Algorithms rule our lives. We’ve turned our world over to computers which take in data, sort, collate, analyze and categorize us at every level. Resumes have to contain the right terms and keywords. Financial institutions examine us at the subatomic level to rate us. Insurance companies troll through our medical records, likes, habits, hobbies, etc to determine how much of a risk we are going to be in 50 years from now. Heck, we don’t know anyone who is the same person they were 5 years ago let alone who they’ll be 50 years from now. But, the computers seem to think they know.
All this categorization, combined with the hectic pace of modern life has given birth to another computerized service, the dating site. There are generic dating sites, Christian dating sites, Country dweller dating sites, ethnic specific dating sites, mixed ethnicity dating sites, LGBT dating sites … you get the picture, there are lots and lots of dating sites. But they all share one common factor, they sort people by an algorithmic formula. At first, this may seem like a good idea since it pairs people based on points of similarity. And if one point of interest is good, then how much better would 20 be?
And that’s where our problem with the algorithm based approach happens. As romance writers we believe in that funny old time saying that. “Opposites attract.” That’s not to say that you have to be diametrically opposed to your potential mate, far from it. But it does mean that there need to be some differences to add that “variety is the spice of life” quality.
When we first met, Colleen had absolutely no interest in history, geopolitics, militaria, or any of the myriad ‘guy’ things that stirred my imagination. Conversely, I had no interest in weaving, fiber art, beading, or – eewh! – romance novels. But, over time, I have become more conversant about some of her interests and passionate about others, and vice versa. Why? Because our differences stretch us beyond our comfortable, self defined boundaries. She turned me from shunning science fiction to an avid fan. I have a greater appreciation of the clothing I wear and the artistry of decoration thanks to her tutelage. On the other hand, I like to think I’ve given her a better understanding of how history and geography need to be considered in shaping policy. In short, our discussions are never boring because there is always something new to learn or ponder. We ‘fill in the gaps’ in each other’s knowledge bases and we build a better understanding of who each of us is.
This is not something an algorithm can capture. It’s the result of that all important component in romance fiction, chemistry. Chemistry, simply defined, is that spark; that moment of knowing which occurs when two people meet. It’s the spark generated by chemistry that gives you the impetus to reach beyond your boundaries; to actually listen to a different point of view; to participate in the interests of another person. It’s what makes you try new things; share experiences; and discover the wonders of a wider, fuller, more fulfilling world.
So, rather than sitting in front of a glowing screen searching through endless profiles on a website, get out there. Make time to join groups, engage in activities, meet new people and look for the spark. We have dear friends who met each other at a dining out group. Another couple met through a shared charity work experience. Others met at school while taking a class in a subject that interested them. Among our acquaintances, very few have found meaningful, lasting relationships through online dating services. It’s probably because electrons can cause sparks but they can’t convey them.
Once you find that chemistry with someone, remember it’s a delicate balancing act to engage with your partner and still maintain yourself. It requires compromise, respect, acceptance, giving (and forgiving) among other things. That’s a lot of what love is. But it can be done and it can be a lot of fun along the way.