devouring theatre, film, and food
The questions in the coffee shop were standard first-date questions.
“Where’d you grow up?” (Virginia) “Do you have any siblings?” (Yes, three) “Where’d you go to school?” (Princeton) “Where do you live?” (Halsted and Briar) “What?” (Halsted and Briar) “Are you serious?” (Yes…) “What’s your address start with?” (7) “Oh god.” (Wait…what does yours start with?) “7” (What’s the second number?) “Stop talking.” (What’s the second number?) “We’re not talking about this.”
This young man – a perfect stranger I had messaged on an online dating site – lives just down the hall from me. OkCupid calculated our compatibility to be 92%, not realizing we live less than 20 feet away from each other. What are the chances of something like this happening? Why is it so unnerving?
OkCupid is one of a number of online dating and matchmaking sites that have transformed how people meet their better halves. Traditionally, family, friends, school, church, and neighborhood have been the most important Cupids; but since internet browsing first began in the mid 1990s, Americans have been browsing for mates online. Or so says Standford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld, who conducted a 3,000+ respondent survey with a nationally representative sample, to determine how Internet search was changing how couples meet and if it was the new Yenta.
The questions in the survey were standard romantic-partner -survey questions.
“Who introduced you to Partner_Name?” ( Family/friends/Co-workers/Classmates/etc.) “Are you yourself gay, lesbian, or bisexual?” (Oversampled to test hypothesis) “How did you meet?” (Open-ended, average response = 342 characters)
What did he find? Between 2007 and 2009, 22% of heterosexual couples met online, and a whopping 61% of same-sex met online. Or in fancy graph format:
Ruin your Disney love fantasy with the full study @ http://stanford.io/ab2Gwr
So it’s no surprise that a young, Internet using gay male met another gay male using the Internet – most lasting relationships of the past few years started this way. But why was this so unnerving? What about finding out this young man lived a 60-second commute away was so unnerving?
Each culture has an acceptable “personal space.” Violate this personal space and something has to give: fight, flee, or fuck. In dense cities, we often publicly violate that “personal space” of others – on public transportation, in small restaurants, and in cramped apartment buildings. So how do we preserve our “personal space” when someone is very much in our “personal space”?
We ignore them.
We ignore our neighbors when we see them in the laundry room, and we don’t engage the people in the restaurant sitting closer to us than to our dinner date. To engage them is to acknowledge the personal space violation that is constantly occurring in cities. So the shock of realizing this boy lived directly next to me was the fact that someone violating my person space was no longer anonymous. I knew him. And I knew he was too close. And now I have to move.
OKCupid calculates my compatibility with others based on user-submitted questions on the site. The questions are standard dealbreaker-and-icebreaker questions.
“Have you smoked a cigarette in the last 6 months?” (No) “How do you feel about age differences in relationships?” (I prefer someone close to my own age) “Do you have names planned out for future children?” (N) “In a certain light, wouldn’t nuclear war be exciting?” (Yes, it would)
I’m tempted to add a question to the site:
“Would you date someone who lived next door to you?”