Motivated by his own romantic woes, actor and comedian Aziz Ansari teamed up with renowned social scientists to investigate one of humanity’s greatest conundrums: love. Ansari’s debut novel has no shortage of satisfied readers (it’s now a New York Times Bestseller), and for good reason. The book is much like Ansari himself – witty, charming, and always funny – but also uses cold, hard data to analyze romance in a deeply thoughtful and practical way.
At first glance, “Modern Romance” may seem like any other biographical novel written by a celebrity, but that is certainly not the case. While technically written by Ansari (his comedy does indeed translate well onto the page), “Modern Romance” gets its scientific credibility from Eric Klinenberg, a sociology professor at New York University and author of “Going Solo”. It’s the contributions of leading social scientists from around the world that really make this book worth reading for more than just amusement. Modern Romance is a novel that provides insight into the history, culture, and science of love, while also providing some tips for finding your soul mate (hint: don’t send “w’sup” texts).
In order to bring “Modern Romance” to fruition, Ansari and Klinenberg used various research methods to collect the necessary data. These methods consisted of in-person focus groups and interviews in major cities around the globe, as well as crowdsourcing information online using a subreddit forum. Armed with this data, Ansari set out to understand how society’s perceptions of romance have changed over generations as a result of emerging technology and cultural shifts.
Ansari examines the effects of technology on our romantic lives with humorous historical overview, spanning from the days of newspaper classified ads and video dating services, to the rise of online dating giants like Match.com and OkCupid. There are also numerous graphs and pictures included in “Modern Romance” to aid the visual learners amongst us! By analyzing the data, Ansari draws some apt conclusions about us and our online interactions that could be rivaled only by Rudder’s “Dataclysm.”
“Modern Romance” also addresses the sociological theories that come into play when dating and searching for love. Ansari discusses “the paradox of choice” that arises as a result of online dating, the difference between “passionate” and “companionate” love and the distress that stems from “settling down” versus just plain “settling”. At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey in the hopes of finding love — it’s a universal human desire — and reading about the theories considered in this book will undoubtedly feel like reading about your own experiences.
As much as I enjoyed this book, I must admit that it’s nothing groundbreaking. The material discussed in “Modern Romance” has certainly been covered elsewhere, in perhaps more exhaustive manners. What makes “Modern Romance” truly worth a read is Ansari’s ability to interpret the madness that is love and present it in a way that is compassionate and wildly entertaining.