Aside from delighting us as the hilarious Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation, Aziz Ansari has also won our admiration for being one of the biggest and funniest working comedians today. The 32-year-old has made a name for himself with his brilliant and often insightful comments on love and dating in the modern era.
So it’s fitting that when it came time for Ansari to write a book, he decided not to simply write a humorous memoir but to actually delve deep into how romance works in the age of smartphones and the Internet. In his book “Modern Romance,” Ansari and his writing partners took months of research and focus group results and put together a fascinating look at how dating has changed over the last several decades. We came away from “Modern Romance” a little wiser about how love works nowadays.
Here are five things Ansari taught us about “Modern Romance”:
The search for a soul mate used to be much smaller
Ansari points to a 1932 University of Pennsylvania study that showed that one third of married couples had previously lived within a five-block radius of each other – and studies in other cities and small communities showed similar results. Even if the local dating pool was too small, people would only expand their search as far as was necessary to find a mate.
“Think about where you grew up as a kid, your apartment building or your neighborhood,” Ansari writes. “Could you imagine being married to one of those clowns?”
The shift in perspective there, Ansari posits, is likely due to the fact that people today get married later than they used to.
“For the young people who got married in the 1950s, getting married was the first step in adulthood,” Ansari points out. “Now, most young people spend their twenties and thirties in another stage of life, where they go to university, start a career, and experience being an adult outside of their parents’ home before marriage.”
More options may actually be hurting your romantic future
Online dating may make you think you have better chance of finding your soul mate, but Ansari points to The Paradox of Choice” by Swarthmore College professor Barry Schwartz, which shows that more options can actually make it more difficult to make a decision.
“How many people do you need to see before you know you’ve found the best?” asks Schwartz. “The answer is every damn person there is. How else do you know it’s the best? If you’re looking for the best, this is a recipe for complete misery.”
LGBT folks make use of online dating more than heterosexual people
While more people than ever have found their significant others through the magic of online dating, Ansari cites studies that show that online dating is “dramatically more common among same-sex couples than any way of meeting has ever been for heterosexual or same-sex couples of in the past.” In 2005, nearly 70 per cent of the same-sex couples surveyed in the study had first met on the Internet – we can only assume that number is even higher a decade later.
Successfully asking someone out over text involves three key ingredients
Given that texting has nearly overtaken phone calls as the primary form of romantic communication, figuring out the best way to ask someone on a date over text can be difficult. Ansari’s research determined that there were three things in these asking-out texts that were important:
1. “A firm invitation to something specific at a specific time.” This, Ansari says, prevents the endless back-and-forth text conversations that never lead anywhere. “The lack of specificity in ‘Wanna do something sometime next week?’ is a huge negative,” he writes.
2. “Some callback to the last previous in-person interaction.” It’s pretty simple: just show that you were paying attention to what you romantic interest has said. “This proves you were truly engaged when you last hung out, and [it] seemed to go a long way with women,” Ansari says.
3. “A humorous tone.” Everyone likes to laugh, although Ansari cautions that it’s easy for this to backfire. “Some dudes go too far or make a crude joke that doesn’t sit well, but ideally you both share the same sense of humor and you can put some thought into it and pull it off.”
Breaking up by text is more common than ever
Perhaps this isn’t surprising, but it should be! Just have a face-to-face conversation like a decent human being! Sheesh. But Ansari found a 2014 survey of 18- to 30-year-olds, of whom 56 per cent admitted to dumping someone via text, instant message, or social media.
‘The most common reason people gave for breaking up via text or social media was that it is ‘less awkward,'” Ansari writes. “Which makes sense given that young adults do just about all other communication through their phones too.”
However, many people Ansari spoke to claimed that breaking up via text allowed them to be more honest with their reasoning – so while you may feel slighted when your significant other gives you the heave-ho via text message, at least you might get a clearer answer about the end of your relationship than you would otherwise.