Or, as Siri wrote when I asked her to take a note because I came up with the blog title while driving, Are You in Modern Danger? Could be the same thing I guess, depending on your opinions of all of this….
When I first heard about Aziz Ansari’s book, Modern Romance, I thought that it would be another funny memoir, which seems to be the latest trend of comedians and actors these days. (Not that I’m saying that’s a bad thing…I have been reading as many of those as I can.) Then a friend mentioned it, talking about how she was using it as a guide to online dating. She told me how it explains a lot about dating today, with real research to back up its claims. And then it was pitched for my book club (singles and those in relationships alike), so I was able to read it and had several opportunities to discuss it with others.
If you’re looking forward to reading a book just like Ansari’s standup comedy routine or Parks and Recreation, maybe put this one down until you can go into it with better expectations. There is a lot of research referenced. But he does cut to humor at some points, there are interesting facts and stories, and I’ve heard that the audiobook in his voice is even better.
Below, I’m just going to touch on a few things in the book that stood out to me. Definitely don’t take this as an exhaustive overview…. I’m merely discussing what grabbed my attention most while reading this book and talking about it with others.
The answer back rule (No, he doesn’t call it that; I’m paraphrasing). To keep someone’s interest, i.e., keep them wanting more, people purposefully wait a few (or 10, or 20) minutes after receiving a message/text before responding. Otherwise, the person on the other end subconsciously believes they can always get you, so they may move on to more of a challenge.
I see the reasoning, and I even understand it, but I just cannot get on board with this. It feels too much like playing games. Ansari insinuates that online dating is like a game/sport/job, and it takes strategy and endurance. But he also says that the waiting for someone to text/call back made him extremely anxious, as I’m sure it does for most people. Throughout the book he gives survey results where people said that they would like things done to them in a certain way, but when asked the reverse, they admit that they don’t follow their own advice. The Golden Rule does not apply to dating, so it seems.
I also wonder if this carries into regular relationships/friendships as well. If you always respond back right away, do your friends think that you are attached to your phone and always available for them? Will they take advantage of that and react harshly the one time you do not respond right away if this has been the norm? Will they invite you to more last-minute things instead of giving you more notice? Will they approach others first and use you as a backup, thinking you are the more available one? I’m not trying to say people are horrible, but some of these are subconscious possibilities. It still doesn’t mean I like to sit by my phone and just stare at it, trying to figure out how soon I can respond.
Two different examples of approaches to meeting new people these days. Ansari interviews two males who are approaching dating in different ways: one through online dating, and the other through just going out to neighborhood events a lot, participating in teams, and trying to meet people in public in different ways. He notes that in this example, guy #2 was more successful. Ansari does mention, however, that guy #1 was being pretty picky and always was looking for the next best thing when scrolling through his choices online, as people often do. Also, the guy was writing to women who were most likely receiving too many messages already and so he was not getting much of a response back.
I appreciate that the book gives both sides of this. I agree that the book’s statistics show online dating has achieved good results. I also agree that, as Ansari says, it depends on where you live whether you can go out to the city and join events to meet people. So although it sounds like one can just pick either of the methods of guy #1 or #2, it really depends on location, your time and energy, personality…even luck. My friend says #1 is the sure way to go, while I believe it was meant to show that #2 can work sometimes as well, if the stars are aligned and you make the effort. The website, Meetup, for example, combines the best of both of these worlds. There’s a little bit of online (finding groups, signing up, RSVP-ing), but then you go out in public to group events and activities.
This texting or calling business. He talks about how texting is the new phoning, and people even do it at inappropriate times (i.e., breaking up). Some women that he interviewed state that they will not stand for just texting, and will go so far as to not date guys who refuse to call them up on the phone in the beginning, or at least when asking them out.
I agree that texting today is a very standard means of communication, moreso than talking on the phone, at least in my generation and the ones after me. I also agree that this is a shame. However, I myself am guilty of it, to the point where talking on the phone to someone new can be more awkward than texting or even meeting in person sometimes. But to those women who have set their standards and will not settle for anything less, I applaud them. They’re worth the sacrifice of a guy being interested enough to learn how to make a phone call and risk it going to voicemail (heaven forbid).
Meeting up. The book says online dating is more like “online introducing”, and that you should meet in person as soon as possible, like in 6 messages or less.
I didn’t think I’d agree with this at first, because the idea of meeting a stranger from the Internet sounds scary (Catfish anyone?), but the way Ansari explains it makes sense. The more you only message and look at someone’s profile, the more chance there is of judging them too much before getting to know them in person. And you miss out on discovering new things about them organically. Plus, you begin to wonder what the hold up is.
Now, the question you were waiting to ask: “According to Ansari, should I try online dating?” Or for those in relationships: “What do I say to my friend who is online dating when I can’t relate. Is he/she crazy for thinking it might work? Is it dangerous?” He doesn’t say you must do it (After all, spoiler alert, that’s not how he met his girlfriend.), and he also doesn’t say not to give it a try. (He gives some good statistics for the number of people that meet online these days. It’s surprising to me how common it has become in a short time, when it used to be that it was seen as a joke or embarrassment in some circles.) He just presents the research, gives pros and cons (as well as tips and advice), compares meeting people today to meeting people a few decades or so ago, and sprinkles in encouragement throughout the pages.
Although that may sound like I gave too much away already, you still really should read it to understand. I think the statistics and stories told are interesting whether you’re single or not. (Most likely you know at least one person out there who is single that you can talk about it with.) I liked the psychological/sociological aspect to it as well, comparing this day and age with that of our parents and grandparents.
I recommend Modern Romance and give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. (The research did kind of make some of it go a little slow for me. I bet if I’d listened to the audiobook or gotten the regular book rather than the Kindle version so I would have seen the funny footnotes sooner it might have gone up to a 4.) I also recommend his somewhat new show, Master of None (Season 1 is on Netflix), which is also about dating (though it’s fictional).