the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The “Like Generation” in Dating


I sometimes forget that I met my ex-wife Sophia online, not on a dating site, but on a long-vanished forum on LA Freenet, an experiment in free internet service in Los Angeles.

Our first conversation was about children’s books. I said my favorite was Curious George Goes to the Zoo.  She liked The Little Prince. Neither of us had read the other’s fave, so we agreed to go to the library to check out the competition.

A few days we emailed each other with the results.  She found Curious George “childish.” I found the Little Prince “pretentious and boring.” It was love at first sight.

Don’t laugh.  This is how it works in the movies.  Imagine Sarah Bullock, playing a conservationist with Greenpeace, pushing past the secretary to confront the CEO of the oil company which plans to drill off of Venice Beach, played by George Clooney.   She takes one look at him, and what do you know — this is the same guy she had sex with last night after meeting him at the bar in the Mexican café in Westwood!

Opposites attract in movies.   But what about in real life?

Personally, if I met some woman who was into rodeos, it might be fun to learn more about her passions.   I know we are all taught to be confident in our own beliefs and likes, but what ever happened to learning about new things?

Can I also say that I am a Democrat and Sophia was a Republican?   I wonder if we met in today’s angrier America whether we could even get past the first swipe.    Yes, our views were important, but love has not boundaries, right?

One of the most interesting developments in online dating today is the need to judge each other by the most superficial of things — our cultural interests. Perhaps it is the result of “swipe and meet” apps where there are no questionnaires like on E-Harmony, and the bios are the length of Twitter updates. When using an app like Tinder or Bagel Meets Coffee, we know nothing about the person’s moral or artistic character, even after a first date.  The best way to judge worthiness (other than looks and chemistry) is to grab information about their “likes,” much as we do on Facebook.   But these likes are not the old-fashioned “walks in the rain” and “pina coladas,” which are activities done as part of romantic rituals, but media-created products that are consumed, such as music and tv shows.  But what do these “likes” really say anything about us other than the fact we pushed a button?

One of my dates went completely downhill when I revealed that I never listened to NPR, as if my lack of radio-listening was a sign that I was a Tea Party member.  I asked another woman if she wanted to see a Broadway musical, and her response was “that she does NOT see musicals.” It was a confusing moment, because I wasn’t sure if she was rejecting me or had some terrible fear of actors belting out songs.

Maybe it is a New York thing, but there has been so much name-dropping on my dates, from alternative bands to Bjork exhibits, that I almost fear being banned from a dating site if I mention my love of ABBA or Curious George Goes to the Zoo.   Before dating, my biggest fear was that I would forget to shave.   Now, I feel like I need to read the right books.

“No, I’m sorry. I haven’t listened to “Serial” yet.   No, I haven’t read Dave Eggers yet.  But I do have a blog.”

“Like Mashable or TechCrunch?”

“No.  A personal blog.”

“What do you write about?”

“You know.   Usual stuff.   Like telling all my friends and the general public all about my dates.”

“Do you make any money doing this?”


“Hmm.  I saw you went to film school.   I love movies.   I love Wes Anderson.  You see any good movies lately?”

“Well, last night I watched this movie on cable called “Quartet” about a bunch of elderly opera singers in a British nursing home. It was pretty good.”

“I don’t think we are a good match.”

Do you think common interests in music, TV shows, or movies is the best barometer of a good match? If I watch Duck Dynasty does that brand me as a Republican and Jon Stewart as a liberal, and does it matter what we CONSUME in the media?   Is this “like” mentality, even in dating, the fault of social media?


  1. Ms. Moon

    Ah, they’ve always said you should pair up with people who have similar interests. I’ve been married to my husband for thirty years and I think we’re about as happy as any married couple on earth and we could barely be more dissimilar. He was a jock, I was a hippie. He loves hunting and sports and left to my own devices, I’d probably be a vegetarian and I go from one decade to another without watching any sporting events anywhere.
    And yet- we share heart-beliefs. That family is important. That love is possible and real and is worth working for. That we should be kind. That we should be honest. That respect is very important. That couples should have fun together. He doesn’t always understand why I do the things I do nor do I always understand why he does the things he does. But we both understand that we must do the things we do in order to be the people we are. The people who love each other as we are.
    And I will say that politically we have very similar beliefs and neither one of us gives a damn about religion. Which is also very helpful. would never in a million years have hooked us up, though. And yet, I think we love each other more every day. So there you go. My perspective.
    I think respect has a lot to do with it all. You have to respect each other as human beings and if you don’t ever get below the surface of knowing a person, how are you going to know if you have that respect or not?

