The Brutality of Internet Dating

In 2008, a conversation took place between philosopher, Alain Badiou and interviewer, Nicholas Truong at the Avignon Festival as part of the ‘Theatre of Ideas’ series. This conversation was later extrapolated on, translated into English and entitled In Praise of Love. I discovered this work while researching for a novella on online dating. There were reservations, you see. I felt an underlying brutality to this new system of love-seeking, more a ‘king hit’ from a street thug than the lovers’ embrace, but I could not put my finger on it, until In Praise of Love.

Badiou calls it ‘a safety-first concept’ of love. In nominating traits and viewing photographs from a steady parade of candidates, we might be cajoled into believing that love is a ‘risk-free’ pursuit. We have minimised the variables to such a degree that we cannot fail but to deliver for ourselves our perfect mate. It’s very like the research one does before buying white goods.

Badiou says, “Clearly, inasmuch as love is a pleasure almost everyone is looking for, the thing that gives meaning and intensity to almost everyone’s life, I am convinced that love cannot be a gift given on the basis of a complete lack of risk.” He’s right isn’t he?  Isn’t there something that rings so true in this?  The thing is we are dealing with people at their most vulnerable. We are not ordering pizza.

What is it about the modern or post-post-modern homo sapien that has us believe we can systemise and sanitise love? If we can just put our minds to it, we can ensure a positive result with none of the mess experienced by previous generations. I don’t mean to be a complete Luddite. Nor am I without a certain pragmatism. Still, like Badiou, I remain unconvinced that the getting of love can be achieved by an algorithm.

It gets worse, even more brutal with Badiou’s following comments. I feel the need to stand on a podium some place and champion the cause of love when he says:

“If you have been well trained for love, following the canons of modern safety, you won’t find it difficult to dispatch the other person if they do not suit. If he suffers, that’s his problem, right? He’s not part of modernity. In the same way that ‘zero deaths’ apply only to the Western military. The bombs they drop kill a lot of people who are to blame for living underneath.”

In minimising risk for ourselves, we risk becoming ‘the other’, the one who is left with the burden of pain. It takes an interesting kind of quirk in human nature to deny this possibility, but that is what we do. Would it not be better to take the other risk, the one which supports saying hello to the person on the bus or the train and just take it from there? It may not work and, even if it does, it may take longer, a little more information shared every day. We may not have the benefit of a comprehensive profile by which to judge, but then we might paradoxically learn the truth of a person still and come to love that way.

There is much more to Badiou’s ideas for the internet dating skeptic and its worth a read, if only to offer an alternate argument to the one that is at present almost universally accepted, or so it seems.



Hi Gabrielle
It is a great header but I cannot resist asking “where’s Wally?”

[…] considering the idea of dating profiles etc.   Alain Badiou’s ideas, already discussed in a previous post, were helpful in terms of ‘safety first love’ with the dating profile allowing us to […]

shorten your links

Hi! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would
be okay. I’m absoluutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.


I’m glad you like it. Yes I do use twitter. You can find me at Gabrielle Pollock @gab215.

Hmmmm, guess how I met my loved one? Online. Did take me 3 years of on and off internet dating though and boy I learnt alot over that time!!

Gabrielle Blondell

Hey Julie. Good on you, but I think it’s tough out there. Not for the faint-hearted.