For many millennials, finding romantic love in digital age New York City appears to be unbearably challenging. We are active participants in the swipe economy which attempted to disrupt romance but actually sabotaged our love lives.
After the launch of Tinder in 2012, online dating is now the norm. We re-invented heterosexual relationships in self-destructive ways: we added ghosting to communication and regard monogamy as an outdated idea. Why not? Unlimited choices are presented right in front of us! Paradoxically, in a hidden corner of our subconscious, we still expect our date to text back to us and somehow hope to find the one big love of our life.
Yes, I am one of these millennials who is burned out by modern dating. But instead of staying unhappily single and questioning our approaches, maybe we should collectively voice our hopes and disappointments of this NYC phenomenon. Let’s honor our stories as solace to those who shared the same frustrations and entertaining guidance for those who did not have the opportunity to experience our dating culture.
Inspired by speculations on future romance like Spike Jonze’s “Her”, Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Lobster”, Black Mirror’s “Hang the DJ”, Gary Shteyngart’s “Super Sad True Love Story” and love cliches from early 2000s romantic comedies like Donald Petrie’s “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and Darren Star’s “Sex and the City”, Super Frustrated NYC Modern Love Stories depicts how millennials currently fall in love in the age of online dating.
Extracting storytelling essence from interview, podcast, essay and Instagram, I want to re-imagine Humans of New York, New York Times Modern Love and Overheard New York through voice and space.
Popular books about contemporary relationship like Aziz Ansari’s “Modern Romance” and Blythe Roberson’s “How to date men when you hate men” as well as Netflix’s recently released reality TV show “Dating Around” confirm that there is a fairly high demand for this subject. Millennials who are single and dating like to talk about their experiences that many of those who are not part of the group enjoy listening to.
Aziz Ansari discussed in his book that many millennials are terrified of phone calls as our ability to converse spontaneously weakens in a text-filled world. It is time to rebuild what we have lost and reintroduce voice into our lives.
Due to the time limitation I have here, I reached out to my immediate community, which is the ITP family and undergraduate friends from other NYU departments (Economics, Communication, Education, Studio Art, Photography) asking for people who are interested in sharing their dating experience with me. I conducted 30 in-depth interviews where I spent 1.5 hour with each interviewees learning about their background, value, expectation, dating approach, past and present relationships. 60% of them were women and 40% men. Age between 24 and 34. Work in art, entertainment, tech and finance. 25 out of 30 ppl that expressed a lot of frustrations with dating are heterosexual millennials so moving forward I decided to focus on their perspective which is the community I am part of.
Through these interviews, I gathered a list of problems I observed.
It is not cool to label yourself as a “boyfriend/girlfriend hunter” and hence most people present themselves as being open minded to any kinds of relationship even though deep down you are looking for a Catholic husband.
Effective communication is difficult especially when we have different understanding in vocabularies. A conventional relationship that you refer your partner as your boyfriend/girlfriend is now being referred as a “exclusive relationship”, “sexually exclusive relationship”, “serious relationship”, “very seriously committed relationship” or all of the above combined. Simultaneously, there is also “casual relationship” and some people also regard “exclusive relationship” less serious than a “serious relationship”. You never know which relationship you are in and hence it is difficult to figure out your expectations.
Dating apps have low stakes. Many people treated dating apps as a platform for sex and/or short term emotional company. They swipe through profiles like going through a catalog. App-users do regard dating apps that require user to fill out more information such as OkCupid and Hinge less of a hook-up app than Tinder.
A lot of people don’t know what they want. They are confused and hence screw each other over.
Collaging these observations with various dating stories from my interviewees, I then came up with several 30-50 second stories told through Google assistant Audrey.
1. User asks for Audrey via Google Assistant on user’s phone.
2. Audrey asks user to select a level of frustration from mild, medium, super to unbearably.
3. Based on user’s selection, user will be given an address.
4. Once user arrives, user can listen to a frustrating date that took place right on that spot.
1. Synthetic voice flattens these stories a little too much.
2. In order to make them specific to the city, they need to be longer with more hints of the environment.
3. This mission driven approach demands a lot from the user.
Moving on to my second iteration, I invited 16 millennials to one-on-one recording sessions where I asked them to talk about one or two specific date/ relationship.
Altogether, I collected 27 stories, edited their content and hosted them on https://www.superfrustrated.nyc/, a mobile site I developed that tracks your location.
1. While waiting for your late friend to arrive, you order yourself a glass of wine and wonder if any breakups have happened at this bar.
2. You take out your phone and go to https://www.superfrustrated.nyc/.
3. It asks for your location.
5. If it does, an audio file of that frustrating date will pop up. You can then listen to the story.
If your coordinates did not match with any of the 27 stories, you will receive a message, “No frustrating dates were reported here...yet”.
I would like to create a share function where you can upload your story to the archive and a comment function where you can leave a comment after listening to a story to create an ongoing dialog. I would also like to integrate this into an app so that instead of actively checking the site on your phone, you will receive a push notification when you stumble upon a story.
Watch my 10 minute presentation on how I started, experimented and arrived here.
To all the storytellers:
Evan Forde Barden, Lauren Race, Jillian Zhong, Max Horwich, Matt Newberg, Jelani Bektemba, Shreiya Chowdhary, Damian Ashton, Mark Lam, Sam Chasan, Sam Krystal, Jenna Xu, Amanda Hendon, Mackenzie Bennett and Tiffany Chang.
And everyone who helped me to making this project possible:
Shawn Van Every, Nicolas Escarpentier, Danny Rozin, Kat Sullivan, Devin Curry, Fanni Fazakas, Daniel Benyi, Ayaka Omoto, Grace Chuang, Paul Gisbrecht, Suzanne Li, Hafi, Caroline Neel, Caroline Fahey, Roland Arnoldt, Brandon Newberg, Mai Izsak, Asha Veeraswamy, Jim Schmitz, Dominic Barrett, Hayley Hwang, Rushali Paratey, Emma Norton, MH Rahmani, Dan Oved, Katya Rozanova, Matt Ross, Winslow Porter, Tina Huang, Andrea Yang, the Keybar crew, Mom and Dad.