  2. Average Jane

    I somehow missed the memo that everyone was supposed to listen to NPR. I listen to the radio to hear music and preferably sing along. I don’t want to hear people droning on about stuff.

    To some extent, I do think that compatible entertainment tastes are a good sign. My husband and I have pretty similar tastes in movies and TV shows, which gives us a good excuse to hang out and something to talk about afterward. (I use us as an example only because we get along pretty well and we’ve been married for 20 years so far.)

    Then again, we have a lot of separate interests as well. Our musical tastes diverge quite a bit and I’m a reader while he is not. I love to get together with friends and play games for hours on end and he’d rather do pretty much anything else than that. I think I would say that the similarities matter more early in the relationship when you still want to be together a lot, but become less important over time as long as you’re fundamentally on the same page about most of the big ideas about your lives.

  3. Veronica

    When I was in my 20s, the shared interest part was not that important. There were so many things I hadn’t tried, done, or thought about that I was wide open to any new experience. Decades later after much experimentation, I know what I like–and what I don’t like. I like to think I’m still open to new experiences but I am also completely comfortable saying No to those that don’t interest me.

    I married young, really young–before I had learned to separate “real me” from “aspirational me” to “people-pleasing me.” Before I had even had a chance for my interests to mature.

    I am still married to the same guy, and while we share values and habits, we have zero common interests. We never like the same TV shows, rarely watch movies together, have no common hobbies, don’t like the same music, enjoy different sorts of people, never read the same books, are comfortable in different kinds of social settings, etc. He’s into gardening and I enjoy his enjoyment of that, but I’m not into professional sports, action movies, sci-fi and fantasy, history, cars and engines, musicals, or any of his other interests. Likewise, he has zero interest in art, poetry, blogging, social media, health and medicine, photography, memoir, music, or indie movies–all things I care about in a big way.

    We struggle, mightily, to find things to do together. We do both like the outdoors, so there’s that.

    We have managed to stay together by not trying to force the other person to share our individual interests and letting each person pursue what they love. That’s good, BUT if I were single now and dating again, shared “Likes” would be a much bigger deal to me. Even though I’m married, I’ve spent most of my adult life doing things by myself. To have a partner who shared a poem with me or who had a Facebook account or who liked the movie “Nebraska” or music festivals or photography or art or cooking would be huge. I’m not talking about liking everything I like, but having 2-3 things in common. I’d love that. Not having things in common “Likes” would be a deal-breaker for me if I were dating again.

    But as you pointed out, that’s the weakness of the dating app. When you date people in real life, you normally meet people you have *something* in common with: work, hometown, hobby, organization or cause. You have a chance to get to know them a bit from that shared something and then go on a date to get to know them better. If you use an app, you’re limited. Now if you got bold and filled out the extensive personality and questionnaires the real dating sites use, you might find someone who is enough like you to be comfortable but different enough from you to be interesting.

  4. Marie

    I can’t even begin to describe how disappointed I am in the online datingshere…

    Yes. I do believe a part of us is defined by what we love to watch and listen to. These things we like are an indicator to our depth, or our shallowness. One guy I dated had a TV in every single room in the house, including the garage and one hanging over his outside hot tub. Should I be bothered by the fact that an individual is uncomfortable with the silence making the sounds coming from his head unbearable? Hell yes!

    Is this like generation the fault of social media? Or is it the other way around? Is social media the fault of this like generation? We created the social media, it didn’t create us. The social media may be responsible for influencing those growing up with it. Or maybe not. Am I who I am because I watched the Flintstones and the Bugs Bunny show for hours as a child?

    Are we all just a big ol’ science project for the creators of these things that rule our lives?

  5. nance

    I read this and the previous post with interest because while I am not Out There, my two twentysomething sons are.

    It all sounds absolutely Awful.

    It sounds workmanlike, impersonal, and like a big chore. I know I’m an Old Lady now, married for thirty-four years, but what in the hell happened out there? Certainly it was generations/years in the making, and several Cultural Factors had a hand in it, but it’s all quite sad to me. Something in me wants it all to blow up, explode or implode, and have a big Do Over.

    How can anyone get past all the gossipy nature of social media platforms, wherein everyone can know everything about you in a click, long enough to want to truly Get To Know You in person?

    Again, time for a Do Over.

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