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One guy's commitment issues don't mean the end of monogamy for the country. The question at hand in Dan Slater's piece in the latest Atlantic print edition, " A Million First Dates: How Online Dating is Threatening Monogamy ," is whether online dating can change some basic settings in American heterosexual relationships such that monogamy and commitment are less important. But what if online dating makes it too easy to meet someone new? What if it raises the bar for a good relationship too high? One result of the increasing importance of the Internet in meeting partners is that adults with Internet access at home are substantially more likely to have partners, even after controlling for other factors.


Television has treated dating like a game since, well, The Dating Game. Each generation finds an era-appropriate kind of competitive romance.

The ‘dating market’ is getting worse

The game shows of 20th-century networks presented the hunt for love as communal, lighthearted, and blessedly straightforward. For the aughts, reality TV made sport of anxiety-producing cultural pressures—courtship is not only battling for the best mate, but also battling to live the great Stepford dream!

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But rather than contend in a cheesy quiz show or an overproduced melodrama, singles chase dopamine as they would in addictive video games. Yet it also extends a headier pop-culture fascination : the suspicion that we live in a simulation.

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In each episode, the co-creators Paul Franklin and Chris Culvenor simply point cameras at one New Yorker on a series of blind dates. The twist comes in the editing.

A netflix show that captures the surrealism of modern romance

A boilerplate question Where do you live? Are we eating these summer rolls with chopsticks or what? Or the editors might slow down, letting a particular back-and-forth unspool at length. At the end, the main subject meets up for a second rendezvous with his or her favorite suitor. No manipulative interviews, no skydiving challenges, and really no pressure for long-term connection: The extent to which the show forgoes Bachelor- isms is disorienting.

Instead, Dating Around piles on excruciating, relatable awkwardness. Participants say um and like.

Take the data out of dating

They talk over each other. They smack their lips, gab while chewing, and check their phones. Though cringey, the gaffes bolster the sense that genuine interaction is being portrayed. Some cock their he and stammer for comprehension, Captain Picard-and-the-Tamarians style.

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Some grate and offend, with politesse blurring into sniping, and the promise of new love curdling—somewhat excitingly, it must be said—into the threat of hatred. More than one dater recycles jokes across multiple encounters, robotlike. Daters casually offer that they know of a post-dinner place around the corner—a cocktail bar, a dessert truck—and steer the date there again and again.

The daters might wonder the same thing. Whereas the rest of the show alternates between the tedium and thrill of documentary, the closing is pure cutscene, as if a level has been completed. The first episode inauspiciously stars a real-estate broker named Luke whose mildness of manner begins to play like parody, and the primary entertainment comes from him struggling to match the energy of the lively women across from him. Happily, subsequent episodes diversify their main subjects not only in gender, sexuality, and age, but also in personalities.

There's no evidence online dating is threatening commitment or marriage

The suitors are a panoply, though of a distinctly New York City sort: property bros, fashion-industry mystics, jaunty entertainers. The remarkable thing that emerges about NYC, though, is the possibility of connection—and clashes—across cultures, tastes, and ethics.

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The quirkier hetero women constantly apologize for having a personality; the reactions of the men explain why they feel that need. The queer folks lock into a camaraderie—or at least a reference palette—that cuts some of the tension marking the straight dates.

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Conversely, the participants might get a welcomed kiss or a nice compliment. Some even—stay with me—seem to simply start enjoying themselves in the moment.

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But the big reward is just a second date. What propels these people to the meet-up, and viewers to the next episode, feels like the same thing that defines any good Netflix binge, or Tinder swipe-athon, or Candy Crush spiral.

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More recently, a plethora of market-minded dating books are coaching singles on how to seal a romantic deal, and dating apps, which have rapidly become the mode du jour for single people to meet each other, make sex and romance even more like shopping.


At the key moment of this nontraditional Jewish wedding, the friend presiding over the ceremony took a moment to explain the Hebrew word kadosh.