Tuesday, January 27, 2015

In regards to dating, and our generations failing communication skills

I offer this post entirely as a reflection. It is a personal opinion on what I have seen in regards to dating for young adults not getting any younger. I understand it can be a sensitive subject for some people, and that many ideas can be misconstrued, but hey, let’s give it a shot…

For the better part of nearly 2 years I lived without a cell phone, mostly communicating with those within a close proximity. While I did use wifi when available, I decided to forgo a phone while traveling abroad. When I returned to the states in 2014, I gave in to what I thought was a good whim and ended up purchasing an iPhone. While I can’t say with full certainty my net happiness has increased since this purchase, I can tell you my life has changed drastically. Innovation breads change, and with any change comes ramifications. 

One of the first thing one does with iPhones is download apps. This is fun for awhile, but unless you integrate apps fully into your life, their majesty fades quickly. I played with Shazam for a bit, tried out Snapchat, even went deeper into some apps that supposedly would help me with efficacy. Alas, besides my preferred social mediums (FacebookInstagram, Tumblr), none of these other applications stayed around for very long. The one app, though, that I had heard of, spoke of, even been intrigued by yet never dared dabble in, was the one that is now infamous. This, of course, would be none other than Tinder.

To put it blatantly, I am more than a skeptic of online dating. This isn’t to say I am against it. No, by all means I know that online dating has been good for a select crowd, and has revolutionized dating for some who maybe wouldn’t have had the chance at all. For me, though, the idea never felt right. With my lifestyle, I am lucky enough to meet new people pretty consistently. With that being said, sometimes you needa bite the bullet and branch out. After years of staving off a second thought or glance, I felt that, to put it in the words of my cousin and many other parents to their picky-eating children, I needed to take a “no thank you bite.”

Growth is at the nature of experience. With this mentality I downloaded Tinder. I know for some this is not a big deal, but for me, it was a giant leap of faith. I worked my darndest to lay judgment to rest and come in with an open mind. Even at best I could only muster the mentality “I’ll try this for a week.” Quickly, I found myself telling my intentions digitally in a capped amount of characters, looking at photos, and deciding my opinion of a person solely based off if I found them attractive and their personal statement intriguing. In about a week I went on four dates, with each one being a story of its own. In the end, I found what I expected; Internet dating is not my cup of tea. The idea of meeting someone entirely through typed words was limiting. Granted I try to make a living off of typed words, it was difficult to relay information without a voice or a telling face. I was also somewhat put off by the homogeneity among the profiles of users (I guess I do currently live in Colorado…), and really, I hated having another reason to spend time starring at my phone. I took a bite of the Tinder dish, and decided it wasn’t for me. Does it mean I won't use online means to meet people again? Probably not, but I know my reasoning for using it, and the time in which I approached it, weren't for me.

I've begun to see online dating sort of like the ability to download music. When it started, it was innocent. It would take hours to download a few songs, and while this was still piracy, many of us would hear a new artist, then go out and buy a CD or see a live show. You couldn’t stream albums in seconds, rendering Sam Goody or Best Buy regular stops for any music fan. Napster, for many, started out as a way to find new music, but what the phenomena turned into was an overwhelming influx that has completely changed the face of music. This, in my opinion, is the ramification of the current landscape of online dating. With so many different mediums to date, we are inundated with requests or options to request meet ups, drinks, dinners, and coffee dates. We can talk to 17 thousand people at once, yet never really commit nor put our intention towards a single one. We can essentially download ten albums at a time, only to realize a month has gone by and we haven’t listened to any. 

To restate, I don’t think online dating is bad. While studying in Morocco in 2008 my host brother had found his wife on an Islamic message board. She was Dutch, and with the limited bandwidth he had available at home, they would have a video window open and message simultaneously. In that same regard, in places I’ve traveled like Myanmar and India,  youth are often barred from dating, let alone fraternizing with the opposite sex. To combat this, I would see kids spending time in internet cafes on Skype, or even GChat, just for the opportunity to communicate with their love interest before being arranged into a relationship, or picking a spouse without previous communication. Examples like this, as well as those lucky bastards in the developed world who found a catch, have shown me that Internet dating is not the culprit, it is how we use and abuse technology. 

