Ew, Nerds Are Gross!

The other day, Alyssa Bereznak wrote a piece for Gizmodo (the piece has been altered to soften its language. You can find the original here), describing her date with a nerd she met on OKCupid. Bereznak was fairly dismissive of her date, Jon Finkel, who is the world champion at the card game Magic: The Gathering. What’s worse, she appeared to dismiss him simply because he was good at such a game. Bereznak refers to the date as a “horror story” but if that’s her version of a horror story, she really needs to meet a few of my friends who have had much worse luck in the online dating world. Also, a Gizmodo writer calling out a Magic player for being a nerd? Pot, meet the kettle with no sense of privacy or boundaries.

Bereznak’s piece is fascinating for a number of reasons. On the one hand, the piece itself is as bizarre as its venue of publication, so much so that I can’t imagine the people over at Gawker Media/Gizmodo did not know what they were doing by running it. They understood that they’d be pissing people off, and racking up a ton of links and attention in the process. As of this writing, it’s accumulated over 800,000 views, making Bereznak a rich intern and probably making Gawker owner Nick Denton pretty pleased with himself.

Over at Forbes, Paul Tassi asks the question that I also had when reading the piece:

So as a freelancer, and as a publisher, you have to ask yourself how much you want to sell your soul in order to bring in page views. I’m sure that was Gizmodo’s highest trafficked day in a long while, but at the cost of most people visiting saying “Wow, how could they have actually published this?” Alyssa might be getting a fat bonus check at the end of the month, but at the cost of having her name permanently etched into the internet as a shallow, mean human being. Was it worth it? 

I do wonder if Bereznak knew that she’d be forever associating her (previously relatively little known) name with a self-affirmation of her shallowness and a categorical denunciation of geeks. It’s a fact that when you Google Bereznak’s name, the firestorm surrounding this piece will probably be on the first page of results for a long time to come. I can’t imagine that will be good for her future dating life, but who knows? Maybe that kind of thing appeals to some guys.

I spoke with friend and writer Natasha Vargas-Cooper regarding the piece. You can find audio of our conversation here. Apologies for the terrible sound quality:

Me & @natashavc discuss @alyssabereznak”s @gizmodo piece a/b online dating & MAGIC: The Gathering (Sorry for the bad audio) (mp3)

Single People Die Earlier

MSNBC reports on a new study assessing the longevity of single people vs. married people (via Rosa):

Although many studies point to the fact that singles just don’t fare as well in terms of health and longevity compared to the married, this new research shows “just how poorly the singles do,” explains lead author David Roelfs, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Louisville, Ky.

The researchers analyzed the data from some 90 previous studies, which included about 500 million people, and compared the risk of mortality for singles from those studies — defined as those who never married — to that of a married group, excluding those who are divorced or widowed. The researchers found the risk of death was 32 percent higher across a lifetime for single men compared to married men. Single women face a 23 percent higher mortality risk, compared to married women.

The Facebook Birthday Experiment

David Plotz gave himself multiple birthdays on Facebook to see if people would mindlessly send him great birthday wishes each time. The results are depressingly unsurprising:

[T]he Facebook fake birthday experiment did end up confirming my worst fears about the network. All too many birthday wishes are autonomic, sent without thought or personal feeling. It’s one thing to remember your friend’s birthday because you took him out a decade ago for his drunken 21st birthday debauch. It’s much lamer to “remember” your friend’s birthday because Facebook told you to.

Truths About Weddings

Melissa Lafsky lays down some harsh truths about what it means to commit to spend the rest of your life with a single person (and how weddings bring it all out):

Everything you don’t absolutely adore about this magical human you’ve pledged yourself to is going to now manifest itself in wild screechy detail. You will fight about things you didn’t even register during those blissful days of moonlit walks and Sunday afternoon sex. Eventually, you will have to face a stunning reality: The person you are marrying is exactly who she/he is, and will never be anyone else. Not now, and not once you’re married. Whether that’s a beatific thing or a source of night terrors all depends on you. (Note that I didn’t say it depends on your partner. If you don’t like what you’re marrying, then it’s on you to either get over it or call it off. Sorry!!)

