Technology has completely changed dating today
Samantha Dooley


PARIS This is not news, but dating today is a completely different animal than it was even five years ago, as new apps keep arriving to create "matches' between people online who may have never come face-to-face otherwise. Personally, online or off, the whole "dating" thing has never really been my strong suit — I was consistently told in high school that "I would do better in college where people were more mature." But alas, here I am, heading into my senior year at Boston University, the same age my parents were when they first got together, and I have never been on a proper date. But I'm not alone.

After learning that many of her seniors were about to graduate without ever having been on a date, Boston College Philosophy Professor Kerry Cronin created an assignment that rewards her students for going out on traditional dates. Lisa Bonos of The Washington Post reports on Cronin, known on campus as the "dating professor," because she used to make the date a mandatory course requirement (she now gives extra credit for it). Students are encouraged to pursue a date set up under very specific parameters: They had to ask someone out in person, not over text (Cronin refers to texting as "the devil") and the person has to know it's a date. They have to stick a budget of $10 (the asker has to pay) and a time limit of 90 minutes. And they have to be sober.

The rules are meant to help the conversation bypass normal party chatter, as one of her former students, Erika Peña said: "It leapfrogged us into having an actual conversation that didn't revolve around a Jägerbomb."

Cronin says that a traditional date has become "a weirdly countercultural thing to do," while dates set up through the dating apps like Tinder or Bumble where immediacy and availability dominate over deeper connections.

Some are asking where we might find romance these days.

Sticking in the city known for both its universities and its many bars and pubs, Dugan Arnett writes in the Boston Globe that spotting these "manufactured" dates has become something of a pastime for Boston bartenders.

"The guys working behind the bar had just spotted yet another one: The young couple at the bar's edge were showing all the requisite signs. They'd arrived separately. They'd spent a long stretch wordlessly scanning the menu. And at the moment, they were nervously working their way through a first drink, struggling mightily to keep the conversation afloat."

Not only can bartenders identify these dating app dates, which Arnett describes as "essentially blind," but they are now so accustomed to them that they can differentiate which app was used to set up the date. "Tinder is notoriously the hook-up app, so you notice it's two people getting loose and really touchy-feely," bartender Greg Coote says. "Bumble is more like the interview process. It's like they're going through all these formalities."

The art of dating —​ Photo: Tinder via Instagram

With the digital revolution's warping of the sexual revolution, some are asking where we might find romance these days. Over here in Europe, where I'm in a studying abroad, a colleague spotted an interesting article in German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung about internationally known bondage artist, Matthias Grimme, who is in long-term relationships with two women, Andrea Grimme, his wife of 27 years and his bondage partner of 17 years, Nicole, who goes by the name "Ropecat." The, er, bond with Nicole, he says is "a very special form of tenderness."

Grimme, from the northern German city of Hamburg, defended his relationships in light of the #MeToo movement, and declared: "Sadomasochists are the last romantics." That's, well, interesting. Here in Paris, where the old brand of romance is still very much in the air, the dating world is nevertheless just as complicated (and virtual) as back in Boston.

Whether or not "romantic" bondage or dates for academic credit is your thing, dating and mating will no doubt continue to evolve. "Not everybody is called to romantic relationship, not everyone is called to marriage," Professor Cronin says. "But everybody's called to relationships — that's what it means to be human."

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European Debt? The First Question For Merkel's Successor

Across southern Europe, all eyes are on the German elections, as they hope a change of government might bring about reforms to the EU Stability Pact.

Angela Merkel at a campaign event of CDU party, Stralsund, Sep 2021

Tobias Kaiser, Virginia Kirst, Martina Meister


BERLIN — Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) is the front-runner, according to recent polls, to become Germany's next chancellor. Little wonder then that he's attracting attention not just within the country, but from neighbors across Europe who are watching and listening to his every word.

That was certainly the case this past weekend in Brdo, Slovenia, where the minister met with his European counterparts. And of particular interest for those in attendance is where Scholz stands on the issue of debt-rule reform for the eurozone, a subject that is expected to be hotly debated among EU members in the coming months.

