Romancing the Phone

I enjoy reading books written by stand up comedians. They’re usually fun easy, and breezy. It can be interesting to experience humor from a comedian you like in a different form than you might be used to, a memoir or essay type collection instead of stand up or sitcom acting. That’s why I picked up the book Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, whom I absolutely adored on Parks and Rec. Ansari promised to discuss the weird quirks of modern romance, dating in the digital age and so forth.

What I found when I cracked open the book really surprised me. No, not in an “Aziz Ansari unveils freaky fetishes in romance book way,” but in a “Wow this comedian just worked with real scientists researching human behavior in modern romantic scenarios then published a book on his findings, and its still funny too,” kind of way.Because that’s what Modern Romance is, and that’s what Aziz Ansari did.

I’m not really sure there’s a precedent for this kind of thing. Sure, Aziz still cracks plenty of jokes and tells plenty of stories throughout the whole thing, but even more he discusses studies done by his team and data gathered by other professionals in legit studies. It’s a highly informative read that really looks at how online dating, smartphones, and the 21st tech wave in general have changed the romance game, a big surprise for me, but  definitely a pleasant one coming from Ansari.

Astonishment aside, I definitely found the book helpful. It’s not the sort of book I would normally read without someone like Ansari at the helm of it, but I felt like he gave some really useful advice regarding online dating and keeping relationships together in the digital information.

The book tackles how exhausting the new sort of dating scene can be, how people’s expectations have changed regarding sex and relationships, and what we can do to help ourselves when facing these problems.

Basically, the books says the new dating sites and social media in general give us way an incredibly vast amount of choices in all aspects of life, including dating. As nice as that is, our brains don’t really know what to do with this much information and find it really hard to remember that those profiles, messages and bits of info on a screen are a real person, which can lead to general fatigue and exhaustion with the process.

I’ll admit I’ve tried online dating before, and stopped for almost the exact same reason a whole lot of people seem to be struggling in the studies and focus groups Ansari facilitated. If you’re not careful, it becomes a full time job, and a boring and tiring one at that. In that way, the book really resonated with me. The fact that Ansari goes beyond just bemoaning how crazy these smart phones make things nowadays and actually proposes ways to deal with modern romance was another thing.

As a millennial, I’m also used to older people yelling at me that wifi is the reason the bees are dying and then hissing and limping away when I pull out my smartphone. Loads of people have complained about phones and computers changing things, often comprehensively so, but loads of them only end by throwing their hands up in exasperation and nothing more.

Ansari does not condemn the way things are; he even says he’s glad to be alive in a time when people have more time and means to explore what they want to be with. While exploring what this means for different people, he’s careful to always talk about how people deal with these different situations, and what the best way to deal with them probably is.

For example, when he discusses how people get so tired of messaging and messaging each other with online dating apps, he does some digging, and finds some experts with useful info. Apparently, experts find that the longer message exchanges go on between two people matched on Tinder or OkCupid, the less likely people are to develop a real relationship. They recommend  meeting for a first date after exchanging only a few messages each. That’s the sort of thing I could find useful if I ever decided to do online dating again, and reading this book almost made me want to.

You don’t have to be into the dating scene to read this book. It still provides a fascinating snapshot of a rapidly evolving world and the people reeling inside it. However, if you are looking for a partner, this could be a really hopeful read, one to give you a second wind and some good advice, in case you’re starting to falter.

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