I recently came across an article on LinkedIn: “80% of Singles Will NOT Go on One Date in 2017.” Bold claims are a pet peeve of mine. Although articles about dating always seem to interest me for some reason. I do question why an article on dating would be on a professional networking site as opposed to a dating advice site, but I digress.
The author is the quintessential definition of a biased source since they state they have been “a professional matchmaker since 2009.” Even giving them the benefit of a doubt as an expert source, their claim that 80% of singles will not go on a date in 2017 begs a lot more explanation than what they give in the article. They don’t provide a source for where they came up with the number, so it could be anywhere from professional observation, to made up on the spot. Additionally, the figure is not limited to a specific country, so the author failed to recall that there is a sharp divide between dating in the Western World and dating in countries like China. LinkedIn has a more or less global audience, so bold claims about the world really should be avoided.
That being said, I do tend to agree with some of their points. I believe that the Paradox of Choice is a real phenomenon. A tenuous example of it is students in college changing majors multiple times, but it might also be tied to the quarter-life crisis phenomenon as well. Dating sites tend to expose to you to a much wider set of options than what you might have in your local neighborhood. It’s not surprising that people might start to think that the grass may be greener on the other side, or that they can do better than their current partner.
The author talks about the “cheapening of sex,” but this is also quite complicated. Peer reviewed research has observed the following:
The effect of past partner number was very large. Average willingness ratings initially rose as past partner number rose, but then fell dramatically. For short-term relationships, men were more willing than women to get involved (although the difference was not large). For long-term relationships, in contrast, there was virtually no sex difference. Thus, contrary to the idea that male promiscuity is tolerated but female promiscuity is not, both sexes expressed equal reluctance to get involved with someone with an overly extensive sexual history
Thus, saying there is a cheapening of sex is not exactly on point. The research shows that your value as a potential partner declines with the more sexual partners you have had. Although the older you get, the less meaningful that number is as well. Someone that is 25 and has had 10 partners is a lot different than someone that is 50 and has had 10 partners. It should be noted that the aforementioned study was also WEIRD, so the sample might be quite biased.
Dating in and of itself is a complicated endeavor. It is intrinsically linked to sex since “romantic interest,” is usually coupled to some sort of sexual attraction to the person. If you meet someone through some sort of mutual activity then the ritual of dating may not be needed. You know the person to some extent, you know if you are attracted to them, and so forth. Historically a lot of the ritual of dating was associated with a demonstration of wealth by the man to indicate that he could provide for the women along with any children they might have. Now that there is a social expectation in the United States for adults to be working in general, that display of wealth no longer has meaning. What’s the point in having a ritualized activity (ex. dinner and a movie) when it’s not needed? Modern suggestions of what to do on a first date may read more like a list of fun ways to hang out as opposed to the cliché first date.
Something that the article missed is the Two-Body Problem. While classically associated with academics, it’s not limited to them any more. If you have two adults who are established in their career, eventually something will occurs that requires hard choices. This does lead to people needing to make a choice between there partner and their career and it’s becoming less and less unusual for someone to pick their career instead. Even more so if you have more time invested in your career than your partner as tends to be the case more and more. This is not an easy problem to overcome. I’d be hard pressed to believe that it doesn’t factor into the decisions that singles make.
So where does this leave things? Pragmatically I think that the original article on LinkedIn was just click-bait. The bold claim right out of the gate is a point against it. It wasn’t one of the authors most popular pieces though, so I might also just be judging harshly though. Also, I think that the author had some good points while also missing out on some as well. There has been a lot of disruption to the previous social mores of dating. More may be coming in the future. If we take time to understand them, I doubt we will find that 80% of singles are not dating in a given year.