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Friday, December 04, 2009

Shidduch Vision: A Solution or More Social Engineering?


News Flash/Full Disclosure: I'm a student of free market economics who don't care for social engineering, but my readership already knows that. So on with the likely predictable post.

Shidduch Vision is a new teledating program that is being touted as new and innovative. As per the website FAQ, shidduch vision is supposed to help singles avoid unnecessary travel, loss of time, emotional savings, as well as be "extremely economical" (at only $18 for a 50 minute appointment, 2 date minimum so the math works out to $36).

Perhaps I am just missing something, but I simply don't understand why a young man can't simply pick up a telephone, chat, develop a connection, and if a connection develops plan an in person date? If the goal is to help people save money, the phone would be the way to go. Long distance is nothing like what it used to be. But economics aren't the only factor at play here. . . . .

When I was dating, the "rule" on the street was that when a young lady receives a call to confirm/schedule a date, that the call should be short and sweet as talking on the phone was deemed "awkward." Personally, I found the phone quite comfortable and thought the phone was a nice way to break the ice before meeting face-to-face. I'd like to hear from readers in the dating population about your comfort level with meeting in a 50 minute teledating session. Personally, this strikes me as very awkward.

Let's get back to the claims because I think this is part of where the "shidduch system", defined loosely, is failing its participants. Let's look specifically about the claim "emotional savings." While dating is a serious venture, I don't think it is fair to singles to desensitize dating, nor do I think it is right to suck every last vestige of fun out of meeting your potential partner (if there is any fun left in the process, either in the outside world or in the frum world). Certainly the barrage of rules (and Shidduch Vision comes with quite a few rules and threats of its own also) has done quite a bit to drain any enjoyment out of meeting and dating. Not too long ago, we ended up at a table with girls who appeared to be right around seminary ago. They were reviewing the rules of dating as reported to them by their NY friends and talking about how much they dreaded jumping into shidduchim. I just felt sad for them. They hadn't even been on a date yet and already they weren't having fun.

In regards to taking out the emotions, I raise my hand in opposition. I do believe that dating is a process of discovery and learning, and when we look to help singles "save emotions," we strip them of an important aspect on the road to finding a spouse. As parents know, hurt and disappointment in reasonable amounts fuel growth and drive. Somehow, dashed hopes seem to go with dating as peanut butter goes with jelly. Perhaps the myriad of rules to help singles cushion the blow of being let down is hindering the process, rather than helping?

I think Ariella sums up some of my thoughts on social engineering over at at WolfishMusings writing: "the more innovations I see in the shidduch system (the resume, the proposal to reward shidduchim with older girls, etc.) the more I think we have to gain by returning to the simple, direct approach used in the days when the girls lent each other dresses and went out into the vineyard to meet someone to be their husbands."

One last point I want to touch on before summing this up: as per the FAQ on Simcha Vision, there is a great deal of emphasis on tznius and privacy. However, I have to wonder if a system of teledating really will promote this ideal. If tnzius is the means to help our daughters maintain their dignity and be seen as more than sexual objects, I think we would do best not to reduce the frame of the discussion of young men meeting more geographically distant girls in the terms of wasting time, money, and emotion! I don't reject the claim that teledating will perhaps increase the likelihood of certain meetings leading to marriage, but then again, I think that a few telephone calls and an exchange of pictures can increase in-person meetings too without the need to another program to be sponsored and more establishment of rules that further isolates singles from being part of a pro-active process.

35 comments:

G*3 said...

> If tnzius is the means to help our daughters maintain their dignity and be seen as more than sexual objects

If only! Tznius is taught as an issue of lifnei iver – men have no self control, and so seeing an immodestly dressed women (or in some circles, seeing a woman or even an image of a woman, no matter how modestly dressed) will inevitably lead him to sin. Of course this is nonsense, as anyone can see that men interact all the time with women wearing short skirts and shirts that reveal their collar bones, yet we rarely hear about men jumping women they see on the street.

Shidduch Vision is more disturbing for the implications about the way its target audience sees the world than for any real impact it will have on dating. Anyone with a web cam can do the same thing from their own home, for free, for as long as they like and without any of the restrictions Shidduch Vision imposes on their customers.