All your interactions will be weighed with a new gravity. When you do fight, it’s fighting as a COUPLE THAT WILL BE MARRIED. Those things that were mere annoyances are now albatrosses draping your shoulders for eternity. (Seriously, it’s no coincidence that Coleridge’s Mariner ranted to a wedding guest).

Love Fraud

Tracy Clark-Flory wrote a piece reporting on “love fraud,” where scammers convince marks to fall in love and send them money. It’s a fine piece, but I was really hit by this last paragraph:

It’s easy to hear these stories and think, “What dupes.” But who isn’t looking for some form of connection and understanding online, whether it’s on Facebook or OKCupid? We broadcast so much of ourselves — sometimes unwittingly revealing our greatest hopes and fears — and romance scammers use those personal details to target a collective craving. That’s the real enabler in these cons, and its one most of us are vulnerable to: The desire for love. As one user wrote to a troubled poster who expressed still finding enjoyment in talking to her scammer despite having found out the truth about them, “Stay strong – someone will eventually come that will be honest and not wanting to play with your feelings.”

The Deterioration of the Institution of Marriage

Sorry the updates have been sparse all week. I’ve spent the past five days at an intense photography seminar with the amazing Jerry Ghionis. I have a TON to say about this that will definitely go into a blog post about the entire experience early next week. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share this interesting opinion piece I came upon by eHarmony founder Neil Clark Warren (via Kevin):

[I]nspiring marriages don’t happen by accident. They require highly informed and carefully reasoned choices. Commitment and hard work are factors too. But after decades of working with a few thousand well-intended and hardworking married people, I’ve become convinced that 75 percent of what culminates in a disappointing marriage — or a great marriage — has far less to do with hard work and far more to do with partner selection based on “broad-based compatibility.” It became clear to me that signs which were predictive of the huge differences between eventually disappointing and ultimately great marriages were obvious during the premarital phase of relationships.

Browbeating Your Partner Will Not Make Them Love You

Tracy Clark-Flory, on a new scientific study that may or may not change how you treat your significant other in common social situations:

It turns out that trying to punish a significant other when his or her eyes wander might actually backfire and encourage infidelity, according to a study published in this month’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Researchers subjected a bunch of undergrad guinea pigs to a computer game involving photos of strangers, followed by a questionnaire. When their attention to photos of attractive members of the opposite sex was “subtly limited” in the game, it “reduced relationship satisfaction and commitment and increased positive attitudes toward infidelity.” The study explains, “Being told simply not to look is probably not an effective strategy for boosting satisfaction and commitment or reducing interest in alternatives” — and it’s for the same reason that telling a kid to keep his hands off the cookie jar doesn’t reduce his interest in sweets.

Women Are Less Likely To Date Outside Their Own Race

Via the NYTimes (via Kimberly) comes an interesting report about racial preferences in the dating realm:

Consider “Racial Preferences in Dating,” a study of more than 400 graduate and professional students who participated in speed dating sessions at Columbia University organized by Raymond Fisman, Sheena S. Iyengar, Emir Kamenica and Itamar Simonson. The researchers conclude: “Even in a population of relatively progressive individuals who have self-selected into participation in a multi-cultural Speed Dating event, we observe strong racial preferences.”

There’s also a clear gender divide, as the researchers note: “Women of all races exhibit strong same race preferences, while men of no race exhibit a statistically significant same race preference.” You might think the gender gap is the result of different dating goals: perhaps the men are more interested in short-term flings, whereas the women are looking for a lasting relationship and are concerned about potential complications from cultural differences. But the researchers conclude otherwise after looking at the data: “Since older subjects (who are more likely to attend the Speed Dating sessions in hope of starting a serious relationship) have a weaker same race preference, this gender difference is unlikely to result from differential dating goals between men and women.”