Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

As a relatively new member of the online dating community, I just have to say-it sucks. It really sucks. You don’t think it will suck quite as hard as it turns out to suck.

Before I downloaded the various and sundry apps I thought to myself “This will be fine. I’m cute. I have a good personality. My taste in books is off the hook. What more could the future Mr. Expanding Bookshelf ask for?”

Then I joined Tindr and such, and catapulted into a tornado of dick pics, creepy messages, ghosting, freckle fetishes (THAT’s a thing?!) and at least one Lutheran minister. In a matter of months, I turned into one of the “Sex and the City” harpies, waxing poetic with my girlfriends about how dudes are the worst. Under a firestorm of crazy, I deleted the apps. Then I got bored and re-downloaded them. It’s a vicious cycle.

All this is to say, Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance, was created for people like me. Unlike most books written by comedians, this isn’t a rehashed version of Ansari’s standup act. Instead, it’s an actually researched book about how online dating looks, both here and around the world. The idea for this book started after Ansari hooked up with a girl who later pulled a fadeaway. For those of you lucky enough to not know what a fadeaway is…

Ansari started talking about that experience in his standup, and noted how much the audience responded. Soon, he was pulling up volunteers to read through their online dating messages, and asking them to explain their reasoning for not going out with certain people. He (and his sociologist co-writer Eric Klinenberg) analyzed how people respond in text messages. They pulled up economic studies to suggest that by not texting back, a person is trying to appear more in demand, which makes him more desirable. They also pulled up experiments on lab rats pulling levers trying to get food, to show how anxious we are when we don’t get a response.

Ansari’s research took him from Japan, where the latest generation is hooking up so infrequently that the government is paying newlyweds, to Buenos Aires, where street harassment is basically expected. The way people use dating apps around the world is different too. In Japan, it’s considered narcissistic to post a solo pictures of yourself, so most of the profile pictures are of groups or of random objects. One dude’s profile picture was a rice cooker. I don’t know how popular he was with the ladies.

One of the more interesting ideas that permeates the book is the idea of whether online dating is better. On one hand, we have more dating options than any other generations ever. You’d think that was a good thing. But studies have found that the more options people have, the harder it is for them to make a choice. When they do finally choose, they’re less satisfied because they’re always thinking if they would have been happier with the other option.  Regarding that, he ends the book with some simple, solid advice: Don’t judge people right away. If your first date with someone is only fine, maybe give them another chance. He compares it to listening to the music of our generation’s Shakespeare-the one and only Flo Rida. The first time you hear his song, you’re like “Why is this happening?” Then after a few more listens on the radio you’re like “Yaas! I love this song.” Give Flo Rida a chance, y’all.

I enjoyed this book. It wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be, which was actually kind of nice. Rather than trying to shoehorn his bits into the whole book, Ansari let jokes happen organically. All in all the book was an interesting read. And if you’re interested in picking it up, you should treat yo’self.

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