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Databite No. 50: Eric Klinenberg

Modern Romance: Connecting in a Digital Age


September 3, 2015 - 12:00 pm

Data & Society
36 West 20th Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY, 10011

Databites are Data & Society's weekly lunch conversations focused on unresolved questions and timely topics of interest to our community. To request an invitation, please email events at data society dot net.

Eric Klinenberg (@ericklinenberg) on Modern Romance: Connecting in a Digital Age:

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?”

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

In Modern Romance, comedian Aziz Ansari teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages.

In this Databite, Eric Klinenberg will discuss the research process and reveal what they learned.