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Webb changing her user name to incorporate the word “girl.” Webb selecting a cleavage-revealing profile pic.This is considerably more effort than some of the people profiled in Slater’s book are presumably putting in. I am perpetually indecisive about even the most mundane things, and I couldn’t imagine navigating such a huge life decision so quickly. Happily so—and probably more so than most people I know who had nonarranged marriages.The first girl, he said, was “a little too tall,” and the second girl was “a little too short.” Then he met my mom. Let’s look at how I do things, maybe with a slightly less important decision, like the time I had to pick where to eat dinner in Seattle when I was on tour last year.

The difference highlights the limitations of this modern mechanism for a timeless trouble.

A new book by journalist Dan Slater, , explores the past and present of online dating: “the industry’s rise from ignominy to ubiquity.” Through a series of historical anecdotes and stories—including his own and those of his parents, who met in one of the first computer matchmaking experiments—he paints a broad picture of how the internet has changed the way we date and mate. Census data from 2010 showed that 39 percent of all Americans believe marriage is becoming obsolete,” Slater writes. Slater quotes a number of stats from Ok Trends, the short-lived blog about Ok Cupid directed by one of the site’s cofounders, Christian Rudder.

The fundamental selling point of online dating is that no one wants to be alone, and even cold-hearted skeptics secretly want true love. “Yet 47 percent of the unmarried adults who believe marriage is becoming obsolete say they would like to marry someday.” The point is tucked into a footnote, but more should probably have been made of it. You can be a closet swinger, an out-of-closet deviant, or a U. I underlined this one several times: “A woman’s desirability, measured in messages received, peaks at age twenty-one.

Then I could build a super profile—a sort of amalgam of the popular girls and my own data.” Her self-presentation is not quite as creepy as it sounds, though the takeaway is still disappointing for those of us who are averse to putting a PR-style gloss on our personality: To get what she wants, even the most charming, educated, successful woman must massage her assets to be appealing within the peculiar ecosystem of dating sites.

And so what follows is a makeover montage from a rom-com: Webb working out. Webb retooling her profile to be vaguer and friendlier.

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