In the spirit of full transparency, I can’t say that I’ve ever dated someone I met online nor through an app, but technological advances have undoubtedly made a significant impact on my own dating and that of all of my peers. It’s a basic tenet of Judaism, and something easily observable as well, that everything in this world may be used for both good and ill. The Torah itself is compared to water by Chazal, and the Vilna Gaon explains that just as water will help whatever it is poured on to grow, be they weeds or roses, so too the Torah augments whatever is present in the person delving into it, be they good character traits or not. Some tools we are given are easier and less risky to use, while some require a little more skill and can be quite dangerous if mishandled. The depersonalization of dating, which in essence is the first repercussion of the Age of Dating 2.0, is one of those tricky things to figure out exactly how and when it can be useful.
A recent article in the New York Times (“India’s ‘Phone Romeos’ Look for Ms. Right via Wrong Numbers,” March 22, 2017) describes a nightmarish scenario wherein the advance of cellular technology in India has led to a significant increase in men cold-calling women (read: stalking) in the hopes of meeting and connecting with a significant other.
Now, in any healthy society, such actions should be easily recognizable as both inappropriate and offensive. However, consider what it means when you express interest in dating someone based on an internet profile. Is it really that much less demeaning to be asked for a date based solely on your photographic appearance and a short blurb about you? Pardon me if I have a hard time swallowing the tired “you can tell a lot from a picture” line — aside from very general impressions on aesthetics, comportment, external refinement, and cultural identification, I see very little of substance or character that may be gleaned from it. All this being said, I do happen to be an information junkie, and the freer flow of information that this format provides does seem to me be a fair way to network in a quick, efficient fashion to at least “discover” people. In essence, what this would look like then is an electronic version of the approach taken with a classical shidduch resume, wherein basic information is provided, and if the very basics seem to line up, then further inquiry is made before pursuing.
The degrees of separation afforded by electronic communication also may seriously impact the progress of a typical dating continuum. While sending off a quick text letting someone know you’re thinking of them can mean the world to them, the modality itself of texting can be a risky one to communicate with, especially about anything remotely touching on emotions. There’s a reason the bulk of the Torah was given orally; the written word is given to misunderstanding more than the spoken, and only thus may the structural integrity of the mesorah (tradition) be maintained. The same will be true in general interpersonal communication as well. A little texting is fine, a lot is not. Otherwise, you’re heading towards a world of miscommunication and needlessly hurt feelings, not to mention annoyance, inefficiency, and confusion.
I’m all in favor of integrating electronic communication into the dating process at a time when you want to make things a little more personal and connected; just realize that it’s a picayune connection. At the end of the day what will really bring you closer is face to face communication, good old sharing and caring. Electronic advances may certainly be of service in a nominal way in streamlining or enhancing the dating process, but at the end of the day, make sure you’re connecting with a person, not a machine.