I follow cultural trends that specifically relate to attraction and dating. I follow a great variety of forums and websites that relate specifically to these subjects. Of course I follow online dating trends. Reading my favorite motorcycle forum, I found this interesting scenario:
My brother in law had a years-long affair. Other than getting divorced, there have been no social or cultural consequences. Everybody in his office knew he was having an affair because she worked there too. They both still work there. His kids still love him. His family still loves him. I still love him. I honestly don’t even really give a shit that he had an affair. Nobody treats him any differently at all.
There were financial consequences because he made a lot more money in the marriage, but that’s all.
[His recent follow up to clarify some:] People were surprised and disappointed at first. My point is that after a few years, it’s barely a blip on the radar.
I have read a fair bit of contemporary American social history (fascinating stuff but not enough available material). Back in the day when a person committed a social transgression, the family and local community applied shame. It was a blunt but effective way of punishing the person for that particular transgression. Sometimes, actions accompanied that shame. Merchants would not extend credit and the local country club would rescind a membership. The social repercussions would last for a long time, perhaps even requiring the person to move away. Such potential shame served to keep individual impulsivity in check. It was crude, but effective. It also only worked in communities where there were strong social connections.
We’re city folks now. The social connections are far weaker and far more temporary for any kind of social shame to be seriously effective. As well, the current socio-political landscape is that of “never judge anyone for any reason!” Nice, that removes social consequences from one’s individual actions. That’s a bonus for PUAs and young women who are “sponsored”. For the rest of us, this presents a challenge in the attraction and dating landscape. We want to meet good people of good character but there are not enough community social connections to verify “social proof”. That’s a PUA term and is incredibly accurate here.
Online dating complicates everything even more. Profiles can be faked. Descriptions lied about. Words made up or completely ghost-written by paid professionals. Now there is “catfishing”. It’s madness because of the lack of social physical connections. We are being reduced to technological connections. But with dating, there has to be a transition from the technological to real life. After all, the purpose of online dating is to stop online dating. There is where reality gets, well, real. Married daters, mental illness, addiction, stalkers, criminal pasts, serious financial issues… all these red flags can be well hidden in a profile. Back in the day, the community knew things about a person and shared this information (even if inaccurate, sadly). It served as a good filter well before an actual date might even take place.
There’s the social connection disconnect that technology might be able to help with. Never forget that human beings are social creatures and we crave that connection, preferably in person so we can hear voices, see gestures, read body language. We are also incredibly judgmental about others, particularly those who might become an intimate partner. Is this how is should be? It doesn’t matter, it’s how it is.
Technology is not a panacea at all. There are enormous technological hurdles to surmount. Actually, the first problem is the issue of photos. Are they real? Are they recent? In a previous blog post I suggested some new technology features to online dating that might help with something as simple – and significant – as an accurate and recent photo. It’s number five in my list on the post.
Online dating businesses are put in an extremely precarious situation. Given all the lies and lies by omission, how could any company verify the profiles of millions of people who post up information in a profile? Certainly some algorithms could work on profile photos. And it’s possible to scan for marriage/divorce records in certain county court systems. But how is it possible to screen for mental illness or addiction issues before going on an actual date? Many laws appropriately protect privacy. But when the date actually happens, privacy is an enormous issue. Is the online dating company liable for lies and lies by omission on profiles?
While I’m not a lawyer, I can still imagine where a single, raving loon with an online dating profile could take down the entire industry with a single lawsuit from a victim. Worse, a class action lawsuit could be arranged and the punitive (and legal) costs would destroy online dating. Of course, the unintended consequence of that would be to force singles to meet each other the old fashioned way – in person. Anyone wonder why Meetup.com singles groups have grown so much?