To bring this post full circle, I saw comedian Aziz Ansari (the 1:41 of video is well worth the watch!) this weekend, and his reflections on dating and our generation are hilarious, yet horribly unfunny in the fact they are spot on. We as a generation are not good at communicating…and I think the culprit is overabundance. We are noncommittal because we all suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). We don't want to commit to one thing because we are scared a better offer may appear in the midsts of the pervious commitment. We can change or cancel plans on a dime, and know that if one option fades, there is another just waiting to be swiped right. We can Tweet, Facebook, comment, text, email, message, and even pick up the phone, but my question is through all these mediums, did we actually lose the art of communication? Are we really saying anything through all these different platforms? Abundance isn’t always a bad thing, but when we are inundated in options it seems we find ourselves in a state of paralysis. I believe many in our generation are falling victim to the privileged’s conundrum; I can do literally anything at this moment, yet the overwhelming nature of the decision leaves me paralyzed.

Photos courtesy of Business Week, Nerdist, 303 MagazineRant Chic

Monday, January 5, 2015

Out of the wild, domestication blues

It’s been a relatively inordinate amount of time since that fateful day you saw your hand, seemingly subconsciously, exchange a piece of paper to a uniformed employee, delivering you from one existence to the next. To your loved ones, it seems as if enough time has passed for you to have acclimatized. The honeymoon period is over. You have rekindled old flames, while letting others permanently lay to rest. You’ve scavenged through your pre-travel possessions, went to places you used to frequent, and finally found a “job,” that’s got you back on the “path.” For all intents and purposes, it seems like you have rediscovered your native footing. But for you, even if months have passed whose sum may be more than years, fully processing all you have seen, heard, felt, and devoured is not an easy task. Much like times irrelevance while globetrotting, how long it takes to ever fully process your journey is a subjective matter. 

For myself, I’m nearing the one-year anniversary of being back in the states after what seemed like a lifetime away. I can tell you with full honesty there are still days where I feel I’m relearning to walk. Where certain aspects of the day-to-day have gotten easier, others seem as if they are more foreign than the landscapes I was frequenting not so long ago. I still feel ferrel. Actions that seem completely normal will render me weird looks or comments, affirming that even if you try to assimilate in full, somethings will never change. Life here moves so fast, yet attaining an upward mobility seems be stuck with a dial-up connection. I may not speak for everyone, but I would be surprised to hear that others who have left for extended periods of time haven’t come in contact with similar phenomena upon their return.

A few weeks after I came home, I wrote about my experience with the honeymoon period. I remember missing the things that would seem obvious: close friends, travel romances, unabashed behavior, absolute freedom. While those are still regulars in reoccurring daydreams, it’s the smaller aspects I’m starting to yearn for. It’s the waiter at my favorite duck joint in Chiang Mai who would talk to me about Thai politics when the restaurant was slow. It was the street kids in Kolkata who, after endless hours of hustling, saw me in the streets and joined in my daily exploits just for the hell of it. It’s the produce lady in the market in Bali who wouldn’t let me purchase the delicious fruits of her labor unless I counted the money in Bahasa or Balinese. It’s all these small memories, which may have been overlooked while they elapsed, that are deeply missed. Much as travel changed drastically after the initial jolt faded, so do our needs and desires as time from last exposure expands.

As a believer in synchronicity, I found it fitting that I spent my nearly one-year anniversary in the last place I stopped before I came home. The circumstance in which I visited this time couldn’t have been any different. The people whom I traveled with, the places that I stayed, and the activities I engaged in all were of a completely different journey. For all that differed though, both trips found me at a crossroads. Both trips saw me hoping maybe this trip would render a romance that lasted longer than the travel. Both saw me trying to demystify a path that still is obfuscated. Both trips, so beautifully, illustrated a definite progression, as well as a confusion. Both trips provided a firm reminder that no experience is wasted if we allow it to shape us.

I may not know how long it takes for someone to return from the wild, or for that matter, if those who have experienced freedom can ever be domesticated. What I do know, though, is that there comes a point when each returnee is faced with a decision. Is this home where your heart is, or is that yearning for times passed enough to move you to action? After the honeymoon is over, does this new life satiate you in full or are you still enticed by the omnipresent desire to wander with the wind? 

Photos courtesy of author and friends