Chapter 3 deals extensively with online dating, but it begins with a general exploration of dating via advertisements in general. Ansari reviews the flop that was video dating in the 1980’s and discusses in detail the ways personal ads in the newspapers were used before that. In other words, he sets a stage to introduce how we got to where we are today, with almost everyone walking around with a virtual singles bar in his pocket or her purse.
Analyzing everything from the disparity in responses between men and women, the types of profiles that are successful versus those that are not, and the algorithms that are supposedly going to end with you meeting your soul mate, Ansari and his team dissect online dating from every angle to surmise why, in this age where the choices are almost innumerable, people are finding it harder than ever to meet someone with whom they genuinely connect.
He spends an unnecessary amount of time discussing Tinder, in my opinion, and not enough fleshing out the issues that come with people confusing real dating with online dating. He touches briefly on the issue of people never getting beyond the virtual to the interpersonal stage but it’s something he could have delved into a bit more deeply.
Chapter 4 was infinitely more interesting to me for a couple of reasons. The first is that the information in the preceding chapter is relatively well known already. The second is that chapter 4 delves into the psychological processes that make many people indecisive due to the overwhelming number of choices we have of everything from what toothpaste to buy to where to have dinner. More importantly, it gets into how this fear of making a choice for fear that something better may have been “just around the corner” short circuits people’s ability to choose a suitable mate, be satisfied with the choice, and do the necessary work to create the relationship they want rather than insisting that everything is ideal from the moment their eyes meet across a crowded room. He begins by recounting his parents’ experience:
My parents had an arranged marriage. This always fascinated me. I am perpetually indecisive on even the most mundane decisions, and I couldn’t imagine leaving such an important choice to other people. I asked my dad to describe his experience to me.
This was his process. 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. After he quickly deduced that she was the appropriate height (finally!), they talked for about thirty minutes. They decided it would work. A week later, they were married.
And they still are, thirty-five years later. Happily so—and probably more so than older white people I know who had nonarranged marriages.
So that’s how my dad decided on whom he was going to spend the rest of his life with. Meeting a few people, analyzing their height, and deciding on one after talking to her for thirty minutes. (p.123-124)
From there he gets into an exhaustive but insightful discussion on the difficulties that come with today’s paradox of choice.
And of course, as has been discussed prior, when you move away from the desire for a suitable life companion to the search for the perfect soul mate, and couple that with the seemingly endless number of choices available, the tendency towards being overly picky is hard to resist.
Ansari mentioned people who saw someone they really liked but dismissed because they liked a certain sports team or had a different taste in movies or books. The list of things people turned away potentially good mates for were as likely to be absurd as they were to be genuinely deal breakers. Perhaps more so.
In the increasingly rare event that someone actually managed to go on an inperson date, there was then the choice of how to decide what would make an acceptable first date, and Ansari does a funny and witty turn at distinguishing between a boring-a** date and a not boring-a** date. And how many people find that even if the first date wasn’t a slma dunk, they find that going out a second or third time can often increase fondness and knowledge of things in common not easily discerned in the high stakes pressure of a first meeting.
I took a minute to think back, and am pretty certain our first date would have easily fallen into the category of a boring, conventional date. Except it couldn’t have been too boring, because after the first date on Friday, we went out again the next night. But I digress.
The best part of these two chapters by far, was the research offered on the paralyzing nature of our choosy habits made even more finicky by having the Internet at our fingertips. I’ll end this one with a funny example from chapter 4, comparing his decision making process to that of his father when choosing his mother:
Let’s look at how I do things, maybe with a slightly less important decision. How about the time I had to pick where to eat dinner in Seattle when I was on tour in the spring of 2014?
First I texted four friends who travel and eat out a lot and whose judgment on food I really trust. While I waited for recommendations from them, I checked the website Eater for its “Heat Map,” which includes new, tasty restaurants in the city. I also checked the “Eater 38,” which is the site’s list of the thirty-eight essential Seattle restaurants and standbys.
Then I checked reviews on Yelp to see what the consensus was on there. I also checked an online guide to Seattle in GQ magazine. I narrowed down my search after consulting all these recommendations and then went on the restaurant websites to check out the menus. At this point I filtered all these options down by tastiness, distance, and what my tum-tum told me it wanted to eat. Finally, after much deliberation, I made my selection: Il Corvo.
A delicious Italian place that sounded amazing. Fresh-made pasta. They only did three different types a day. I was very excited. Unfortunately, it was closed. It only served lunch. By now 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.
This kind of rigor goes into a lot of my decision making. Whether it’s where I’m eating, where I’m traveling, or, god forbid, something I’m buying, I feel compelled to do a lot of research to make sure I’m getting the best.
These are the people trying to pick their mates for life in 2017.