During my life time I have seen the transition from randomly hoping to bump into a potential partner whilst at work, pursuing interests or during a social event or through friends, to computer dating which initially just appeared to be full of ‘geeky’ or desperate men. Today computer dating has become very mainstream and now almost everyone looking for a partner goes online.
This blog was prompted by the question on a BBC Radio 4 programme called ‘Future Proofing’ broadcast on 28th December 2016, which opened with the question in a digital age….
‘Is it getting easier or harder to form relationships’.
Starting in Singapore where the birth rate is one of the lowest in the world, the presenters Timandra Harkness and Leo Johnson ask if this is a glimpse into the future and whether intimacy is ‘toast’.
Talking to Violet Lim CEO and Founder of ‘Lunch Actually’, which is focused on helping professionals to find love by arranging short casual dates over lunch, they make the observation that Singapore is a friendly place where it is easy to talk to new people. They then suggest that given this environment it would be still quite easy to meet people that you might want to date, get engaged to and marry and ask ‘so what is the problem here?
In reply Violet says ‘People tend to compartmentalise their lives – some would say that “if I am going to focus on my career there would definitely be an outcome – I will get promoted – maybe I’ll get a better salary. Put like this it is very clear that my effort will lead to something, but in relationship it takes two hands to clap, I could be pouring all my time and energy and effort but it might end with nothing”.
Timandra then comments ‘but that’s awful, it’s like seeing another human being and asking “what’s the pay-off going to be, is it risky?”. Whilst Leo interrupts and says ‘it’s so accurate, it’s so true’. Timandra goes on to observe ‘if I weigh it up on an hour by hour basis – it’s horrible to see human beings like that’.
Violet continues ‘It’s quite scary, even after they get into a relationship, they get married and then they think whether to have kids, they see everything in terms of husbands as commodities. Dates are becoming like commodities, before you actually meet, before you second or third date there is a lot of texting – you just say something wrong and you might not end up in a date anymore. For each text that you send you are being assessed. When you meet the person in person there might be things that you might not have liked about the person based on this one dimension but when you meet the person it’s multi-dimensional so there are other things that would have made up for these things that you might not have liked’.
Timandra then makes the point that when you meet someone in person both of you are equally committed – you are both equally at risk of rejection whereas if you just look at someone on a screen and you just swipe one way or the other that you have not put yourself at any risk at all and that in fact you are just like a shopper looking at a catalogue.
This is so true that even if people were in a situation where they could be likely to meet people in ‘real life’ they may ignore the potential this offers and go home and look at who has ‘swiped’ them. I know this because although I do not ‘swipe’ I do understand the feeling of security that sitting in front of a computer can provide over meeting someone in person.
On the more rarer occasions when people do meet face-to-face these days, it is probable that if they continue to ‘speak’ this will be done through texting or social media with all the risks that Violet has mentioned.
Pondering on Violet’s comments Leo reflects ‘what terrified me, this whole return on investment calculation of cost-benefit, because I did it in my head, and it’s negative. With men especially we are a ‘ponzy scheme’ – a completely dodgy investment’ and he suggests that no one in their right mind would invest in them.
Concluding the interview Leo then asks the question ‘so how does anyone survive this? What is Violet’s guide to dating in a digital future?’
Without hesitation Violet replies ‘I would say that the idea is to go ‘off-line’ as quickly as possible’.
Please note that this article is Copyright and cannot be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any way without prior permission of the author.
With thanks to Jo Grant and Eleanor Pitman for permission to use their photographs
This blog is a chapter in my book The Evolution of Love – if you would like to read the book please click on the link below which will lead you through all the blogs.