Dating. Family. Privacy. Government. Fame. Healthcare. Can you think of an aspect of identity – how we see ourselves, how we relate to each other – that hasn’t been radically changed by modern technology?
Today marks the launch of YOU, a new podcast about the intersection of technology, humanity, and identity, brought to you by Okta. YOU is hosted Claire Evans, a writer and musician, who is also the author of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet.
With YOU, Claire looks at how technologies like AI, virtual reality, and blockchain are changing the way we relate to ourselves and each other. Claire talks to fascinating people from the worlds of art, science, music, philosophy, and design, and we can’t wait to share these conversations with you. Most of all, Claire and her guests discuss the amazing, terrifying, downright weird things we have to look forward to as tech becomes more intertwined in our lives.
Up first, we take a look at “YOU+1” – the world of online dating.
AI Slides Into Our DMs
The show opens with Justin Long, a developer who created Bernie in 2014 out of frustration with the swiping tedium of online dating. Bernie was an app that let artificial intelligence do the swiping and initial messaging for Tinder users. One of Bernie’s most successful opening lines: “Do you like avocados?”
Spoiler alert, Bernie shut down in 2017 when Tinder kicked it off the platform. But before that, Bernie was making successful matches – most people accepted the matches Bernie made for them. And, maybe most importantly, Bernie swiped right for Justin on the woman who is still his girlfriend today.
Love in a time of technology
Claire also talks with Dr. Jess Carbino, a relationship and online dating expert, who was the sociologist at Bumble at the time of their conversation. They asked, “What have we gained from the rapid tech advancements in the pursuit of love and sex – and what have we lost?” Here are highlights of what we learned from Dr. Jess and others in this episode:
A new view of love
Historically, scholars have put forth two versions of love. Romantic love is what we consume in film, music, etc, and it’s based on mythology, like “one true love,” or “love at first sight.” Then there’s the everyday, prosaic view of love, which we see in our real-life relationships with family and friends.
Dr. Jess posits that now there’s a third view of love, the market logic view of love. People carry with them the first two views as they go out and make choices about who to date or pursue, but now people are more embedded in a marketplace, and are therefore more likely to act rationally and make compromises. With potentially hundreds of thousands of matches at their fingertips via their dating apps, people understand more now how they stack up relative to other singles in their area, and they act efficiently to pursue love.
…But technology doesn’t mean endless choice for love
The idea of endless choice abetted by technology is empty because it’s not how the market actually operates. Yes, there are a lot of choices on dating apps but not all choices are equal. You could have, say, 100 people to choose from, but between swiping on matches, and those matches swiping you back, then going on a date and actually hitting off, you might only end up with one real choice working out. In Dr. Jess’s research, she’s found that people who date online are more likely to commit than people who date offline, because they are actually visualizing the market working through their experiences with dating apps.
Technology makes self-presentation – and self-awareness – matter more
We’ve always had a proxy to present a version of ourselves to potential mates. Traditionally, it had been your family or matchmakers. With technology – from old-school video personals, to today’s apps – we’re doing that work ourselves now. And that can be really hard if you don’t have a lot of awareness of what makes you appealing to others, and what you’re really looking for. Most people like Netflix, and live music, and going to dinner with friends, etc. Although you might think those safe, “vanilla” details in your profile will serve to not alienate potential matches, Dr. Jess says you’re probably doing more harm than good, and just makes you look like everyone else.
As technology advances, the ability to present yourself matters even more. Many online dating providers are trending towards video, but as Dr. Jess points out, how can you do an appealing video if you can’t do an appealing written profile?
Above all, Dr. Jess says we should expect dating to continue to evolve with technology. We’ve gone from personal ads, to video personals, to chatrooms, to sites, to apps. The next step? Artificial intelligence.
Listen now to episode one, “Algorithm of My Heart: YOU +1”: https://www.youpodcast.co/episodes/one/