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” as if it’s a home remedy to be applied to a pesky rash—never mind that I wasn’t even scratching.

“Online dating, once viewed as a refuge for the socially inept and as a faintly disrespectable way to meet other people, is rapidly becoming a fixture of single life,” wrote Amy Harmon in a 2003 piece charmingly titled “Online Dating Sheds Its Stigma as ” According to a 2010 survey of recently married people, dating sites were the third most common way that these couples met.

Whether it’s yet another style-section trend piece or a shame-tinged confession that we’ve signed up for Match.com, we have yet to get collectively comfortable with the idea of looking for love online. These portals not only present the whole human grid of desire and stimulation but make that grid real and attainable, nonvirtual, bounded only by the limitations of curiosity and imagination,” Slater writes in his chapter about the proliferation of niche dating sites. Online dating lays bare the sexual economy in which some people (namely tall, white, wealthy men) are guaranteed winners, and others (black women, older women, short men, fat people of all genders) have a tougher time.

Although 30 million have dabbled with online dating, that number is surprisingly low for something that ten years ago was supposed to be a “fixture” of singledom. Perhaps decades of Hollywood plotlines that have programmed us to look for love at the crowded party or the local dog park have dampened the thrill of finding a perfect match with a few keystrokes. While it’s true that these dynamics exist offline, too, online dating makes it easy to eliminate whole categories of people by checking a few boxes.

Despite her borderline-crazy, data-driven contortions, Webb comes across as more realistic than Slater, with his laissez-faire approach to finding love online.

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

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