Recap: If you don’t know what comedian/actor/producer/writer Aziz Ansari’s book is about before you start reading it, you might be surprised to learn that it has very little to do with him. Sure, he writes about himself a good amount in the book, namely when it concerns ramen, but Modern Romance is really his quest to hypothesize the meaning of, research, understand and explain how romance works today. He explains how the book came about: that he was performing comedy one night and had people from the audience come up to the stage so he could read the text messages they were sending to people they were interested in dating. What he found is that pretty much no young people — himself included — knew how to date in this crazy internet age.
To find out why, he spent a year researching, meeting with focus groups, sociologists and people from different generations and different countries. He compiled everything he found into this funny, but mostly enlightening and informative nonfiction book about the millennial generation and dating. He starts by interviewing elderly people who mostly met their significant others by walking down the street, going to the same school or being set up. He found that now, more than ever, people are not meeting each other through geographical convenience but through online profiles, and the way we communicate with each other online is inevitably different from the way we communicate in person.
Analysis: To be honest, Ansari’s findings were logical, but somehow still astonishing. As much as social media has helped people (many people have met each other through sites like Match.com or Tindr), it’s also hurt them (people being ghosted, people sending pornographic and off-putting images, people playing texting “games”). It’s a medium that’s both brought people together much more easily and quickly and torn them apart just as fast.
I finished the book feeling eternally grateful to have met my husband just before dating apps exploded onto the scene, thankful that online dating and dating on social media was something I would not have to deal with. I recommended the book to some of my single friends, thinking it would give them hope. But one of my friends who had coincidentally already read it said it just left her feeling hopeless. I don’t think Ansari is trying to steer readers one way or the other, that’s to say that dating in the technology age is better than dating in the past or worse. But I do think it sheds an interesting light on the topic and important one. I did learn that even in the world of texting, honesty is best, face-to-face communication is best and that we all need to stop playing “games” with each other and say what we really mean and feel. The things that we come away with in this book may not necessarily be what we want to hear, but they absolutely are what we need to hear.