France, which holds its own elections early next year, has already made its position clear. "When it comes to the Stability and Growth Pact, we need new rules," said Bruno Le Maire, France's minister of the economy and finance, at the meeting in Slovenia. "We need simpler rules that take the economic reality into account. That is what France will be arguing for in the coming weeks."

The economic reality for eurozone countries is an average national debt of 100% of GDP. Only Luxemburg is currently meeting the two central requirements of the Maastricht Treaty: That national debt must be less than 60% of GDP and the deficit should be no more than 3%. For the moment, these rules have been set aside due to the coronavirus crisis, but next year national leaders must decide how to go forward and whether the rules should be reinstated in 2023.

Europe's north-south divide lives on

The debate looks set to be intense. Fiscally conservative countries, above all Austria and the Netherlands, are against relaxing the rules as they recently made very clear in a joint position paper on the subject. In contrast, southern European countries that are dealing with high levels of national debt believe that now is the moment to relax the rules.

Those governments are calling for countries to be given more freedom over their levels of national debt so that the economy, which is recovering remarkably quickly thanks to coronavirus spending and the European Central Bank's relaxation of its fiscal policy, can continue to grow.

Despite its clear stance on the issue, Paris hasn't yet gone on the offensive.

The rules must be "adapted to fit the new reality," said Spanish Finance Minister Nadia Calviño in Brdo. She says the eurozone needs "new rules that work." Her Belgian counterpart agreed. The national debts in both countries currently stand at over 100% of GDP. The same is true of France, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus.

Officials there will be keeping a close eye on the German elections — and the subsequent coalition negotiations. Along with France, Germany still sets the tone in the EU, and Berlin's stance on the brewing conflict will depend largely on what the coalition government looks like.

A key question is which party Germany's next finance minister comes from. In their election campaign, the Greens have called for the debt rules to be revised so that in the future they support rather than hinder public investment. The FDP, however, wants to reinstate the Maastricht Treaty rules exactly as they were and ensure they are more strictly enforced than before.

This demand is unlikely to gain traction at the EU level because too many countries would still be breaking the rules for years to come. There is already a consensus that they should be reformed; what is still at stake is how far these reforms should go.

Mario Draghi on stage in Bologna

Prime Minister Mario Draghi at an event in Bologna, Italy — Photo: Brancolini/ROPI/ZUMA

Time for Draghi to step up?

Despite its clear stance on the issue, Paris hasn't yet gone on the offensive. That having been said, starting in January, France will take over the presidency of the EU Council for a period that will coincide with its presidential election campaign. And it's likely that Macron's main rival, right-wing populist Marine Le Pen, will put the reforms front and center, especially since she has long argued against Germany and in favor of more freedom.

Rome is putting its faith in the negotiating skills of Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a former head of the European Central Bank. Draghi is a respected EU finance expert at the debating table and can be of great service to Italy precisely at a moment when Merkel's departure may see Germany represented by a politician with less experience at these kinds of drawn-out summits, where discussions go on long into the night.

The Stability and Growth pact may survive unscathed.

Regardless of how heated the debates turn out to be, the Stability and Growth Pact may well survive the conflict unscathed, as its symbolic value may make revising the agreement itself practically impossible. Instead, the aim will be to rewrite the rules that govern how the Pact should be interpreted: regulations, in other words, about how the deficit and national debt should be calculated.

One possible change would be to allow future borrowing for environmental investments to be discounted. France is not alone in calling for that. European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni has also added his voice.

The European Commission is assuming that the debate may drag on for some time. The rules — set aside during the pandemic — are supposed to come into force again at the start of 2023.

The Commission is already preparing for the possibility that they could be reactivated without any reforms. They are investigating how the flexibility that has already been built into the debt laws could be used to ensure that a large swathe of eurozone countries don't automatically find themselves contravening them, representatives explained.

The Commission will present its recommendations for reforms, which will serve as a basis for the countries' negotiations, in December. By that point, the results of the German elections will be known, as well as possibly the coalition negotiations. And we might have a clearer idea of how intense the fight over Europe's debt rules could become — and whether the hopes of the southern countries could become reality.

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