“Modern Romance” By Aziz Ansari: Both Serious and Funny

It’s probably surprising to his fans that comedian Aziz Ansari, in writing his new book Modern Romance, chose not to go the strictly humorous route. Instead he combined forces with sociologist Eric Klinenberg, and together they researched the topic of dating in today’s world.

Tyler R. Kane, Paste, praises Modern Romance while also noting some limitations:

The book is an obsessive exploration of what makes hearts flutter and break across the globe, but most importantly, it dissects those ideas through the lens of a right-and-left swiping society. And as a result, Ansari’s final product doesn’t only feel complete—it’s hilariously executed, even without his unmistakable high-register voice belting the punchlines. At 250 pages, Modern Romance is a lean, pithy read that’s perfect to reach the tech-obsessed generation it explores.

…(T)here are blind spots that Ansari’s willing to state up front. For example, the book focuses on mostly heterosexual relationships. There’s some information on apps like Grindr, but situationally specific information pertaining to the LGBT community is largely ignored in Ansari’s book. In his words: ‘Eric and I realized that if we tried to write about how all the different aspects of romance we address applied to LGBT relationships, we simply wouldn’t be able to do the topic justice without writing an entirely separate book.’

For an excerpt, click on this link from Time.

Sample Quotes from the Book

Today, if you own a smartphone, you’re carrying a 24-7 singles bar in your pocket. As of this writing, 38% of Americans who describe themselves as “single and looking” have used an online-­dating site. It’s not just my ­generation—boomers are as likely as college kids to give online dating a whirl. Almost a quarter of online daters find a spouse or long-term partner that way.

While we may think we know what we want, we’re often wrong. As recounted in Dan Slater’s history of online dating, Love in the Time of Algorithms, the first online-­dating services tried to find matches for clients based almost exclusively on what clients said they wanted. But pretty soon they realized that the kind of partner people said they were looking for didn’t match up with the kind of partner they were actually interested in.

Sample Quotes from Ansari’s and Klinenberg’s New York Times Article 

Remember: Although we are initially attracted to people by their physical appearance and traits we can quickly recognize, the things that make us fall for someone are their deeper, more personal qualities, which come out only during sustained interactions. Psychologists like Robert B. Zajonc have established the “mere exposure effect”: Repeated exposure to a stimulus tends to enhance one’s feelings toward it.

As with all other new forms of dating, there’s a stigma around swipe apps. The biggest criticism is that they encourage increasing superficiality. But that’s too cynical. When you walk into a bar or party, often all you have to go by is faces, and that’s what you use to decide if you are going to gather the courage to talk to them. Isn’t a swipe app just a huge party full of faces?

Sample Quotes: Ansari’s NPR Interview

…(Y)ou would think, “Oh, more options, that’s better.” But whenever you look at any studies they’ve done, they always find the more options people have, the harder it is for them to make a choice, and that when they do make a choice they’re less satisfied because they’re scared that they maybe chose the wrong thing.

The word “exhausting” came up in so many different contexts when we talked about modern romance. There are people that are doing online dating who are like, “Ugh, when you come home and you open up that OkCupid inbox and you see all of those messages, it’s exhausting. It’s like a second job.” And there’s other people who are like, “Ugh, trying to schedule stuff over text to go on a date — it’s exhausting…”

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