Computers have pushed out Cupid in China's dating scene

10:26, September 25, 2010      

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China has been known for its scale. But anyone who has seen a group speed dating scene in China would probably still be taken aback.

Instead of a candle-lit dinner table with a violinist playing in the background, the hundreds of prospective daters are sit in long rows, exchanging information while facing each other under the bright lights of a banquet hall of a conference center. Where else could you fit in so many people?

This, of course, couldn't be organized by some good-hearted old lady of the neighborhood committee. Thanks to technology, Internet-based match-making companies can easily host events like this. Leading match-making Internet companies of Chinese boast millions of members.

When new technology has changed our lives, from how you read to where to find good restaurants, technology also seems to be an indispensable tool to help people find someone to tie the knot with.

In a fast moving society, Chinese particularly need the Web to find the right partner.

Gong Haiyan, the founder of jiayuan.com, told me in an interview years ago that urbanization and migrations, the themes of modern China, have hauled people to places thousands miles away from their hometown, and the process has also broken down the traditional system that once helped them build a family.

Parents and relatives are no longer able to offer help to the faraway youngsters. Except for some State-owned enterprises and government agencies, company heads no longer see the personal life of subordinates as something they should worry about. Bars and clubs, places to meet strangers, are still forbidden zones to many Chinese, who find the idea of finding a date there unnerving.

So the hunt for romance goes online. It may be practical and convenient, but does technology facilitate romance or does it sabotage it?

Dating companies are providing more features to improve communication and help those questing for love to find more out about each other.

Sophisticated questionnaires are designed that, it's claimed, can truthfully reflect one's spiritual status, thus enhance the success rate of matches. Precautions are in place, such as submitting photocopies of your ID card and diploma, to prevent fraud.

But technology, however advanced, can hardly replace the real meeting of seeing, hearing and feeling. Perhaps it takes out the best part of such encounters, improvisation and suspense.

While technology makes it much easier to meet people, it may also raise people's expectation of the relationship. When dates can seemingly be so easily fixed with a few clicks in front of the computer, it may also create the illusion that someone better will come sooner or later if you simply hang on. So never mind if this one doesn't fit.

Is that true? The easier it is to get connected, the less effort one wants to spare to cultivate the relationship.

When speedy and shallow meetings are easy to find, deep meaningful engagements be-come a precious scarcity.

Distance creates beauty. It may be a cliché, but absence makes the heart grow fonder. New gadgets have long made instant connection anywhere and anytime possible, but we have lost the feeling of missing another.

A friend once joked that he would write a eulogy mourning the sorrow and joy brought by separation and reunion. When he went to college three decades ago, he didn't get chance to go home until two years later.

A picture was the only thing that helped him pull through. Lengthy letters and the emotions attached have been replaced by easy phone calls and instant messages. This is a good thing for sure, but the old symbols of long-term relations are also gone.

For many generations, Chinese said that if two people were bound to be together, the god who unites people in marriages would tie an invisible red thread between their ankles. Then however far they were separated, they would meet eventually.

That is only a fairytale. But in this over-connected world, it may be worthwhile turning off the computer occasionally, and write a letter by hand to someone whom you really care.

The author is an editor with the Global Times. [email protected] globaltimes.com.cn

By Lu Jingxian Source: Global Times

(Editor:叶欣)

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