Getting meta over media criticism

In this age of irony and constant self-investigation, it’s easy to lose track of the reasons why people do things. That’s especially true when it comes to the media (I still don’t understand why we have 24-hour news networks). Still, we all know why reporters publish stories on things they observe, right?

As a member of the media (sort of) I guess I sometimes fall into the trap of assuming what readers will think of an article. That’s why I was surprised by some of the reactions to a recent piece on dating in the New York Times magazine.

“The End of Courtship?” was controversial to begin with. It focuses on 20-somethings’ use of texting, social media, and online dating sites, saying that technology has ruined romance. The author claims that social media have taken the risk out of asking a person out, and prevent one-on-one dates from happening by making it too easy to bring friends along.

Having your entire generation described as gutless and emotionally stunted obviously stirs up some strong opinions. In a rebuttal on RoleReboot, Niki Fritz criticized the story’s assumption that women only want old fashioned dates where the man picks the wine and pays the bill. She said there is nothing wrong with having casual dates, group outings, or hookups as options.

I completely agree, but I didn’t expect Fritz to attack the article’s negative tone along with the specific points it made. I’m getting a little meta here, so bear with me.

“All these articles do is scare young women into thinking we are in some hopeless, relationship-less era devoid of love and romance,” Fritz said.

This sounded similar to a comment I saw on a friend’s Facebook page: “I’m just sick to my stomach of article like this complaining with no resolution in sight,” the disgruntled reader said.

They say no news is good news, and maybe that’s becoming too much for people to handle. I could be wrong, but I’ve always assumed that articles like the Times piece are written to identify negative trends so they can be corrected.

People should read articles like this, realize how lame their dating lives are and try to change. But I guess, in the real world, even the people that agree that text-based dating is a problem respond with a simple “I don’t want to hear this.”

There are a lot of unpleasant things in the world, and this isn’t even really one of them. Everyone deserves to be happy, but these 20-somethings are much closer to happy than most people in the world.

Arguing an article’s specific points is one thing, but criticizing it just because it is negative is completely different. Journalists need to report what they see, good and bad, and while they shouldn’t exaggerate or misinterpret the facts, they definitely have a license to be negative.

Much criticism of the media is warranted, but have we really been reduced to this? I hope the New York Times doesn’t pick up this story; too much criticism of criticism might break the universe.

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  1. #1 by Niki Fritz on January 25, 2013 - 1:56 am

    Hey Stephen. Niki Fritz here. Don’t you love google alerts of your name. I sure do. Thanks for the tag and the interesting viewpoint. I just wanted to clarify and start a dialogue here. First I will say that I was not criticizing the Times article because it was negative; you are correct that journalist have a duty to report the negative with the positive. I was criticizing the article because I thought it was an inaccurate portrayal of dating especially through a woman’s perspective. I think the reason I had such a strong reaction, as well as many other female readers, is because the article almost immediately assumed the woman was the victim of this shift in dating. And quite honestly women are sick of this line; it reduces our lives to these ridiculous cliches. Personally I disagree with your thought that our dating lives are lame and need to be corrected. I think 20-somethings date differently and it can be confusing but I don’t think it is lame. What were your specific thoughts on the NYT article and what do you think needs to be corrected in our dating lives?

  2. #2 by lib1187 on January 25, 2013 - 9:17 pm

    Wow thanks for responding! I guess I should clarify a little bit as well. As I said above, I completely agree with your reaction toward the article’s assumption that all women prefer “traditional” dates, where the man wines and dines the woman, and that only women are missing out in this age of high tech dating. I also think it’s good that we have a range of options, including hookups and casual hangouts, available.

    On the other hand, I could see what the author was getting at with those descriptions of “dates” that involved nothing more than a short exchange of texts and an invitation to vegetate at someone’s apartment. It’s not that technology is an inherently bad thing, it’s that people seem to use it as a crutch to avoid risk. This goes for both men and women.

    Not everyone is as aware of what they want out of life as you or I, and I thought that maybe someone would read that article and become motivated to try a little harder, if they want something else. That doesn’t go for every 20-something, just the ones that rely exclusively on the dating tactics described in the Times article because they’re too afraid to try anything else.

    Technology has given us some new and different options for dating, and I think that keeping those options open is what’s most important. It’s fun to quickly set something up via Facebook or OkCupid, but if that’s all we do things could still get pretty restrictive.

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