Thursday, October 15, 2015

Diversiverse: Love in the Time of Tinder

Welcome to the More Diverse Universe blog event! Check out Aarti's site for all the great posts from other participating bloggers!

I'm not sure if this is cheating, because I started reading this book without even thinking about Diversiverse.  But in addition to seeking out new authors and voices, it's worth spreading the word, so let's talk about Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance.

The craziest thing to me is that this book exists at all.  Aziz Ansari is a comedian and actor whom you may know from the incomparable TV show Parks & Rec. Seriously, that is the best show ever, go and watch it, and then check out Ansari's stand-up.  And then come back to this book and think about the fact that when this comedian decided to write a book, he didn't write a memoir or a humor book. 

No, he decided to write about modern romance--not as a comedian, but as a sociologist.  So he went out and teamed up with a real freakin' sociologist and just took this thing to town.  The book was coauthored by Eric Klinenberg, who is the director of something called the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU (according to Wikipedia) and author of several other books.  This is really a book about what dating is like in the modern world--with cellphones and texting and Tinder and OKCupid. 

And it's not from the point of view of a comedian, though there are plenty of laughs here.  Ansari talks about his own dating experiences, and relates stories that are familiar (if not personally--because I stopped dating before I was able to text--then through the osmosis of popular culture) and often funny. But the core of this book is real data, and the conducted focus groups and interviews and solicited information from people on message boards and basically aggregated a ton of data.

This talks about how instant communication has changed things like the wait to hear back from someone (leaving a phone message with their parents is NOT like texting); about how dating is very different whether you're a maximizer or a satisficer; about the inconsistencies between how people hope they will be treated and how they sometimes treat others. 

I listened to the audiobook, which means I couldn't see the graphs, but it also means I got to listen to Aziz Ansari tease me about how I couldn't see the graphs, which I think was a fair trade off.  The jokes were funny, and while a lot of the delivery is pretty straight, when he wants to make a point, he's a great performer.  My only complaint about the performance is that all of his quotes from interview subjects sound whiny--he sounds like he's making fun of whomever he's quoting.  My friend Noah does that when he's telling a story; even the people you're supposed to like in the story sound kind of dim.  I might be a little sensitive to that after hearing Noah quote me in anecdotes over the years.

I love pop sociology; "pop" as in "popular," but also as in "popcorn"--light, fluffy, delicious.  In the world of pop sociology, Aziz Ansari (and Eric Klinenberg) delivers.  Totally worth a listen.

1 comment:

Aarti said...

I really enjoyed this book, too, especially as someone in her early 30s trying to navigate the dating scene. It's exhausting! Ansari's book made me feel a little better about it.

I actually thought the way he gave everyone southern rural accents was hilarious, but I see your point - it does make all of them seem pretty dim.