Thursday, April 1, 2021

How American Couples Meet

Straight couples, anyway. I cut up the original figure (from here) so it would display better at this scale. I like the curve for meeting at work, which peaked in the 1990s and has since declined by half.  The relationship between dating your office mates and sexual harassment, and the pushback against harassment, is worth pondering. But the bigger picture is that meeting online has replaced meeting through friends and family. I thought meeting in bars was over, but I guess not.

This came up in the context of the Match Group announcing they were going to offer background checks of prospective dates. Which only makes sense in the online dating world, where you have to go out and meet strangers, but still feels very sad and unromantic to me.


David said...

Striking that the met-at-work and met-through-friends declines track each other pretty closely. I note also that met-through-friends doesn't distinguish between fix-ups and met-by-chance-at-a-friend's-event. I wonder if it's one or both of those that's declining, or if the latter trend might reverse once Covid's good and done and people are doing things like holding dinner parties and weddings again.

G. Verloren said...

"Which only makes sense in the online dating world, where you have to go out and meet strangers, but still feels very sad and unromantic to me."

I mean, it makes just as much sense in the context of meeting people at bars, night clubs, etc, as well. Lots of people have been exploited and assaulted by charismatic strangers they just so happened to run into somewhere physical. I fail to understand how exchanging basic information over the internet first could increase the danger, rather than decrease it.

Honestly, if bars and nightclubs had historically been doing background checks on people before letting them through the doors (rather than the much more common practice of the bouncer taking bribes or letting in people they like personally), we'd have had a lot less date rapes and predatory behavior happening.

The only difference between online and traditional dating is that online dating allows a buffer of extra time before directly interacting with someone. And it's only natural that people are using that extra time to do their homework and protect themselves - not because online dating is somehow more dangerous, but because dating already was inherently dangerous to at least some degree, and people already wanted to protect themselves, but traditional dating simply offered no real mechanism for doing that.

The expectation historically was that you were supposed to jump right to meeting with people directly, and all you had to protect yourself was your intuition at the exact moment you met them - and it turns out, you can have a wonderful intuition and still be fooled by a charming psychopath who has a documented history of abuse that no amount of intuition can realistically accurately detect, but that a simple background check will prove easily and conclusively, with only a small cost in time.

Weeding out the people with documented issues before they ever meet face to face with people is simply a moral imperative. I think demanding the protection of the innocent is far more a "romantic gesture" than expecting people to figure out in the moment that the charismatic stranger hitting on them at a night club after a hard day at work is actually a serial rapist.

I'd actually argue that old fashioned notions of "romanticism" are arguably outright immoral, because they carry with them the tacit implication and acceptance that some people will inevitably be victimized by predators, in order for the rest to feel some vague emotional satisfaction over "the mystery" and "romanticism" or whatever else it is of meeting a stranger sight unseen.

And the thing is, if you personally really want that "romantic" quality to your encounters, and you don't want to sacrifice is for safety? Guess what! You don't have to! If you object to a dating website that filters out people based on their background checks, don't use those websites! Or just don't date online at all! There's nothing stopping you from going and meeting someone at a bar or night club, and trusting your intuition to protect you from a predator, all in the name of having a "romantic" experience. Just don't bemoan the death of romanticism simply because other people don't draw the line on personal risk the same place you do.

Anonymous said...

"traditional dating simply offered no real mechanism for doing that"

Being chatted up by a stranger at a nightclub or bar is hardly traditional dating. Meeting someone in your community - usually vetted by family and friends in some way - is the more traditional way of meeting a future husband or wife.