This is an edition of Up for Debate, a newsletter from Conor Friedersdorf. On Wednesdays, it summarizes timely and intriguing conversations and solicits readers’ responses to a question of the moment. Every Friday, he posts some of your most thoughtful answers. Sign up for the newsletter here.
Earlier this week I asked, “What’s the best or worst thing about love, marriage, sex or romance as it’s conceived in 2022?” Online dating figured prominently in several responses. Let’s start there.
M. swipes left on a specific company:
One of the worst features of romance in 2022 is the outsized role played by the Match Group. In an era where online dating is taking over, this company controls most major apps/websites including Match, Tinder, OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, and Hinge. For the past decade, we’ve essentially outsourced American love life to a single, for-profit company. But strangely, it seems that no one is talking about it as a cause for concern.
Sites like Facebook, Twitter and TikTok are frequently criticized for their potential to cause harm, but Match Group has been given a pass, even though the profit potential for creating perverse incentives in the dating app market is substantial.
MA worries that there aren’t enough people swiping right on people who don’t look like them:
Dating apps try to “match” people based on what they have in common – likes, dislikes, food, movies, etc. – rather than on what distinguishes them. My fiancé and I are radically different, politically, temperamentally and spiritually. He looks down on Trump and Republicans while I am ambivalent towards the former President and only vote for Republicans. It’s clean and organized while I’m messy and disheveled. He is a man of science and rationality while I am more spiritual (although we both believe in God). Like complementary colors (or Jerry Maguire), we complement each other by balancing our natures.
Opposites don’t necessarily attract, but they do last. I’m a millennial and, for better or worse, I’ve never had to deal with the kind of encounters you see in TV shows and movies; I’m introverted so I don’t know that I could do this. In my experience with dating apps, there is incredible leeway in how you can exclude potential partners based on your personal preferences. By excluding millions of options based on who they voted for or what type of pizza topping they prefer, you may never find the yin out of your yang. I’m glad I found mine.
L. prefers to meet potential partners in person and worries that the world has left him behind:
I met a girl on a plane a few months ago, and after some light texting, we finally met. She was with her colleagues, who treated our meeting on a plane as some kind of alien concept. Jokes about “I hope you’re not a serial killer” have gone around the table. It was only 15 years ago that we (wrongly) treated online swiping as the thing only “socially awkward” people tend to do and worried about how well you actually knew the person. Now people have completely switched sides and are acting like, “So you just talked to a guy for a few hours on a plane and now you guys are hanging out? Bold move!”
I speak now as a bachelor in a big city. I don’t have social media because of the negative effects they have on your mind and attention, and I’ve also given up on dating apps because of their desire to make finding love feel more like a game than a real attempt. That leaves only two options: meet friends of friends or a stranger at a party. But with everyone so deeply invested in their phone, it becomes incredibly difficult.
I’ve been on over a thousand dates in my life and used the apps a lot for years so it’s not like the option hasn’t been explored but the photos of poses, quirky one-liners, and exhaustive attempts at a clever intro just make the other person feel like an avatar – and that’s basically what they are, because they’re made of advertising, and no one is going to post their luggage, unless of course it’s “faithful to a fault”.
The apps are designed to streamline love, or sex, into a small handful of questions, and to let you sift through as many potential partners as possible with the idea that the more darts you throw, the more chances you have of hit a bull. eye. But you end up with so many darts you wonder, Why bother to aim? All my main relationships were with people I met in the real world. I can count on the one hand on the people I met on applications that I wanted to see again. I have friends who have had great relationships online, but that’s not me and my breed is pretty much dead. not to mention that every year you get older where you’re still single, because a guy is another year, people seem to have doubts about your “commitment” or “stability.” So I’ve resigned myself to the idea that I may never be in another relationship, only because the way that feels most natural to me and helps me gauge true chemistry is the way no one wants to. do it anymore.
Nancy continues today’s theme “opposites attract”:
I am fortunate to have recently married the man I have loved for over 15 years. We got married just before Independence Day 2021. We have very different views on politics and science. We’ve always been very different, but that didn’t affect our love. He is the anti-science/pro-faith part of this partnership. I am the “just the facts” partner.
Right after Thanksgiving, he contracted COVID and pneumonia. He refused to seek treatment until it was almost too late. He was convinced that God would see it for him.
Objectively, I screamed inside, silently furious at his denials of science. Subjectively, I just wanted him to live. And he received treatment and went through COVID hell in person.
He’s better, and the gap between my belief in science and his reliance on faith alone has narrowed for us. What’s wrong is that it took that experience for him to believe more than a little in science, and what’s true is that it took that experience for me to understand its fundamental dependence on faith. We are very lucky and we know it could have been a very different result. But medicine and faith worked together to save us.
Matthew posits that unity is underestimated these days because of the sacrifices it requires:
The worst thing about the relationship culture of 2022 is the negative message towards love, marriage, sex, and romance. Many of today’s cultural hits romanticize the act of severing relationships. Self-celebration and a culture centered on self-actualization and reward have led to a growing resentment of love because love requires taking second place. People want to live their life on their terms and I think that’s great, as long as it’s desirable for everyone in a relationship. The critical point is not traditional relationships versus non-traditional relationships, but rather selfish relationships versus unselfish relationships.
Last but not least, T. writes:
I am heavily influenced by a wide range of inputs, but my lineage points to the black liberating tendencies of my Alabama family. What strikes me is how badly my society manages to recognize or engage love in complexity. I knew I was non-binary despite having no language for it. I had seen the ‘men’ and ‘women’ in my life cultivating the same farms in the same suits without any embellishment. And I had seen the most beautiful opposite.
I had seen in the meantime.
Thank you for your contributions. I read each one you send. See you next week.