Once considered the province of the desperate, online dating has come into its own. More than one in five people between 25 and 34 have used a site or mobile app, according to the Pew Research Center, and a majority consider it a good way to meet someone. But something sad happened on the way to respectability: Looking for love has become exhausting — "like a second job," says comedian and newly minted dating expert Aziz Ansari.
Ansari — government employee Tom Haverford on "Parks and Recreation"— teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg to write "Modern Romance," a funny and scholarly examination of the 24-hour romance cycle.
"A very powerful theme that emerged in every conversation we had about online dating was that it's exhausting," Klinenberg said.
"First of all, when you're talking about more traditional sites" — like Match.com or OkCupid — "it involves doing the same thing you do at work: sitting in front of your computer and pouring over data."
The "data" might be more interesting, but still involves analysis. "There's something that's weirdly alluring about being online and seeing all these options," he said, "but then people start to realize they aren't options until they express interest in you. In fact you probably have to write to many people before you get a response — unless you are an unusually attractive person, particularly a woman."
"A lot of people we talked to would just spend hours online, not just sorting through profiles, but engaging in long Internet exchanges, long messaging exchanges. It feels a bit like sending [work] e-mails," he said.
Klinenberg's scholarly analysis was confirmed by a local online dating veteran, Newbury Street hair stylist Ashley Mason ("Trying to stay a Hepburn in a Hilton World," as her Instagram tag line puts it).
"Just finding a correct site that suits you is a project in itself," said Mason, 29, a senior stylist at SalonCapri. "JDate, eHarmony, OkCupid, Tinder, PlentyOfFish, Hinge, Match.com . . . who even knows anymore? Do you find more invested people on paid sites? Or free?"
Then there's getting to know someone before getting to know someone. That means e-mailing, texting, online chatting — and intensive Googling. "You become exhausted before you even meet," Mason said.
Mason is taking a break from everything but Hinge, a mobile app that matches users who share Facebook friends, and she looks at that only when she's bored.
"I still believe in love at first sight," she said.