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And then we could look at how that trend fits in with the larger questions we face.
Efficiency First, I'm skeptical of the claim that, as one executive put it in the article, "the market is hugely more efficient" as a result of online dating.
Remember those left behind by Jacob's wandering webcam eye in the article?Even in Super Sad True Love Story—the Gary Shteyngart novel where everyone wears an "äppärät," a device around their necks that broadcasts to everyone around them their credit history, income, cholesterol, and how attractive they are compared with everyone else in the vicinity—even in that world people fall in love. Executives in the middle of a growing business can be forgiven for overstating trends—as can individuals used as anecdotal launching pads for trend pieces—but readers should take it a little slower.So rather than go right to "online dating is threatening monogamy," as Dan Slater argues in his article in magazine, maybe we could agree with the less alarmist conclusion that people who engage in rapid serial online dating are probably less likely to make commitments because they won't settle down.In a terrific 2003 New York Times article by Amy Harmon, a fourth-grade teacher, retold the statistics of her four-months of online dating: messages exchanged with 120 men, phone calls with 20, in-person meetings with 11—and 0 relationships.That's not efficient at producing relationships—but it is efficient at producing anxiety.
If this system is efficient at finding perfect matches, it is also efficient at sorting people according to existing social hierarchies—applying what Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic called "algorithmic perversity." Some people will use online dating to constantly trade up—maybe ditch a sick or unemployed spouse—and that will also speed up other processes, like the widening of social inequality.