Three Internet Takeaways from Online Dating

As a now married man who has been in a relationship for all of my mature, adult-life, I don’t know very much about dating in real-life New York City. Even though I went to college in New York City, because i was so broke those 4 years, all of my dates at Columbia were either in the campus dining hall or in dorm rooms “watching movies.”

Thus, my experience dating in New York City while having a job, bills to pay and living at the edges of the outer boroughs is nothing more than a vicarious one–a decade of stories told to me by men, women and transgender individuals.

But of course, I can’t forget the internet. The internet has told me so much about online dating. Obviously, there are the depressing stats regularly put out by OKCupid, like these in 2009, and the follow-up to those from just last year. There is the infamous Wayne Dating website and YouTube channel, that proves men truly are douchebags. And I can’t not mention the woman that Jezebel called a jerk, while the New York Observer went with “food hooker”, to describe a young lady who used online dating to amass up to $1,200 in dinners paid for by the men she met on Match.com.

So from all the internet has taught me, I give you my three biggest internet takeaways for dating people online and in New York City!

#1. It’s hard out there for a minority. – Not to dig back into the well, but the OkCupid studies have truly shown us that we all lack any humanity whatsoever. It’s pretty outstanding, but the cold hard facts from OkCupid come down this this: black women get completely undervalued online, Asian men aren’t doing much better, and black men get little preference on dating sites as well. Now some have looked into what those numbers mean, and some have certainly come to the conclusion that it’s not necessarily a racist agenda that’s driving dating preferences to discount blacks and Asian men, because after all, you can’t really control who you’re sexually attracted to. However, there have been many more studies and articles that have come to the conclusion that our dating preferences actually are a reflection of our racial biases in society. One shouldn’t be surprised though–especially me, a black man, who has seen both sides of the coin, with black men feeling vilified by white women who grab their purses when black men walk by them, while at the same time, the white woman is yielding a seemingly forbidden-fruit hold over the black man that is almost-certainly rooted in slavery’s heyday. Yet despite all of the facts out there on how race affects one’s ability to partake in online dating, dating apps and sites continue to grow in popularity, completely ignoring the fact that entire portions of society don’t get to partake in online dating the same way the majority does.

#2. The “Internet Data” era & the “Internet Dating” era got conflated. – Amy Webb’s presentation on TED Talks changed how so many people approached dating. It was soon after her presentation that you couldn’t go 2 seconds without some article, some Buzzfeed post, some podcast or some TV show telling you about the tips, tricks and hacks to finding love online. And it was amazing, because despite the rise of Tinder and how it ultimately changed the game for online dating, it was seemingly one of the few skyrocketing tech businesses that wasn’t proposing the use of data to enhance our lives. Tinder was simply saying, “see squirrel, get squirrel,” despite the fact that all around it, other dating sites, and every new tech start-up, was preaching about how they were going to use data to make the world better. But when Amy walked through the door with that presentation, dating and data quickly got conflated. Now everyone I knew in New York City, and beyond, that was in the dating scene was optimizing their photos, including friends in their pictures, talking about activities instead of things in their profiles, and waiting 20 to 23 hours to respond to emails. It was dumbfounding to see how quickly the transformation came, but it was a sign that online dating was here to stay and would continually be perfected over the years to come.

#3. New York City is the new normal. – As this fairly recent post from Thrillist outlined, dating in New York City is special. And I’m sure every city says that about itself, but here it’s actually true. And that truth is that dating in New York City is unlike any other city. You have some 20-odd million people that live in or within a few dozen miles from this place, and they all come with their own personas, drama and baggage. They also come with their own ideas of what it is to be on time, no intention of picking you up at your door, lesser or greater needs for a roommate to cover half the rent, and an unyielding need to mask their insecurities by “making it” in this city–love and relationships be damned.

And yet, despite all that, this place keeps the spectacle of dating alive. The addition of Tinder, Hinge and other dating apps, over the past 5 years have made it that much crazier to date in this city, and with the ever-seeming intention of even more dating companies and apps like Dating Ring, who knows where we’ll be with dating in the city 5 years from now? Wherever it is, I hope season 6 of “First Dates” sums it up very nicely!

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