Critiquer said...

"I simply don't understand why a young man can't simply pick up a telephone, chat, develop a connection, and if a connection develops plan an in person date?"

Because he doesn't want to spend the time and money for a plane ticket only to discover when he walks into her living room that he finds her appearance and manner unappealing. And therefore, girls out of the New York area get fewer dating opportunities. What don't you understand about this?

Anonymous said...

Critiquer,
That's why you can send a picture.
Also, why is necessarily the male who is going to be disappointed?
I'm beginning to like the sound of the simple 'vineyard meeting' discussed in the post as well. The shidduch scene is out of control. Someone (rabbeim who actually act like leaders, perhaps?) needs to demolish the system and start from scratch--starting with appropriate social skills learned at home from 2 parents, not in a yeshiva or seminary...

megapixel said...

"Of course this is nonsense, as anyone can see that men interact all the time with women wearing short skirts and shirts that reveal their collar bones, yet we rarely hear about men jumping women they see on the street. "

no we may not see it in such blatant ways, but we see lots and lots of extramarital affairs,
and other forms of cheating and inappropriate behavior. come on, who are you kidding?

Miami Al said...

The Frum children of NYC city (and elsewhere) need to grow up. They need to experience failure and frustration as children and teenagers. They need to go through an awkward, painful stage where chanting, "Whatever doesn't kill me can only make me stronger" while looking in the mirror to get through the day. Life is about experiencing and overcoming adversity. This idea that children can't experience any adversity or they'll run off and marry goyim is bizarre, dangerous to their well being, and gets in the way of growing up and becoming adults.

Your children are SUPPOSED to become adults before leaving the home and getting married. The idea of "marrying off" children is bizarre. It is also bizarre that you expect people to go from child, can't handle rejection without breaking down, to adult and parent in 12 months. That's WHY you have early divorcing, the financial bankruptcy, and parents that can't seem to parent.

G*3 said...

And extra-marital affairs are linked to short skirts how?

Do you imagine that a man sees an 'immodestly dressed' woman on the street and follows her home so he can cheat on his wife with her? How do you think that would end?

Critiquer said...

to anonymous:

Yes, pictures can be exchanged, but if girls out of the New York area aren't getting many dates, then you can explain and explain but you aren't helping them get dates!

And of course the female can also be disappointed but she is not spending time and money on traveling. What guy in the New York area will bother taking off from work or leaving his chavrusa in the lurch, to travel out of town because the girl might be of interest when he can date girls in New York?

Why should the shidduch system be demolished when it works well for most people?

rosie said...

A picture can be very deceiving. Pictures can be doctored. People often decide not to go out again with someone because of lack of physical attraction.
On the flip side, some singles are plastered all over the internet and if there is a bad picture of them somewhere, they should try to get it taken off.
I don't have a problem with teledating or any other innovation that leads to marriage. Women also want to see the guy that they are dating before asking him to travel to their city. It is not comfortable for women to have to turn down guys after making them travel.

Orthonomics said...

Critiquer-Pictures can be exchanged. If you develop a connection through telephone dating (or letter writing as people did in centuries past) looks may take on lesser importance as caring takes its place.

rosie said...

Orthonomics, have you married off a kid lately? Looks are unfortunately the name of the game. It is sad but true. There is the ideal and the real. It would be wonderful if people would make their selection totally based on midos but unfortunately today's singles are largely a superficial group who put looks high on their list. I wish it wasn't so because we would have a lot fewer frustrated singles but today both men and women are clamoring for movie stars. I know that everyone out there knows of some stud who married a homely girl or some diva who married a toad instead of a prince but the average single male or female turns down nice people due to their appearance. It may be wrong but that is what is happening.

tesyaa said...

When using ShidduchVision, does the young lady present Tatty's brokerage statement?

Orthonomics said...

Rosie-No, and my kids are a ways off from getting married. I'm just giving my perspective which is that the adults are being irresponsible to feed into this Hollywood frenzy.

Adults who stress physical attraction, adults/shadchanim/inquiring parents who agree to make dress size a question of importance, etc, all play into this unhealthy emphasis on looks.

