Navigating The New School’s Dire Dating Scene
Ask any New School student what the weakest aspect of student life at our university is and most will say that the disparate collection of schools and buildings can make building relationships difficult.
The New School isn’t alone in this among schools in New York. NYU and Columbia students make the same complaint, though Washington Square and Morningside Heights provide common areas not remotely matched by Lang’s “Ashtray.” Students in New York willingly give up a traditional college experience in order to live in the city, but it stands to reason that The New School can be a supremely alienating place — and no aspect of student life better exemplifies this than the love lives of its students.
Combine the difficulty of meeting people at The New School with the social maladjustment of young adults in the age of Facebook and you get a perfect storm of social dysfunction. Relationships, no matter how brief, tend to be incestuous, emerging from the same self-contained social groups. The New School is a very clique-y place — and that extends into the boudoir.
A pity, then, that our generation has cast off dating — making a go of it with someone not necessarily familiar to you — as a generally practiced form of social interaction. New York Times trend pieces have cast about for years attempting to explore the mating rituals of the young (friends with benefits? stay-over partners?) but the constant behind these mostly made-up categories and the reality behind them is an overriding sense of apathy — the desire for ease and non-commitment above all else.
A cottage industry has arisen, in the form of speed dating, to capitalize upon that demand for ease. Rather than approach strangers and strike up a conversation in a bar, the lovelorn can forgo the effort and pay $50 (one drink included) to spend a few minutes each with a number of individuals preselected by group — Asian singles, Jewish college graduates, etc. Effective, maybe, but also limited and artificial — and there’s something off-putting about paying to be packaged into groups and led around a room, complimentary drink in hand.
You’re more likely to find New School students online than speed dating at a club in Chelsea, though. A startup called DateMySchool.com, which connects university students with others in their city, has seen more than 5,000 Columbia and NYU students join since it launched earlier this year, although their New School listees number about 31. OkCupid, commonly described as the dating site for hipsters, grabs a larger share of New School students.
Both speed and online dating are manifestations of the paradox: the more ways of communicating we acquire, the farther away we get from the people around us. The social problems faced by New School attendees should be seen within this larger trend. If the university is ever to make a dent in its community problem, it won’t be because of any action on the part of the administration. Students themselves must make the choice to reengage with each other.