Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Internet is Not Destroying Anything

I'm writing in response to this article at titled "Is Internet Dating Destroying Love?"

Walters seems to believe that internet dating inherently leads to the commodification of love. Profiles are like ads, availability of choice is like a customization menu, and personality/compatibility tests are "mind-dumbingly" rational. He says "love has become an object which people wish to be fully informed about, choose rationally, and not suffer any unexpected disappointments from."

The thesis is fundamentally wrong. If all people have commodified love (and that's a big IF), it's not the internet's fault; it's people's fault. People have been viewing love and marriage in business terms for centuries. There this an ancient practice of winning a good (i.e. rich) husband with your parents money (i.e. a dowry), and there were divorces over finances long before the invention of the internet. Walter does quote a critic who claims "online dating is taking society back to a pre-modern version of arranged marriages," but the historical existence of arranged marriages is proof-positive that the internet has little to do with humans' business mentality. Walter is clearly creating a false causality.

The reason this article offends me is that I met the person I love most on the internet. I did not choose to meet him in person because he had brown hair, brown eyes, taught for a living, and played guitar on the side. I choose to meet him, because when we talked, I found him funny, intelligent, and engaging. There is a horrible stigma surrounding online dating that Walters is merely perpetuating. Some think online dating is only for perverts or gold-diggers. But others, like me, believe online dating is about connection, and the individual attitudes we bring into play are not a result of the connecting medium.

But that's not what bothers me the most. The biggest issue I have with his article is the pejorative tone about informed and rational choice. I don't know about Walter, but when I meet an interesting guy/girl in person or online, I find out more about them and then make an "informed and rational choice" about whether or not to meet again. The romantic idea that rational thought has no place in love is how people end up with stale marriages, unwanted pregnancies, and even abusive relationships. When I meet anyone, no matter where, I'd like to keep my brain on, thank you very much.

As a side note, the article asserts that Facebook and other social networking sites are about "contact-less friendships . . . reduced to pokes, LOLs, and vacuous innuendos." That couldn't be farther from the truth. Yes, there are pokes, there are laughs, there are even innuendos (and since when does word-play, sexual or otherwise, occur without thought). But, those of us who grew up with facebook use it as a sophisticated form of email - a way to contact friends, plan group events, advertise for businesses, discuss life, love, & philosophy, and share articles (like this awful one about internet dating).

Perhaps, if Walters took a few moments to stop being romantic and think rationally, he could have written a better, more informed critique of internet dating.

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