Several years ago, I had a male acquaintance who, depressed after his divorce, joined a dating service on the internet. He enrolled in more than one, in fact, as they were free. Once he’d signed up, images of blonde babes lit up his cell phone, so many, that when we met for coffee, most of the time I sat staring at the top of his head as he ogled his Apple. The women, most of them half his age, were from all over the world, notably Russia and Romania. For a time, he was happy, like a bee flitting from poppy to poppy.
Being a friend, I stayed out of his imaginary love life, though once I discouraged him from buying an airline ticket for a girl living Moscow. And another time, I frowned when his latest love interest, someone he’d never met, wanted him to go into business with her selling diamonds. He seldom listened to my advice. He went where his heart beckoned and on each occasion, he returned home burned. I hope his story had a happy ending. I don’t know because his quest was so fruitless, I had to stop watching.
Fast forward in time. Today’s dating game has less of a wild frontier feeling about it. Gone are the “smorgasbords” of the past. Dating services now tend to specialize and to do that, they ask lots of preference questions. “How do you feel about tattoos? Nose rings? Looking for a Trekkie or more specifically a Klingon?
The pool of love seekers hasn’t grown much, according to writer, Elise Craig, but the search has become so specialized, applicants are “subdivided into stupidly specific zones.” (“Not Ok, Cupid,” by Elise Craig, Wired, June 2017, pg.24.) In fact, some of the dating services are spectacularly snooty. A candidate can be screened for salary level, education level, career level, career honors and more. Think that’s too intrusive? Be amazed. According to Craig, the current waiting list for one of the most popular sites, the League, has 75,000 potential members in their cue. (Ibid pg. 24.)
The most selective site is Raya. No questionnaire to fill out there. Raya picks you. Essentially, you have to be a celebrity or have a large social media following to be invited. I won’t be checking for their emails anytime soon.
Of course, what strikes me about Craig’s article is that it’s a perfect example of how the internet can expose an individual to the world, yet narrow the experience. What we see in the love business is a series of choices designed to be so specific that a person may find him or herself in a mirrored room where everyone looks exactly like everyone else. In love, that sounds boring. For society, it sounds scary.