Decolonizing, resisting capitalism of love in online dating


Opinion Column: Reason in Revolt


A month ago, after a long day in an undergraduate life filled with academics, extracurriculars and organizational work, I arrived home late at night, plopped on my bed and went through my online dating account on “Her,” a relatively new app for queer identifying women. I’ve gone through a string of online dating apps, albeit not having much luck. But I thought this app was a little different from the rest, so maybe I’d find someone I could connect with. However, in some supernatural way, I looked at my profile pictures with a different lens. A thought came into my mind, “this girl doesn’t love herself.” Flooded with emotional realizations on my lack of self-esteem and body-positivity, I googled for answers. A quote from Bell Hook’s book “All About Love” emphasized the definition of love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth,” according to M. Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled.”

Reading this quote that I thought addressed the lovelessness that I felt in my life, led me to reading bell hook’s “All About Love.” As this book leads me to more self-realizations, I listened and gave more compassion to my soul’s desire for authentic connectivity. I was challenged to apply this new definition of love in my own life. I was motivated to permanently opt-out of online dating. For me, this was not the place where I can come out of my lovelessness. I soon realized that this personal decision became political: Opting-out of the online dating game is an act of decolonial resistance on the capitalism of love. Online dating works generally in this manner: Users input a series of data and with an algorithmic equation of “matchability” and are presented with “matches.” Then, through a personal sifting process of the data of an individual person, a user is motivated to message a person they are interested in, may it be for sexual or romantic ends.

In addition, when in the process of dating, like meeting someone in person, the implication of connectivity is conflated with sexual connectivity. When a sex-driven culture becomes a dominant force in helping people define what it means to be connected with someone, it limits people for other possible kinds of relationships. In reality, connectivity is much more complex, going beyond sexual, intellectual and spiritual connectedness.

Often, people use online dating as a means to meet sexual or romantic encounters or partners while squeezed in busy career-oriented lives. Looking for someone to connect to becomes this technologically driven activity. As more people seek connections through online dating, it becomes a dominant mode of meeting people.

Online dating sites, are the third most paid websites on the Internet, with a generated revenue larger than Internet porn. In addition, contributing 120,000 marriages to the merry-making industry. As of 2013, this is $2 billion industry that capitalizes on this epidemic of lovelessness in today’s augmented reality. Love is commodified. This not only reflects current societal issues but also amplifies these issues.

Users subject themselves on an online resume culture where societal hegemony is exacerbated.

In actuality, these sites give people a certain freedom to be more discriminatory.

According to the Scientific Marriage Foundation, people online tend to inflate their physical heights by 2 inches and salaries by 20 percent. And about half of the users deflate their weight.

In addition, women who are considered attractive have 500 percent more messages than less attractive women users. Black people and Asian men get the short end of the stick. And according to OkCupid statistics, black women receive bias against them by 82 percent of non-black people. Therefore, it is not hard to correlate that dominant beauty culture is associated with whiteness.

In addition, love is more than matching interests. When trying to connect with someone starts from a foundation of online dating’s theory of “safety first” love, it is this online shopping activity that turns people into products. A process that shows the negative effects of virtual distance. It ignores the fact that to enter a relationship is not to compliment your “likes,” but undergo confrontation to identity. This data-driven approach to love can only do so much. Data from online dating platforms do not contain the toughest and most important questions that confront the foundations of strong relationships.

As a queer person of color, my heightened sensitivity to the currents of systematic social and economic oppression pushed me to go through a constant decolonial process of learning, unlearning and relearning of the social conditioning in my everyday life in order to happy. As a result, I came to experience what it means for radical self-love as a political declaration, that I am more than my shackled identities. My deciding to unplug, is to resist the capitalism of love. Reclaiming love’s space in our lives is about taking ownership of our love narrative. Instead of expecting love, creating a space in our lives to be loving. By being present, by opening up to spontaneity and chance encounters. Loving in all our actions means vulnerability and openness and not limiting ourselves to wait until a relationship arrives.

“If instead of saying ‘I am in love’ we say ‘I am loving’ or ‘I will love.’ Our patterns around romantic love are unlikely to change if we do not change our language,” — bell hooks.

Rachel Landingin is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoing in journalism and media studies with minors in art history and digital, media and information technology. Her column, “Reason in Revolt,” runs on alternate Mondays.


Rachel Landingin

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