Aziz Ansari reads an extract from his new book on the potential perils of dating in the digital age.
Asking someone out on a date is a simple task that frequently becomes a terrifying conundrum of fear, self-doubt, and anxiety. It’s full of tough decisions: How do I ask? In person? Phone call? Text? What do I say? Could this person be the person I end up spending the rest of my life with? What if this is the only person for me? What if I fuck it all up with the wrong message? Though technology has added a few new, modern quirks to this dilemma, asking a new person to go on a romantic outing has never been easy. It means declaring your attraction to someone and putting yourself out there in a huge way, while risking the brutal possibility of rejection – or, in the modern era, even an unexplained, icy-cold silence. For the modern dater the first decision is picking the medium to use: call or text. Some people even throw e-mail or social media messaging into the mix. Just a generation ago the landline or even a newspaper classified ad would have been a first stop to finding romance. Today, though, we look at our screens almost immediately. In fact, for many daters a large chunk of their romantic world lives in their phone world. A quick note: The numbers show that men are still overwhelmingly the ones expected to initiate the first ask. In 2012 only 12 percent of American women had asked anyone out in the previous year. So when discussing this, I use the situation of a guy asking a girl out. The issues discussed generally translate both ways (minus the issue of girls hating dudes initiating with penis photos). All right, let’s see what the overall trends are. In 2013 the Match.com survey researchers asked Americans: “If you were asking someone out on a first date, which method of communication would you be most likely to use to get in contact?” Here’s what they found:
Two things to note here. First, the drop in phone calls as a preferred method when you change age groups (52 percent to 23 percent) is stark. Among teenagers the percentage who use text messaging is even higher. In a 2012 textPlus survey, 58 percent of Americans between ages thirteen and seventeen said they’d ask someone out with a text message.1 It’s clear that younger people, who are growing up in a more text-heavy culture, are much more comfortable living their romantic lives via text. Second, over time, so are all of us. In 2010 only 10 percent of young adults used texts to ask someone out for the first time, compared with 32 percent in 2013. Asking out someone via text is on course to be the new norm: The phone call is quickly being phased out. It’s worth pausing here to note that this is an insanely fast transformation in how we communicate. For many generations young people used telephone calls to reach out to possible romantic partners. It was a harrowing experience that we all could relate to. Before the initial ask, you would hear terrifying rings and then an answer. It could be the object of your desire or a roommate or even a parent. At that point you would ask to speak with the person you wanted to ask out. If they were around, the person would finally say, ‘Hello,’ and a mild panic would ensue. You would have to spend some time chatting them up, trying to form a bond while also setting things up for a possibly awkward segue into a date ask.
Extract taken from Modern Romance, written and read by Aziz Ansari.
This piece was first featured on summerofpenguin.com, a month-long celebration of stories and ideas on the London Underground’s WIFI network in partnership with TFL and Virgin Media. So if you happen to be travelling by Tube this summer, be sure to read a story on us.