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It doesn’t matter if you’re 26 or 66: Dating in the age of technology is difficult for everyone.

June 17, 2015

It doesn’t matter if you’re 26 or 66: Dating in the age of technology is difficult for everyone. Now, comedian and Parks and Recreation (RIP) star Aziz Ansari is here to tell you how to navigate this brave new world with his brand-new book, Modern Romance ($28, amazon.com). (First tip: Don’t initiate conversation with “Wsup.”)

You might be asking yourself: Why should we trust an actor to give us serious love advice? Well, Ansari joined forces with NYU professor of sociology Eric Klinenberg, PhD, to spend three years conducting hundreds of interviews and focus groups around the world on the topic of romance. Together, they analyzed behavioral data and research, enlisted the help of leading social scientists, and created an online research forum on Reddit to tap into the minds of daters. Plus, if you've watched Ansari's stand-up comedy specials, you know he's a 21st-century male with the rites of modern courtship firmly in mind.

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Intrigued? Check out some of the best advice from his book. (It must've worked, since Ansari's currently in a long-term relationship himself.)

Treat potential partners like actual people, not bubbles on a screen.

With online dating and smartphones, we can message people all over the world. We can interact with potential mates on a scale that simply wasn’t conceivable for previous generations. But the shift in digital communication has a powerful side effect. When you look at your phone and see a text from a potential partner, you don’t always see the other person—you often see a little bubble with text in it. And it’s easy to forget that this bubble is actually a person. When you forget that you’re talking to a real person, you might start saying the kinds of things in a text message that no person in their right mind would ever say to a real-life person in a million years. We have two selves: a real-world self and a phone self, and the nonsense our phone selves do can make our real-world selves look like idiots. Act like a dummy with your phone self and send someone a thoughtless message full of spelling errors, and the real-world self will pay the price. Don’t just write up a stupid “Wsup” message. Try to say something thoughtful or funny and invite this person to do a nice, interesting thing. Make it personal. Your most casual encounter could lead to something bigger, so treat those interactions with that level of respect. Even if it doesn’t blossom, treating the messages with that level of respect will surely make the person on the other end more receptive as well. There is no downside to it.

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Don’t think of online dating as dating—think of it as an online introduction service.

Online dating works best as a forum where you can meet people whom you’d never otherwise be able to meet. It’s the ultimate way to expand the search beyond the neighborhood. The key is to get off the screen and meet these people. Don’t spend your nights in endless exchanges with strangers. Communicate with people you have some chance of liking, then, after a few messages—enough to figure out if there’s something really, really wrong with them—just ask them out. After a certain point, if you’re still trading endless back-and-forth messages online, you’re just wasting time. Have faith in your ability to size someone up in person.

Remember: No matter how many options we seem to have on our screens, we should be careful not to lose track of the human beings behind them. We’re better off spending quality time getting to know actual people than spending hours with our devices, seeing who else is out there.

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With so many romantic options, instead of trying to explore them all, make sure you properly invest in people and give them a fair chance before moving on to the next one.

We have so many options and we’re terrible at analyzing them. We go on boring dates and we’re quick to move on to the next person. Stack the deck in your favor. Go on interesting dates, and do things that are going to help you experience what it’s really like to be with this person. Don’t just stare at each other across the table while sipping a beverage and making the same small talk you’ve made a thousand times about siblings, hometowns, and where you went to college. A person may seem just okay, but if you really invest time in the relationship, maybe they’ll be greater than you assume.

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