Comedian, actor and writer, Aziz Ansari has been on our radar since he played adorable but hare-brained Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation. As the show wound up, Ansari kept busy, turning his attention to modern dating and relationships in Netflix sitcom, Master of None and his first book, Modern Romance. With Valentines Day around the corner, we give Modern Romance a look.
After disappointing dating experiences, and pondering how courtship had changed since his parents marriage, Ansari set out to write a social exploration of love and romance. Acknowledging his limitation in this as a ‘bozo comedian’ he teamed up with sociologist Eric Klinenberg, undertaking a year’s worth of qualitative research. This speaks deeply to us in our work at SH:24 - user research is core to our service development. Aziz and Eric hosted heaps of focus groups, waded (consensually) through people’s online dating accounts and phone messages, hit the books to read other people’s research on the subject and even had their own Modern Romance subreddit. Aziz Ansari is a research hero!
Technology is an obvious and key factor in modern dating rituals. Ansari riffs on the power of text (something we’ve written about in relation to delivering sexual health support), and how this plays out in dating. Today’s under 30s would prefer a date invite by text than over the phone - in contrast with over 30s who still prefer a phone call. He discusses text ‘rules’ around timing and how text can enable people to act in ways they perhaps wouldn’t immediately in person. We've seen people will tell us personal information quite quickly over text.
While dating apps often get linked to the rise of STI rates, Ansari found that a lot of people weren’t actually getting that many dates from dating apps. Often, people spent more time browsing or chatting to people fruitlessly in the app or on Whatsapp than actually meeting people. The seemingly bottomless pool of choice apps offer could be a reason for this - people often think a better match is just one swipe away. One of the more successful daters he met didn’t use apps at all but met women through activities and groups he wanted to go to anyway. Time efficient!
Modern Romance also tackles relationship breakdown in the digital age. Today’s under 30s prefer the trusty text or social media (!) to deliver the bad news. Oddly, if the situation were reversed, a whopping 73% of that same group would be hurt by being broken up with by text or social media. With exes also less avoidable due to the social web, Ansari suggests photoshopping their head on your holiday snaps with the Rock, meaning you don’t have to get rid of that cute pic of you on Facebook.
So what were Aziz Ansari’s top tips for navigating the world of Modern Romance? Ansari advocates for giving people a chance - a simple piece of advice but people with busy lifestyles tend to write someone off if they don’t experience an instant connection. Ansari challenges that as an unrealistic expectation and says it’s worth giving someone a second outing. Another pearl is to remember the bubble on your screen is a real person: “would you ever go up to a woman you met two minutes ago and beg her to show you one of her boobs?”. You kind of feel this should be obvious, but you know he’s heard enough about people’s experiences (and read their messages too) to decide it still needs to be said.
Worth a read? Definitely. It’s honest, warm and packed full of Ansari’s trademark humour. Discussion of LGBTQ+ dating is unfortunately limited, Ansari felt he'd need another book to do that subject justice. There’s also way more in the book than we’ve mentioned here - international dating cultures, the difference between companionate and passionate love, big city versus small town dating and how not to have a boring ass date. In the words of Travis from Clueless, two very enthusiastic thumbs up.
Happy Valentines Day, love SH:24