Is Romance the Sacrificial Lamb of the Digital Revolution?

I read a great article recently about how we are harnessing the power of the web to make our lives comfortable; when we should be harnessing the web to solve a real crisis, like our ageing population or obesity. It got me thinking about the many ways in which digital has changed our lives and the way we interact with each other. My own business is premised on dating sites, such as match.com or e-harmony – but for skilled volunteers. Nothing gives me a bigger kick than seeing our matches unfold into a lifelong marriage. I know more than most that online matchmaking can transform lives – but I’m reticent about the effect of online dating.

Previously the realm of Craig listers looking for ‘intimate encounters’ online dating has squarely entered the mainstream. All my friends seem to be at it. And I don’t blame them, with 1 in 5 marriages now the result of online matchmaking. I do, however, take issue with the web eradicating the mystery, the click, the anticipation.

Picture the scenario: you arrange a date, you have reviewed their profile, seen pictures of their best mate, you know you are both physically attracted to each other – otherwise, why would you be meeting? Call me old fashioned, but I like that strange time when you don’t know if the other person likes you when it’s all ‘maybe I read the signals wrong’. Online dating takes that away, unless and this brings me to a big problem; your profile is less than accurate.

A friend was recently waiting outside a pub for her Internet date. The guy got out of the car, kissed her hello (she noticed he looked older than stated). He said he needed to grab his Jacket. 2 minutes later she sees him speeding by… This friend is very attractive! Upon reflection we concluded that the guy had been intimidated – my friend said he was more ‘more to love’ than ‘average’…

But what happens if it all goes well? You marry and are stuck lying or telling people ‘we met online’ for the rest of eternity? Hardly Harry met Sally.

Too often we forget the human agency involved in digital creations – to our detriment. A lot of people treat online dating in the same way they ogle a cake shop window. But unlike deliciously butter frosted cakes, love comes in all shapes and sizes(even more to love); someone you may discount online could be perfect for you in real life. And that’s just it, isn’t it, real life, we spend time online but we live in communities alongside people who have hearts and minds – and feelings.

Let’s not forget romance, candlelight, dancing, chance meetings and serendipity – they are some of the most beautiful things in life. Digital 4.0 would need to go a long way to improve on those.

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