Speed dating is a ritual in which people have anywhere from three to ten minutes to engage in conversation. Men and women come together for the sole purpose of meeting for a date. A common setup involves the women sitting along the edge of circular seating arrangement or against the wall. The men will rotate amongst the women and a whistle or bell rings, signaling the beginning of the short “date.”
More often than not, there is no pressure for the woman to accept or reject the suitor right there on the spot, saving face for both parties. Rather, everyone has a name badge and a number, and preferred matches are discreetly selected on a piece of paper. At the end of the event, mutual matches are hooked up. Speed dating is efficient and you have a greater chance of meeting the man or woman of your dreams. Sounds good right?
There are many people out there who will preach the benefits of speed dating. It’s less time consuming, it’s more effective in terms of actually getting a date, there is no risk of outright rejection, blah blah blah. I think this is nonsense. One should take care in the process of dating. I believe in first impressions. I am aware of the scientific studies that give speed dating the appearance of being a cure of being single. But what is it about our society nowadays that we feel the need to make snap judgments about people in this way? What happened to a slow romance and courtship? Whatever happened to a guy and a girl who started out as just friends, and one day found out they were perfect for each other? These kinds of relationships are beautiful, and I find them much more pleasing than the need for this mysterious instant attraction that has pervaded our society. Love at first sight is all well and good, and it can happen. But I believe that those reactions are based largely on physical attributes. How the hell can you tell if John’s got a great sense of humor by looking at him? How can you tell if Ben is a kind and caring man after talking to him for five minutes? We all like to think that we can figure someone out in those five minutes, but the truth of the matter is that although we all thin-slice, these snap judgments can be very wrong and very inaccurate.
First impressions are important, but many people put too much stock in them. Human beings are complex creatures. Maybe you can figure someone out over ten years (even then, from time to time you’d be surprised about something you didn’t know about your partner), but you cannot do it in ten minutes. Most of us have a surprising amount of depth and sophistication. We are not single dimension beings but marvelously layered and interesting people. A first impression is like the shadow of a person: it is representative of their shape, but it can be and often is distorted. Spending time to get to know someone will give you a silhouette of that person. That profile more closely resembles them than does a shadow on the wall. With time, you will find the right shapes and colors to use to paint a clearer picture of them. I am an incredibly intuitive person, and I am a good judge of character. I am accurate more often than not. However, it’s not because I’m psychic. It’s simply because I keep my eyes open and my ears tuned in. When I meet someone, I size them up and form a rough profile. As time goes on, information I glean from them gets added to the profile. Most people only rely on the first impression and stay there. Unfortunately, most people get caught up in that shadow and it is the only thing that they remember. The more information and knowledge you have, the more accurate your impression will be.
And that is why I feel that speed dating is a huge failure. It may seem like an incredibly efficient use of science: a combination of a suitor’s MHC, the first impressions, and gut instincts all come together to create a better chance at finding love. But these are all things that are superficial. If your goal is to end up in a lifelong marriage and not one that ends at the age of 50, then it would behoove you to spend time to get to know a person better before engaging in a relationship. Speed dating sets expectations and frames the mind in such a way that is self-destructive. I’m sure many of you have heard a couple mutter the phrase, “You know, at first I didn’t think he was my type…”
Speed dating gives more power to the idea of an ideal type. I imagine that most conversations at a speed date goes like this:
Paul: So…what do you do?
Mary: I work in the human resources department at Klein and Klein. How about you?
Paul: I’m in sales, I work all over the city.
Mary: What do you do for fun?
Paul: Oh you know, the usual. TV, movies, I like to bike in the park. What about you?
Mary: I like to cook. I go to these cooking lessons twice a week.
blah blah blah….
And just what do you learn about a person on this speed date? The conversation is shallow, uninteresting. It reveals nothing profound about either person. What’s the point in wasting my time spending ten minutes to tell her what I can write in an email? The only thing that is really going on is ten minutes of sniffing each other out…do I like the sound of her voice? Do I like his hair? Does he look like he’d be good in bed? What is she wearing under that blouse? Would I let him do those things to me? I wonder if he’s lying to me. Do you think she’d make a good mother? Would he make a good husband? It’s an incredibly superficial five minutes. You learn nothing important about this person. I don’t expect anyone to learn anything important about anyone within five minutes of a cold meeting. But what is wrong with meeting someone without expectations or an end goal in mind? I suspect that people come into these events filtering out people who do not fit “their type” and instead disqualify perfectly good candidates.
This speed dating is indicative of our society’s mentality. We all want instant gratification. Speed dating is a crock. What, people are so fucking busy nowadays they can’t take the time to get to know someone? No wonder the marriage counseling industry is so lucrative nowadays. The whole idea of “round robin dating” is shallow and reinforces the mentality of “I want it now!” Dating in this way reinforces the short-term satisfaction mindset. Gone is the big picture. Men and women get married and spend the rest of their lives trying to get to know each other deeply and intimately: can we really figure out whether or not we should invest our time and energy into someone in five minutes?