Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Crafting singles: A slice of American cheese

The subtitle of this article is, "More than half of people are now single. Is that because we can always swipe right, or because everyone else can, too?"

I'll admit I had to read on to understand the "swipe right" reference. Apparently it refers to the dating app Tinder, where swiping right means making the next stop on the virtual singles tour. And apparently apps like Tinder, according to Samhita Mukhopadhyay, are the reason why more than half of Americans are now single.

That's a misleading stat to begin with, because (as the author notes) that number simply counts the number of people who don't have a marriage certificate. It's like finding out a city has a 55 percent workforce-participation rate — it doesn't mean 45 percent of the populace is unemployed.

What compels me to comment on this isn't that stat, but another issue: Mukhopadhyay's (possibly tongue-in-cheek) assertion that the digital world has hindered us in finding love because of the perceived infinite opportunities.

I've often been asked why, as a theoretical catch, I'm still single. My short answer is, "inertia." My longer reply is that I am picky, because I think a decision as major as the person you most want to spend your time with should be informed by contemplation. For too many people, it isn't, and those couples are either miserable or (worse) they deny to themselves that they aren't living the best possible life. If there is, in fact, a rising rate of single people, that's less likely a testament to the prevalence of apps (always a weak argument in any case) than to the broadening acceptance of lifestyles. Fewer people are hitching up these days for the wrong reasons, which if anything strengthens the institution of marriage, and empowers individuals to have confidence in whatever decision they make.

In many areas of life, being picky to the point of taking no action is counterproductive. (Indeed, as I write this, I have five blogs backed up in draft for precisely that reason.) But when it comes to something as potentially life-changing as a relationship, a certain level of pickiness is good. Yes, it's possible that always thinking you can do better will leave you alone and unfulfilled. But that risk is preferable to settling for someone who isn't so good for you because you think you can't do better.

It's a big, bad world and life is short. The least you owe yourself is to be as genuinely happy as you can help being. 

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