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You fall prey to the tyranny of choice—the idea that people, when faced with too many options, find it harder to make a selection.If you are trying to choose a boyfriend out of a herd of thousands, you may choose none of them.Or you see someone until someone better comes along.The term for this is “trading up.” It can lead you to think that your opportunities are virtually infinite, and therefore to question what you have. For some, of course, there is no end game; Internet dating can be sport, an end in itself.The twentieth century reduced it all to smithereens.The Pill, women in the workforce, widespread deferment of marriage, rising divorce rates, gay rights—these set off a prolonged but erratic improvisation on a replacement.A city also has abundance and access, especially for the young, but as people pair off, and as they corral themselves, through profession, geography, and taste, into cliques and castes, the range of available mates shrinks.We run out of friends of friends and friends of friends of friends.
A year later, Altfest and Ross had a prototype, which they called Project , an acronym for Technical Automated Compatibility Testing—New York City’s first computer-dating service. She was the station’s first female reporter, and she had chosen, as her début feature, a three-part story on how New York couples meet.In a fractured and bewildered landscape of fern bars, ladies’ nights, Plato’s Retreat, “The Bachelor,” sexting, and the concept of the “cougar,” the Internet promised reconnection, profusion, and processing power.The obvious advantage of online dating is that it provides a wider pool of possibility and choice.Each client paid five dollars and answered more than a hundred multiple-choice questions. (A previous installment had been about a singles bar—Maxwell’s Plum, on the Upper East Side, one of the first that so-called “respectable” single women could patronize on their own.) She had planned to interview Altfest, but he was out of the office, and she ended up talking to Ross.One section asked subjects to choose from a list of “dislikes”: “1. The batteries died on her tape recorder, so they made a date to finish the interview later that week, which turned into dinner for two.