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.
“I’m sorry, I just don’t see this going anywhere for me. It’s not you, it’s me. Thanks for going out tonight. I’ll keep you in mind. You’re a really good person.”
For some people, getting this kind of text could be infuriating. How can he break up with me like THAT?! He doesn’t call? He doesn’t explain himself? That’s it?? Avi is soo not a mentsch.What, he couldn’t tell me to my face?
This week, “The Single” puts the following question to our dating advice panelists:
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but people have different views on whether you should see a photo of a potential match before being set up with them. What do you advocate and why?
The frighteningly influential power of language and impression is showcased quite strikingly in George Orwell’s well known book 1984, where he explains that “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” Assuming the premise to be true that a picture is truly worth a thousand words, we are only left to consider what those words are, and what effect they will have on their recipient. Not only may the words we choose affect our interpersonal relationships, but the specific types of words we use can even affect our long-term mood, and by extension even the physical structures of our brains.
When More is Truly Less: Finding your Rose Among the Many Thorns
I was pondering the answer to this question when I came home from a pediatrician’s office. This was a first time visit with the doctor for my five-year-old. This wasn’t the first time taking my child to the doctor’s office - I am not THAT kind of parent. I did however finally have the nerve to take the leap and try a new doctor, five years later. Not just any doctor and not just any practice. The practice that many of my friends had been raving about and pediatricians I consulted with brought their own children there. Alright, I thought to myself, this was going to be my game changer. My child was going to love this doctor. My current pediatrician was ok I thought, just so many little things kept on bothering me, maybe I could do better.
The situation: You are in virtually any social situation-- Shabbos meal, wedding, bris, kiddush, softball game, supermarket-- and you run into someone who can tell right away that you are “fresh meat.” You see it coming but you are helplessly at their mercy as they tell you that they have the perfect match for you. You try to avoid the conversation entirely, but this would-be matchmaker strategically corners you at the herring platter with a full plate of food and a filled cup so they know you have no room for an easy escape with a: “It was so nice to see you Mrs. Goldfarb–– I am going to get some soda now.” Mrs. Goldfarb is well aware that your cup is full of Shoprite’s finest discounted diet cola that your synagogue gets on sale and is tax deductible and you both see the bottle on this very table so there’s no need to travel across the room for a refill. And then it happens: “I’ve got the nicest guy/girl for you.” You know whomever they are talking about is not for you, but you have no idea how to get out of this without committing to something that you’d prefer not to, or getting out of it but coming off as rude or disinterested. No worries, my friend–– The Single is here to help you.
Why can Ivanka find a nice Jewish boy and I can only find a nice goyish one?
Whoa whoa whoa, hold your horses. Now, we all know that Ivanka is honestly pretty fabulous. Heck, she’s gorgeous and a billionaire. I mean, even Rivkie follows her on Instagram! It’s easy to find a goy. There are over 300 million goyim in this country. It’s harder to find a Jew, but it’s worth it.
The latest and greatest in technology has significantly expanded the dating playing field. We need to ask ourselves whether it’s fundamentally improved the dating game. Let’s explore some pros and cons.
Dating websites, dating apps, and stores of electronic resumes offer today’s singles the opportunity to date from a much broader pool both demographically and geographically. Does this mean that we have more potential marriage partners? Skype, WhatsApp, and Email make it much easier to be in contact with a date. Does that help today’s singles develop better patterns of communication? Facebook, Instagram, and Google give us more information about anybody in the world than was available just a decade ago. Does that allow us to know the person we’re dating more profoundly?
People have varied opinions about double dating, or what I’ll call more broadly multiple dating. Some think it’s cruel, dishonest, inappropriate and rude. Others believe it’s a time saver and that it helps the dating process move more quickly by providing the ability to directly compare and contrast.
In my opinion, the appropriateness of dating multiples depends on four unique and personal factors, presented here as questions.
W.H. Auden wrote that in relation to a writer, most readers believe in the Double Standard: they may be unfaithful to him as often as they like, but he must never, never be unfaithful to them. Much the same might be applied when considering the question of double dating; our heads may easily justify things for ourselves that our hearts are indignant about in others. Having dealt with this issue from the angle of both toiling single and hapless shadchan, the perspective gained, along with the attending understanding of both head and heart on the issue, my position has boiled down to that very Jewish answer of: it depends.
I imagine my life is similar to that of The Single’s random kiddush lady. Like her, I’ve got piles of laundry, grocery shopping, baby feedings, dinners to be made, Shabbat meals to be cooked, reports due at work and errands to run.
Still, like her, I think to myself: “What if my effort made a difference in the life of just one single?” What if my response to The Single’s problem helped just one single respond differently to just one scenario? It could change their life and the life of their future spouse and create generations of happy families.
In my long history of dating and working with singles, I have found that it always pays to be a mensch (nice person). You don’t have to date anyone you don’t want to date, and you don’t have to marry anyone you don’t want to marry, but menschlachkeit is NOT optional. You can’t imagine the lasting impression a lack of menschlachkeit leaves on everyone involved.
I believe we’re in agreement on this point, although we probably defi ne our terms differently. You may think “If I smile politely to the random kiddush woman and then move on to the cholent, am I not being a mensch?” Maybe yes and maybe no. Have you considered that while you were outwardly menschlich to the shadchan, you were likely not a mensch to the suggested match and you were possibly not a mensch to yourself?
It’s interesting. We react differently to the same suggestion, depending on whether the person making that suggestion is a friend, a family member, a co-worker, a mentor or a random lady at kiddush. But does that make sense? In each instance the suggested match is the same. While those we like and respect would not be likely to set us up on random dates, random people can often set us up with very likeable and respectable people.
Additionally, random people are not so random once they get to know you a bit more, and their suggestions will improve as they continue to interact with you.
Finally, sometimes a person’s knowing you well is counterproductive. They might nix excellent ideas, because in some area or another they’ve judged this match as not “good enough.”
It’s also important to remember shidduch opportunities, however randomly placed, for what they are: opportunities. If you were desperately looking for a job and having trouble paying your monthly bills, wouldn’t you appreciate every lead someone sent your way, even if the job’s not a fi t? Wouldn’t you appreciate the time and effort they took out of their busy schedule to send you a lead, even if it isn’t in your specifi c fi eld? Just knowing that they were thinking of you, your well-being and your future would make you feel cared for and loved. You’re busy, and it’s fair to assume that those making the suggestions to you have much going on in their lives as well, yet they took the time to think of you.
Ironically there are also many singles who have a shortage of dating options and that can be quite depressing. They’re thinking “How will I ever get married if I never get suggestions?” Although you, The Single, do not personally struggle with any shortage of options, it’s important to be sensitive to those that do.
Another note of caution. While you might not take random lady’s suggestion seriously, there may well be merit to her suggestion. If there is, it’s likely that a more reputable source will mention the same idea to you down the line. By that time, you’ve probably forgotten the exchange over dry herring, but the match you turned down hasn’t. Relationships are a sensitive thing. People take rejection to heart. Although you’re now excited, they’re still smarting, and not eager to give that random guy a second chance.
In summary, I would recommend showing genuine appreciation to anybody who took time out of their busy lives to think of us. Smile and give them as graceful a response as possible and then actually take a moment to consider the person being suggested. If you’re going to say no, it shouldn’t be a “no” to the shadchan, it should be a “no” to the shidduch.