In Dec. 2017, short story, “Cat Person,” by Kristen Roupenian was released by the New Yorker, which instantly went viral. The story is told from the perspective of a young college student whose brief flirtatious encounter with a man she met at her part-time job turns into a “relationship” over the phone. It isn’t until an uncomfortable night out with the man when she discovers much of what she knew about him was fantasized during a digital fling.
Over 49.6 million people in the U.S. have tried online dating, according to a study conducted in May 2017. Based on the amount of people who have turned to dating apps, whether for amusement or with the hopes of finding love, it is safe to say that online dating will not be going away any time soon. Until the last few years, this digital method of seeking compatibility came with a negative stigma stuck to it.
Because we live in a digital age in which children are more fluent in the use of technology than their parents, it is only natural for our society to adapt its traditional methods in order adjust. As more and more people join in on putting their fate in the hands of a single swipe, literature will also familiarize itself with this “romantic” phenomenon.
It is inevitable that more and more short stories, poems, and other forms of literature will be filled with anecdotes inspired by today’s online experiences—be they positive or negative. Perhaps some stories will cast online dating in a positive light, promoting this method of finding someone based on happy endings. On the other hand, horror stories are sure to have their special place as well to provide as amusement or warning to those who dare think about joining the club. But will these stories serve a greater purpose?
Dating stories are weaved all throughout literature. Though we have far surpassed the traditional methods of courting identified in centuries old literature, the concept remains the same. How these stories are told (and which part of the story we focus on) is what may end up surprising us. In the most simplistic sense, I imagine a Romeo and Juliet-esque telling of two forbidden lovers only able to connect using their keyboard, separated only by distance and the disapproval of others.
The experience of online dating has been teased in the arts before—Nora Ephron’s film, You’ve Got Mail, immediately comes to mind. But how will the story change? Is Tinder bound to show up in upcoming contemporary classics? If so, maybe there will be more writing that will hone in on the psychology in terms of what goes on a person’s mind while choosing to look for a mate in a format that resembles window shopping. More often than not, actual stories stemming from dating apps do not include happy endings, but tales of shame, horror, or disinterestedness. It will be interesting to see how it all translates on paper in the literary future.