McDonaldization of Online Dating Essay
McDonaldization of Online Dating
McDonald’s is one of the most recognizable companies in the world, they have served billions and have restaurants in nearly every country in the world. In a society that greatly values efficiency McDonald’s could be looked at as the ideal model for how to run a corporation. In recent years, the ideologies that McDonald’s uses in running their company are being absorbed into our everyday lives. In 1996 sociologist, George Ritzer, came out with a book explaining this process, even creating the term, “McDonaldization,” to describe it. Essentially, he explains how, “…principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as of the rest of the world” (Ritzer 1). This model, based off of the world’s largest chain of hamburger fast-food restaurants, is one of the most influential facets of the global marketplace, and its assembly-line process of doing business is driving down costs and skyrocketing profitability. However, these cost cuts do not come without a price. Although McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurant chains like it have been highly successful in terms of efficiency, there are subtle negative effects on the quality of the product and society as a whole. In recent years one of last industries that would be suspected of McDonaldization, has in fact adopted this business model, the world of dating.
Modern technologies are making it more and more easier to meet new people, with as little face-to-face interaction as possible. A most recent example of this is the dating application, Tinder, which may just be the purest example of how McDonaldization has seeped so far into the floorboards of our society that it is now even affecting the way people are meeting potential life partners. The application shows a picture of one user to another and allows the user to anonymously like or pass them. If two users like each other then it results in a “match” and Tinder introduces the two users and opens a chat. Only after the two users connect solely because they find the other aesthetically pleasing, then do they get to know anything about the other person on a level deeper than their appearance. Eliminating time lags and distance, Tinder bridges the gap between digital and physical dating, enabling users to experience the instant gratification that modern society holds in such high regards. While Tinder is just one example of this, online dating as a whole has become McDonaldized, and all of the principles that constitute the process can be applied to this modern form of dating.
To start, the principle of control is, “ the standardization and uniformity of the corporation and the replacement of humans by non-human technologies” (Ritzer). In the means of online dating this would be the replacement of meeting someone in person and feeling a connection, to talking to a person from behind a computer screen. The principle of predictability goes along with this. Predictability is how the services have become uniform and standard. This means that no matter where a person goes, they will receive the same service and receive the same product every time when interacting with the McDonaldized organization. An online dating profile can only be so customizable. You can view a person’s career, location, their hobbies, but there is only so much words on a screen can say about someone, and essentially all of these profiles can begin to seem a lot alike. What these profiles lack is the way someone’s face lights up when they are talking about their favorite book, how they get embarrassed when you compliment them, or even something as simple as the way they smell.
Although the romantic in everyone likes to believe that they can find their soulmate, the chances of meeting them through a computer screen seem a lot less likely. When online dating, for the most part, you are just looking at photo, after photo of people, and without human interaction you don’t much of a deeper connection unless you provoke a conversation with all of the hundreds of profiles you are faced with. The next principle, calculability means that “the objective should be quantifiable (sales) rather than subjective (taste).”(Ritzer) McDonaldization developed the notion that quantity equals quality, and that a large amount of product delivered to the customer in a short amount of time is the same as one high quality product. Essentially, calculability is the idea that you get out, what you give into it. Forming an online relationship does not take much effort at all, but in doing so you are jeopardizing the quality of the relationship. An example of this would be if you are going out and making an effort to talk to, connect and form real world relationships with people, you are much more likely to find someone that you could have a meaningful relationship with instead of simply posting an online profile and having a computer between you and the person you are talking to.
Online dating websites use the idea that joining is “simple and easy” to attract new customers, but that’s not the way dating should be. Like anything else in life if you want to get something done the best way possible you need to invest time and effort in order into it to see the results you are looking for. You get what you give. The last principle that ties into this is efficiency. Efficiency in terms of McDonaldization is the optimal method for accomplishing a task. The example that Ritzer uses for McDonald’s is, the fastest way to get from being hungry to being full. Efficiency in McDonaldization means that every aspect of the organization is geared toward the minimization of time. For online dating efficiency would be how long it would take someone from being single to in a relationship. Efficiency could be considered the most important principle due to how much of today’s society has this need to get what they want when they want it. However, with efficiency, when getting something faster you are risking a lower quality product, good things take time.
It takes time to make a good hamburger, much like it takes time to form a good relationship. Hypothetically speaking, if you are hungry and seeking a hamburger you have two options, a fast food or a sit down restaurant. You could get a cheap, low quality burger immediately, through a drive-through window, with limited human interaction and right when you want it, one that it much like a lot all of the other fast food burgers you’ve had before. You also have the option to go out and take the time and invest the effort into seeking out the best burger restaurant and going there and getting that once in a lifetime, high quality, satisfying burger, and even then, it’s not just about getting the burger, it’s about going out and enjoying the experience of sitting in the restaurant and waiting for your food. That is how online dating could be viewed, as settling for a McDonald’s quarter-pounder when you really want a gourmet burger. Also, when you go to a drive-thru you are missing the experience of dining out, like how if you spend your dating years behind a computer, you are missing out on the experience of going out into the world and meeting new people and trying new things. For fast food restaurants the constant repetition of bland, low-quality ingredients being put into exactly the same thing millions of times a day, is not at all the
problem, but is in fact the solution, and it the very basis of McDonald’s highly successful business model.
Their products may not be ideal taste-wise, and not at all nutritional, but the customer’s know what they are getting. Online dating websites operate in a similar fashion. These companies are showing thousands of potential singles to each other everyday, and like fast-food, these results are usually low-quality and the same thing over and over again. However, these dating websites are making a significant profit due to monthly membership fees and money from advertising, when what they are doing is nothing more the serving up the same bland results time after time. The advertisements that you see for these websites include statistics about how an increasing number of marriages today are started on the internet. What these companies fail to mention is how the divorce rate in America right now is tragically high. In her 2013 piece, Analyzing Divorce From Cultural And Network Approaches, Tamara Afifi explains this tragic statistic. She discusses the many factors of such a high divorce rates, such as, the economy and also mentions the fact that this can be caused due to people rushing into relationships. Online dating makes it incredibly easy to meet people quickly, thus rushing into relationships, and ultimately, shortening the lifespan of such relationships.
This can be seen in the media all the time, and most notably, Kim Kardashian’s incredibly short marriage to Kris Humphries. Tamara Afifi also goes on to explain the high costs of divorces and how lawyers benefit from this. Additionally, there are new websites where you can get a divorce online since it is so common today, making it fast and convenient, with little human interacting. This suggests that even the marriage/divorce industry is succumbing to McDonaldization. The people behind dating websites are trying to run a company and are focused on making money. In her piece, The Price of Love, Emi Berry explains how dating websites care nothing more than the profit they receive from people looking for love. She explains this best when she says, “Money can’t buy me love. Money can, however, help find that love you seek via a dating service.” Dating websites are following the principles of McDonaldization. They are looking to get as much revenue as they can as fast as they can. They have essentially created a conveyer-belt method for getting single individuals into relationships, and at the end of the day, they are just people trying to run a company. Dan Slater, a former litigator, talked to several individuals, married, single, and going through divorce about online dating to better other stand the topic first hand, and made a list of common ideas that he heard during his interviews.
This list includes ideas such as, “Internet dating has made people more disposable.” “Internet dating may be partly responsible for a rise in the divorce rates. Low quality, unhappy and unsatisfying marriages are being more visible due to Internet dating sites. Internet dating can help people of all ages realize that there’s no need to settle for a mediocre relationship.”(Slater) The rise of divorce caused by online relationships could be us to the idea of something seeming “too good to be true”. Like for example, when you see a McDonald’s Big Mac on a commercial, it looks like a delicious, expertly-crafted burger, go to the store and order one however, and if you are expecting to see the same burger you saw in the pictures then you are about to be extremely let down. The same principles can apply to dating profiles. The beautiful thing about the internet is that you can show people looking at your profile all of your best qualities, while hiding your less desirable ones, thus making people seem much more appealing online. When couples from online dating websites meeting in real life, they may not be all the seemed to be online. However, people might try to make things works because they believe that the person they are meeting in real life is just as great as the one they met online, only to be disappointed later on when they are not all they turned out to be.
However, is all online dating necessarily bad? You hear many success stories on television, as well as real life, and theres a positive and negative side to most things. In the case of online dating, all you really hear about in the media is the good and happy relationships that come out of this new technology. What they fail to mention is the disappointment, short-term relationships, and they large amounts of money that people are spending on these websites to be connected with people. Yes, it is true that these websites allow you meet people you may not have ever met without them, as well as match you with people who the website feels you would be compatible with. However, when behind a screen it is very easy to be something you’re not, and with lack of actual interaction with the other person you are missing out on so much more. When you meet someone in person there is a connection that you get that is unlike anything else that can be felt through a computer screen. So while online dating does have it’s benefits, it just seems that not only are there more negatives that can come out of online dating, but its also takes away what human interaction was left, especially in a world where everyday human interactions are slowly being replaced with electronics, self-checkout at the grocery store, atm machines, shopping, and now even something that’s been around since the beginning of time, companionship, is being computerized.
This just makes you think, how long is this going to keep going on until human interaction is completely obsolete? So at the end of the day, we are living in a modern world, one where McDonaldization is inevitably taking over the way that most organizations are run. It is important to remember this process, has it’s benefits, but also many negatives. With it’s principles of, efficiency, calculability, control and predictability, this concept is becoming the new norm, faster than you may realize. This process is making the world more technological, and computerizing everything. You have to ask yourself, when is it too far? Should something that’s been around as long as dating be something that is now done through technology? and is McDonaldization in fact, making the world a bigger place by isolating everyone behind their own computer screen?
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Afifi, Tamara D, et al. “Analyzing Divorce From Cultural And Network Approaches.” Journal Of Family Studies 19.3 (2013): 240-253. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 7 Apr. 2014. SLATER, DAN. “A Million First Dates How Online Dating Is Threatening Monogamy.” Atlantic Monthly (10727825) 311.1 (2013): 40-46. Literary Reference Center. Web. 7 Apr. 2014. BERRY, EMI. “The Price Of Love.” Money (14446219) 162 (2013): 52. Business Source Complete. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.