Are looks and attraction important! Certainly. Should parents and shadchanim agree to be involved in determining physical attractiveness? I'd say no.

My answer to a dating men who inquire about attractiveness has always been: "if you want to find out if she is attractive, you will have to do so by yourself!" I'm not going to set up a person who would like a fit wife with someone who is objectively obese. But I'm not about to inquire about dress size either.

Anonymous said...

I think it this approach is acceptable and even appropriate where long distance travel is otherwise neccesary for the couple to meet. The cost of travel (airfare, car rental, travel time) can be a material disincentive in those situations.

Yes, the visual dimension enables one to measure attractiveness of the 'counterparty'. (I'm not convinced that is a bad thing if tznius) it (could) also make for a more interactive dialogue. Many people feel awkward chatting on the phone for an hour with someone they never met. Seeing the person enables them to guage the other persons interest (and certain aspects of their personality) via non-verbal cues. Studies indicate non-verbal cues represent an important part of communication.

Ortho - I'm surprised your cynical about this one too.

Shalom, Cherry Hill said...

Rosie: "Looks are unfortunately the name of the game. It is sad but true. There is the ideal and the real."

And these are the 'bnei Torah', who have 'benefited' from years of Yeshiva learning, the refinement of living in a 'real' Torah environment, as cut off as possible from the depravity of the larger culture?

If this is the case, do you feel that the extreme frum lifestyle appears to be a failure, then, as it produces what you describe as "largely a superficial group who put looks high on their list."
What was the purpose of spending all the money on yeshivot and day schools, forbidding TV and movies, learning in college, when this is the result?

rosie said...

I do think that we as frum Jews need to assess where we are putting the emphasis in chinuch. We are losing young people in many ways; superficiality is only one of those ways.
While TV and movies may have been officially forbidden, many people, women as well as men, who prize looks have acquired that desire from secular media.
There is no doubt that we need to adjust our focus but that does not mean that frum Jews need to abandon everything that they practice.
Orthonomics: the emphasis on looks is as much a female thing as it is a male thing. Women and their mothers ask the same questions about body build that boys and their mothers ask. There isn't anything sexist about it.

Anonymous said...

Critiquer and rosie:
The fact that we even need to bring this up is pathetic. Yes, it happens in the secular world, but as another commenter put it, then why the Jewish education and midos?Are we not supposed to act better--'a light unto the nations'?
And, while the system apparently works for most people, it evidently does not work WELL.

rosie said...

I don't think that the problem is new. I do think that in other times and places, beauty was defined differently but physical beauty has always been valued. Rabbonim in other generations have warned men not to be too caught up in physical beauty and to try to find a more religious wife over a more beautiful one.
I think that for this generation, the problem has not been addressed in yeshivas or seminaries and we have a massive onslaught of secular influence that has not been counteracted. Parents are not always listened to even if they do try to tell their children that looks aren't everything because everything else screams out at them that looks are everything.
Many people do feel today regarding the shidduch system that those who are not successful can try other means such as meeting someone on an online shidduch site or at someone's Shabbos table. If it does not work, there are alternatives.

Orthonomics said...

Ortho - I'm surprised your cynical about this one too.

I'm not at all cynical about the idea of having young people talk before getting together for an in person date. That is why I did time and time again and it worked out well in the end.

I simply don't understand why we need to make things so complicated and artificial. Will some do better teledating than on the phone? Certainly that is possible. But the teledating process comes with quite a bit of red tape (50 minutes * 2 teledates) and I don't think more red tape is necessary.

Most of my commentary is directed at the notion of "saving emotion." Saving money I tend to endorse (at $36 for two sessions, I don't particularly see this as the most economical method). The idea of "saving emotion" is something that I am not particularly comfortable with for reasons that I stated, and concepts I don't have the words to articulate.

G*3 said...

The focus on looks isn’t so much a failure of religious education as it is a byproduct of keeping guys and girls separate. I can’t speak for everyone, but for myself and the guys I went to yeshiva with, girls weren’t people, they were GIRLS. If your only experience with the opposite sex is surreptitiously peeking at them around the mechitza, then of course looks are at the top of your list of priorities. Judging them based on looks is all you’ve ever done, since you never had the opportunity to learn anything else.

