Friday, March 7, 2008

tech take-up and the dating curve

For the first two months after my mom upgraded her cell phone she would hang up on me every time I called. It wasn't that she didn't want to talk to me, it was that she couldn't figure out how her new phone worked. I always got an instant call back. Who can really blame her for not wanting to invest any energy into her phone. She can dial, and send me photos of dogs...and that's what's important.

But what happens when 50 and 60 somethings try out a new online dating site? I'm making an assumption here that the internet dating learning curve might be something like the cell phone learning curve for some older adults. It's a new way of communicating that hasn't always existed. Many dating websites are set up to be intuitive and facilitate quick communication via IM, text or internal email. Resorting to a good old fashioned phone call is not usually an option. Does this shake the boomers, or is everyone just adjusting?

Here are a few real life stories from two lovely ladies I know.

Case Study one: relative of friend, "Betty," 50s
Betty meets a nice man on They start to exchange messages about having dinner together and Betty provides her phone number. "Bill" confirms by email that he would love to have dinner and waits for Betty's email about where. Meanwhile, Betty starts cooking dinner, gets all gussied up and waits for a phone call. They never meet.

Case Study two: relative of friend, "Anne," 60s
Anne signs up on eHarmony and learns how to search the profiles. She quickly gets confused by the prescripted stages of communication that eHarmony forces you through. After sending multiple stock messages with no replies, she abandons ship and goes on a date with a neighbor she met while walking her dogs. "How could I communicate anything personal about myself using that thing," she complained.

But there are success stories too, of course.

I regularly orchestrate multi-friend events entirely over text and things work out fine. I even have a friend who has never once talked to her boyfriend on the phone, only via text. But there is a learning curve for figuring out how to communicate on a dating site, via IM or text message (let alone figure out how to send and receive these messages). Are these skills becoming necessary for older single adults?

And this goes for all ages, but it seems that calling your date has become scarier now that you can send a text or email.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just found this great article about about the texting age gap in the New York Times from a few days ago: