For the past 10 years, the Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld has been compiling data on how couples meet.In almost any other period, this project would have been an excruciating bore.According to data collected through 2017, the majority of straight couples now meet online or at bars and restaurants.As the co-authors write in their conclusion, “Internet dating has displaced friends and family [as] key intermediaries.” We used to rely on intimates to screen our future partners.Bryan Scott Anderson, for example, suggested that the rise of online dating “may be an illustration of heightened isolation and a diminished sense of belonging within communities.”It is true, as Rosenfeld’s data show, that online dating has freed young adults from the limitations and biases of their hometowns.
(They aren’t.) But the deeper issue isn’t the number of options in the digital dating pool, or any specific life category, but rather the sheer tonnage of , more generally.She said she regarded this self-imposed ambition as “absolutely unreasonable.”If the journey toward coupling is more formidable than it used to be, it’s also more lonesome.With the declining influence of friends and family and most other social institutions, more single people today are on their own, having set up shop at a digital bazaar where one’s appearance, interestingness, quick humor, lighthearted banter, sex appeal, photo selection—one’s is submitted for 24/7 evaluation before an audience of distracted or cruel strangers, whose distraction and cruelty might be related to the fact that they are also undergoing the same anxious appraisal.That’s because for centuries, most couples met the same way: They relied on their families and friends to set them up.
In sociology-speak, our relationships were “mediated.” In human-speak, your wingman was your dad.
When online dating moves to the stage, anything can happen!