Anonymous said...

On issue after issue, I get the sense that the heart of Judaism is eluding some Jews, who think that they can combine a special dress code and other externals with an essentially non-Jewish outlook.

Bob Miller said...

Have the marriageable "boys" been so isolated from their own sisters, female cousins, etc., that they have no perspective at all on "girls"?

rosie said...

Marriageable boys spend much of their time in yeshiva. They do see female relatives but girls are also caught up in the need to look a certain way and marry boys who look a certain way. If a boy has a sister who spends lots of money and time on her looks, he will internalize that view of girls.

Miami Al said...

The problem with blaming this on "the evil secular world" is that this problem doesn't appear commonplace there. It's a line of weak argumentation to blame all the social failings on the outside world when you've dedicated 30%+ of the community's wealth to keeping the secular influences out AND these problems do NOT appear in the secular world in similar socio-economic groups.

Stop blaming others. If there is a problem in the Yeshiva World, you need to address it, instead of whining about the outside world.

While plenty of "dating" and "hooking up" in the secular world was based upon looks, I've NEVER seen such bizarre behavior in terms of quantifying attractiveness for people getting serious and/or married.

Avi said...

SL - I don't see how this system makes anything worse. Pro video conferencing really does give a much better "you are there" feeling and allows reading body language which can be missed on the phone - there's a reason corporations spend tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars on them. $36 for a session is affordable. The "rules," well... I'm not a big proponent of rules, but this whole shidduch construct is all about stupid rules, so this isn't making it any worse.

Bob - in right wing circles, the answer is almost 100% yes. In families where there are far more sisters than brothers that's often not the case (the boy is stuck learning how to communicate with girls), but in general boys and girls are completely isolated. Then they are expected to date a few times and get married. And then SL follows up with a post that suggests if you have no communication skills you're probably going to run into problems and contemplate divorce. I don't know if she was trying to make a statement by the juxtaposition of posts, but...

Orthonomics said...

Avi-The rule of blogging for me seems to be when it rains it pours. I wasn't intending on posting anything more about shidduchim, relationships, or marriage. But then another interesting article appeared.

I was planning on posting about economic theory esp incentive, social engineering, tuition, and Israeli society. But then I ended up talking about shidduchim, marriage, divorce, and social engineering.

Worst thing is that I'm tempted to delve further, but I'm trying to leave the relationship post behind for some time.

If someone does do a Shiduch Vision date, however, I'd welcome an (anonymous) guest post.

Miami Al-I relate to what you are saying. I would go further and say that perhaps the Yeshiva world has created a secular world that exists to a degree, but for the most part isn't based in reality and that imaginary secular world is influencing the insular world.

Ariella said...

First of all, thank you SL for your credit by name.
On Critiquer's point, I don't think I agree with the conclusion drawn, but it is true that out-of-town girls do get shortchanged because of this. A long-single friend of mine even moved to NY, though she had a position she was perfectly happy with in MD because people were reluctant to set her up. Because of the scripted set-up, boys are still expected to make the trip out of town to meet. My friend was willing to come into NY to meet, but people didn't feel right about setting her up on the condition that she make the trip. I even heard a woman telling her this and saw my friend's crestfallen face. So she moved to Queens. But, ironically, she married someone from MD with whom she had not been set up while living there. And she had to move back out of town.

As for the question of appearance, the high school yearbook picture is considered so very important because people will look at it to judge a suggested girl's appearance. At present, a photo is sometimes tacked on to a shidduch resume. But some see this as demeaning and some are only willing for the shadchan to see the photo. In any case, I have heard of people complaining that the photo in no way resembles the real live person. It could be an old photo or taken at a particularly flattering angle, etc. I am not condoning this by any means, but I would think that for the bachur who wants to be assured the girl is attractive to him, the shidduch vision would be considered more reliable than a photo she selects to send him.

rosie said...

