The Digital Dating Era Isnât All Bad

It's been a month or so since a series of frequently shared articles examining and ultimately decrying the "death of traditional dating" hit the Internet. And, between "Courtship Might Be Dying or it’s at least in ICU" at Clutch magazine, "The End of Courtship?" from the New York Times, and The Atlantic's "A Million First Dates: How online romance is threatening monogamy," if you somehow morphed each of these articles into each other, they could be drained and distilled down to the following four points:

1. Dating today sucks because men don't want to and don't have to put forth any effort.

2. Dating today sucks because technology has made things progressively less personal, a phenomenon making it progressively easier to not put in any effort.

3. Contemporary women are inactive bystanders, forced to abide my the whims of effort-repellent men.

4. Just so you didn't forget, dating today sucks because men don't want to and don't have to put forth any effort.

Basically, the sky is falling, and it's all Twitter's fault!

Now, I'm not here today to necessarily dispute the findings and first-hand accounts found in each of these articles. Dating in the digital age does have some discernible downsides. Along with the points listed in the articles, "People feel entitled to know your business," says 29-year-old scientist Marguerite Matthews, adding, "As if an affiliation on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Tumblr gives them the right to inquire about the many details of your personal life."

Also, according to 26-year-old grad student Racquel Jemison, the bevy of "options" provided by social networking does actually have the power to make things more cutthroat. "This makes dating more competitive, budding relationships less concrete, and the whole experience less fun."

While I'm a bit past the murky waters of the low expectation/hook-up/Wendy's value meal on a champagne budget/"let's chill sometime and watch The Best Man" abyss, I'm not so far removed from it that I don't remember it. At the same time, though, I don't know if I can completely get behind the idea that this low-expectation digital-age dating paradigm shift is both ubiquitous and a male-driven process. 

And, perhaps the "death of courtship" isn't necessarily a terrible thing. 

First, while I'm sure it's true that certain technological advances have altered the dating landscape, this is not everyone's reality. There has always been—and will always be—lazy daters. And, there have always been—and will always be—people (women and men) who date more traditionally. Technology hasn't changed behavior for everyone as much as it has just made things easier for people who likely would have been lazy daters anyway. 

Most importantly, though, these articles reinforce the idea that women have absolutely no hand in the dating, courting, and relationship process. And, I'm saying this not from the "men only do what women allow them to do" angle but from the unthinkable idea that many women may actually, gasp, prefer the digital dating era. "Traditional" dating has its downsides as well. If men are supposed to approach women, then women are put in a relatively passive position where they're forced to wait for the right man to show interest. Also, a "traditional" date---where a man is supposed to invite a woman on a date on his dime—can create a situation where the man feels entitled to physical activity because he's spent money (and where a woman feels pressured to reward him for his troubles).

"There's less pressure when meeting someone informally at a house party or through a mutual friend," adds Jemison. "and i honestly don't trust anyone that "talks" to me when I'm dressed to go out. It's easy to be interested in a woman with a tight dress on, but I'm more likely to trust your attraction to be deeper if I'm in a "normal" setting."

Personally, although I do prefer dating/courting more traditionally, there are certain aspects of digital-age dating that make the dating landscape a bit easier to navigate. For instance, I'd have to go back (at least) 10 years to think of the last time I dated someone who had no digital footprint... and this is not a bad thing. The ubiquity of social media allows you to do quick background checks on people you might be interested in. I mean, if employers do it, why shouldn't you? Also, as Jemison alluded to, when meeting someone in a more laid-back setting—and when going on relaxed/non-traditional "dates"—you have more of an opportunity to meet and get to know the real person instead of the representative many of us are fond of sending out when approaching someone or attending a first date. 

Again, there's no denying that the digital-age has altered the dating game in some ways. But, pretending that it's all bad or that women have absolutely no control of their destinies makes it easier to also assume that "women actually being an active part of the paradigm shift" is an unfathomable concept. Apparently technology causes lazy thinking, too.