends could be the place for you.
The romantic social network that found its feet through Facebook, it helps people create and share their romantic journeys, with a multitude of members from around the globe enjoying the service each month.
With over 140,000 members - it's THE place for people aged 40+ to meet. It’s easy to use with a sophisticated system that matches you and your partner on a multitude of likes and interests and best of all - it’s free to join
Fancy a date in your lunch hour? If you’re in London you can search for members by tube station.
Dating with a scientific approach - finding "the perfect match" through online psychometric testing.
Claiming to be the world's largest online matrimonial site - it was founded with one simple objective - to provide a superior matchmaking experience to Indians all over the world.
Because dating's not just for the youngsters....The over 50s are one of the fastest groups of online daters these days...
If you are looking for a kindred soul that just so happens to also be a veggie lover, this site is worth a nibble.
Newly merged with Meetic, the giant of the dating scene, giving access to nearly 20 million users across Europe and with plenty of high-tech ways to find them.
Simple, straightforward and free UK personals site - hugely popular.
Matching singles who love the arts.
Dating For Parents
Where you don't have to worry about mentioning the little nippers.
Personals for those in the environmental, vegetarian and animal-rights communities and people who value the outdoor life.
Still not sure online dating's for you? Read our reasons to consider it