Miami Al, I think that the part of the secular world that has the influence such as movie stars and sports heroes do quantify beauty. The average man on the street will probably be intimate with several women before marrying. He will not restrict himself to one person to be intimate with.
Frum people by contrast have to make the most of the one intimate relationship that they will have throughout their lifetime. (unless they marry someone else).
Beauty was always important on some level to people and if someone gets engaged and then realizes that they are not attracted to the chossen or kallah, they are usually advised by rabbonim to terminate the engagement. There are some stories in Jewish history of rabbonim who promised a heavenly reward for marrying someone that the person considered unattractive but that is not usually viewed as a mitzvah.
I don't know how imaginary the secular world is. When it is cold outside, I like to walk inside a mall. The window displays market the attitude that attracting the opposite gender is of primary importance.

Orthonomics said...

rosie-Shadchanim and mothers spent a lot of time and energy defining what is "attractive." In the outside world, the free market decides what is attractive. My own personal observation based on growing up in a non-insular world is that there is a great variety when it comes to what is considered attractive. Some prefer slim, others a few pounds. Some seem to go for the trophy wives, others for a more homely type look. Personality plays a big part in the free market too. A girl who is less attractive, but wiht an attractive personality can propel herself beyond the girl that all the guys ogle.

rosie said...

orthonomics,
you really insult us mothers of boys. I don't define for my son what is attractive; he does. I see plenty of frum girls who have full figures who get married. I see all kinds of personality types get married. Many of us MOBs are warning boys not to marry just because he likes her looks but to also make sure that her midos are good.
I also find that as a MOB, we got lots of requests for his picture and everyone wants to know his height and build. Yesterday someone wanted to know if he was charming.
Although my son is NOT in this category, short, chubby, guys with receding hair, etc also have a hard time getting dates and are turned down by mothers of girls.
Also, shadchanim are often eager to sell the shidduch and will make an unattractive person sound beautiful.

Orthonomics said...

Rosie-I'm not trying to be insulting, just trying to explain a point that is obviously not coming through very well. Secondly, most mothers of boys have daughters too.

I know that plenty of mothers are trying to get their children to focus on the long term picture of marriage. But there are plenty of people playing gatekeeper determining what look is acceptable and plenty of young women are picking up on that message.

I'm all for a return to the vineyard.

rosie said...

Orthonomics,
In the vineyard were 2 types of girls, those with beauty and those with yichus. The beautiful girls sang about their beauty as they danced and the girls with yichus sang the praises of a noble lineage because they were not blessed with beauty. The boys had to decide which was better because it does not sound like very many girls had both. Obviously the vineyard society had an ideal of what beauty was. Since I don't know what an artists depiction of beauty of that era was, we can only look at art from as far back as possible to see what society deemed as beautiful. Men were obviously picking without knowing about intelligence and character.

Ariella said...

"know that plenty of mothers are trying to get their children to focus on the long term picture of marriage. But there are plenty of people playing gatekeeper determining what look is acceptable and plenty of young women are picking up on that message." I think that is absolutely correct. I have heard some mothers of boys talk about their attempts to get what they consider the right shidduch for their boys. It is somewhat scary. One had her own personal hangups about height, etc., and she really believed that getting a rich girl is the right thing because her son wanted to learn.
"
I'm all for a return to the vineyard." Hear, hear!

Ariella said...

Rosie, there are various accounts on the virtues of the girls. I went over them in a series of blog posts. You will find the links to the others in http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2009/08/thoughts-on-tu-bav.html
They were no all beautiful or meyuchas. There were ugly ones, too, yet they also went out confident that they will also emerge with husbands: I've been thinking about further ramification for the Talmud's account in Taanis 31a

The daughter of Israel go out and dance in the vineyards. Anyone who lacked a wife went there. . . . Our rabbis learned: The beautiful ones among them would say: "Raise your eyes to beauty, for a wife is only for beauty." The girls who had yichus [well established, reputable families] would say, "Raise your eyes to family, for a wife is only for children." The ugly ones among them would say, "Take what you take for the sake of Heaven, and adorn us in gold jewelry."

rosie said...

I wonder how many men in the vinyard gave up beauty and yichus for the opportunity to build a relationship with someone who admitted that she wasn't attractive. As I said above, some type of heavenly reward had to be offered as an incentive because most men wanted the instant gratification of beauty.
I don't think that secular or non-frum mother-in-laws automatically accept and welcome anyone that their sons decide to marry. They may not get to pick the bride but they can sure show their distaste.

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