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January 4, 2013

Slate: The horrors of online dating

LOS ANGELES — Meet Jacob, a thirtysomething, single Portlander on the prowl. He describes himself as "average-looking." Girlfriends have called him "lazy, aimless, and irresponsible with money." He doesn't care much about "a solid credit score," "a 40-hour workweek" or settling down. Thanks to online dating sites, Jacob pursues dates with "one or two very pretty, ambitious women a week." He recently ended a two-year relationship with a 22-year-old; he's currently juggling flings with "a paralegal and a lawyer who work at the same law firm, a naturopath, a pharmacist and a chef."

Jacob, as Atlantic writer Dan Slater frames him, is the embodiment of a new dating market where the allure of "online romance is threatening monogamy." Whenever he meets another woman online, Jacob (not his real name) thinks: "This person could be exclusively for me, but so could the other two people I'm meeting this week." Why have a real relationship, Slater asks, when there are so many attractive, successful partners waiting online?

I don't know — maybe because we're not all aimless and lazy thirtysomething straight dudes? Jacob may be meeting a buffet of sexy professionals and college students through his online dating profiles, but those women are meeting . . . Jacob. Slater doesn't interview the paralegal, the lawyer, the naturopath, the pharmacist, the chef, or the twentysomething about their experiences dating online. They might speak to an alternate narrative of online dating: This Jacob could be exclusively for me, but so could the other two Jacobs I'm meeting this week — Oh, God. Why settle down when there are so many other unsuccessful, unattractive partners with whom you could make a horrific, lifelong mistake?

Alexis Madrigal has already administered a takedown of Slater's central assertion that online dating has turned plugged-in yuppies into commitment-phobes. Marriage will live on, no matter how valiantly Jacob scams on women.

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