Modern Romance is a fun, entertaining book about dating in the 21st century. Aziz Ansari teams up with NYU sociology professor Eric Klinenberg to provide us with a range of research about how the ways that people meet romantic partners have evolved over the past few decades. Whether you’re geeking out over the (actually fascinating) research or laughing out loud at Ansari’s running commentary, you’ll find plenty in this book to keep you engaged.
For example, did you know that the family was the most influential matchmaker in the lives of heterosexual Americans in 1940 (24%), and this changed to friends (38%) in 1995? Also in 2010, while friends were still the primary matchmaking factor, the proportion had declined to 29%, with bar meet-ups increasing from 19% to 24%. And finally, while online dating had been a minuscule 2% in 1995, the number had shot up to 22% in 2010. (By 2010, family had dwindled all the way down to 7%.) Isn’t that fascinating?
Yet the rise of online dating carries with it its own set of problems, as anyone who’s ever tried online dating can attest. Ansari makes a good case of how the anonymity of online dating makes people feel empowered to say things they would never actually say in real life — not so much in terms of screwing up the courage to talk to an attractive person, but saying things that are downright gross. Ansari cites an example of a man who messages a woman with “I like your tits,” and notes that in real life, that same man would presumably have a much better way to start a conversation. Ansari also points out that texting and typing, unlike in-person conversations, are not forgiving mediums for mistakes, because they don’t allow for body language, tone of voice and other non-verbal clues that can mitigate whatever it is you actually say. Another problem is that online dating presents us with such a wide range of choices that it may be more difficult to choose one person, always believing that there may be someone better still out there somewhere.
Ansari alternates between research (statistics, interviews), witty and rather insightful observations, and amusing anecdotes. At times, the insertion of humour feels a bit forced, for example when he’s talking about something interesting then pulls back to make a random joke. But overall, I think the tone works, and highlights the absurdity that sometimes happens with online dating.
Modern Romance is a fun read, and certainly, if you’ve ever tried online dating, you’ll find much to relate to and laugh about in these pages.
Thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.