One Simple Truth about 21st-Century Love

Dating coaches are a growing industry. It’s a high-tech, high-touch phenomenon spurred by the explosion of online dating. Amy Alkon began her love-advice giving on a street corner in Manhattan. It was an experiment. She set up a table, made a sign, and waited to see what would happen. Remarkably, people lined up. What began as an experiment has grown into a career and a syndicated column, “Ask the Advice Goddess.” I caught up with Amy awhile back when I spoke at the American Association of National Newsweeklies Conference.

I asked Amy for one truth she’s learned about love from all your years of advice giving. She instantly replied, “Be reasonable.” She went on to explain the many ways that online dating had inflated people’s expectations.  “People use dating sites like a dry erase board rather than a place to sustain a conversation,” she said.

A few years ago, I marveled at Jon Harris’s insightful installation, “I Want You To Want Me” that scraped and evaluated data from the world’s leading online dating sites. What astonished me was how robust the data pool was. Do we all seek our mates online now?

If that’s the case, then perhaps it’s time for a new, more realistic rendition of romantic love on its way in 2015. One based more on humanity and vulnerability. Or maybe I need to get real.

Do matters of the heart always trigger a head full of fantasies?

All I know is this: in 2014 I hacked the algorithm of an online dating site. The result was a pile of crazy encounters that made my head spin. And then I got reasonable. I shed the weight of some old baggage and out-dated ideals. I refreshed my faith in humanity, as well as my belief in love. And soon enough I found what I was looking for–and he exceeded my expectations. It didn’t take one action. It took a million. But it did take one big shift in attitude.

In these times, new norms are forming at a dizzying rate. To make sense of our lives it helps to have at least one simple perspective–be reasonable. I love that.