You’ve seen the doomsday headlines all over your newsfeed.
“Your Choices Are Why You’re Still Single,” or “Love Is Dead and Technology Is to Blame.”
But those headlines are wrong. It’s precisely BECAUSE of our options that romance isn’t only not-dead -- our odds of finding real love are better than any generation’s in history. And we have technology to thank.
I’m tired of reading that “technology lets us order people on demand like a lukewarm order of Pad Thai.” These commentaries are based mostly on anecdotal evidence from that most reliable of sources when it comes to truth in sexual conquest: the 20-something urban male.
But if you want to think anecdotally, think about this: how many times this year did you complain about how much money you were spending going to weddings?
Then think about those people you know in serious relationships, and how many of them met via technology. Give them enough drinks and they might admit that said technology was Tinder.
Sure, people use dating apps to find random, meaningless sex -- the same way people have used (and still use!) bars, pottery classes and all of college. But people are also using technology to find real relationships, and the increased exposure to new people has made those relationships better. Technology hasn’t made us sluttier, it’s made us smarter.
Before the whole world was connected by invisible magic, we dated by proximity. That is, your dating pool was limited to people you met near your house, people you worked with -- or maybe the receptionist at your dentist’s office. And with limited access to new people, those who wanted families were much more willing to settle down with someone who might not have been the perfect fit. Because meeting people was HARD.
But making a lifelong commitment to somebody you’re not crazy about isn’t a great idea. Which is what a lot of baby boomers discovered in the 1980s, when divorce rates topped 50%.
Then along came technology. Now we're not limited to friends of friends, or people we meet in bars. Today we can potentially “meet” 100 people while swiping in line at airport security. We can have virtual “dates” with multiple people via message while sitting in our pajamas watching Homeland. We can meet and experience more people than ever, learning what we want and don’t want faster, and figuring out what’s right for us without having to invest as much.
Think of it like applying for a job: if you’ve only got a few applicants, you may not get someone perfect. But if 1,000 people apply you cast a much wider net -- and have a much better chance of finding the perfect fit.
This free market of romance also means the quality of relationship you can expect is better. More choice means more competition. And much like in business, more competitors mean firms (or people) need to offer more to succeed. That doesn’t mean you should expect the world out of everyone you date, but it is much harder to treat someone poorly when you know he or she can have another date set up within a matter of hours.
Does that lead to some unrealistic expectations? Probably. But it also makes it a lot easier to get out of a bad relationship, because the fear of “not finding anyone better” is gone. And shouldn’t striving for greatness be preferable to settling for mediocrity?
Of course it should, but IT TAKES A WHILE TO FIND THAT PERSON. And most of those lamenting the death of romance were probably the same people swearing none of us would find jobs seven years ago. So be patient. A lot of those stories I read are by people about 30 years old: that age when you still have a lot more applicants to screen. But lucky you, you’ve got greater access to that talent pool than anyone else in history. So if you can leverage technology, there’s reason to be optimistic.
Divorce rates are now at the lowest they’ve been since the early '70s. Dozens of factors go into that -- including learning from the mistakes of our parents -- but our ability to meet people and our greater access to potential spouses makes finding true love more possible.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. And that doesn’t mean notoriously impatient millennials should expect to immediately find the loves of their lives in the app store. But it does mean that your odds of finding that person are a lot better than they used to be. And while the long road to love might have a lot more roadside attractions than it used to, it also might take you to a much better place.