Even my father, one of the industry’s pioneering users, stigmatized online dating. And if it was true that the stigma was going away, why?
Certainly there were a few less-than-stellar encounters and more humbling moments than I care to recollect during my yearlong foray into online dating. Among the materials was an annotated cartoon booklet given to my father on his 22 birthday.
But once I began to climb the learning curve, I found myself meeting the kinds of people I might have asked out had we met IRL. On the first page, my mother had written: “Thank you, you old mathematically-minded-can’t-mind-your-own-business-mass-production-post-card-instigating-work-of-art-in-stainless-steel computer.
But I had no interest in writing a book about myself, or even about my parents. My two-year journey took me to the headquarters of dating sites around the country, into the private lives of more than 100 online daters—male and female, gay and straight, very young and very old—and abroad, to Europe, Russia, and Latin America.
In Colombia, I saw what used to be called the mail-order bride business flourishing, having recently been moved to the Internet and rebranded “premium international online dating.” Now any Western man can meet a woman from pretty much any developing country, from Uruguay to Ukraine to Vietnam and all economically distressed points in between.
The main differences were (a) I was meeting many more people than I was used to, and (b) I no longer had to rely on real life, at least insofar as finding dates was concerned. Thank you.”What computer could she possibly have been thanking, and why?
My market had become what social psychologists call “frictionless.”That alone seemed like a novel innovation. By 2010 a third of America’s 90 million singles had online-dating profiles. Flipping through the rest of the pile I came upon a questionnaire entitled “CONTACT Personality Preference Inventory.” With its bubbles and multiple-choice questions, it looked like an answer sheet for some standardized test, except that the questions pertained to romance rather than math and vocab.In 2009 I lost my job as a legal-affairs reporter at a newspaper.I was also single at 31, and as a new freelancer I needed something to write about.“Lange war ich einsam, heut’ bin ich verliebt, und nur darum ist das so, weil es die Technik und die Wissenschaft und Elektronengehirne gibbet.” Translated into English, France Gall is singing perfectly to the “Eight Days A Week” melody “Ohh I need your love babe, yes you know it’s true, that’s only because the technology and science and electrons are there.” Cut to the audience to see hundreds of upper-class post-war Germans staring blankly, emotionless, and reactionless at the very first song ever written about computer dating.While personal computers and the internet were still years away, computer dating was an actual trend in the late ‘60s being targeted to lonely hearts all over the world by way of magazine advertorials.In 1968, Serge Gainsbourg protégé France Gall participated in the televised song contest Deutscher Schlager-Wettbewerb (“The German Schlager Competition”) where hundreds of composers and lyricists from all over Europe were called upon to write a brand new hit song.