A new app that tells single women when they should get married is unintentionally empowering.
Last week, a new TIME magazine Facebook app sent women into an uproar by daring to suggest when they "should" be getting married (based on a scientific algorithm, of course). I was ticked, you were ticked, we were all ticked.
The app purports to mine the Facebook data of you and your friends (well, what we're all reporting, anyway; Not everyone updates their relationship statuses), and plug that information into a handy graph that tells you, meddling mom-style, when you should get (or should have gotten) married.
But the app's actual—and not-so-transparent—motive is to bank on the defensiveness and anxiety of single women. (It could probably double as a blood pressure monitor.) Thus, the degree to which you are upset or hurt by this app is less reflective of the app, and more telling of how you feel about your life. And there's no app to help you regulate that.
I mean, I expected Jezebel to have some fun with it and, of course, I want and expect Bella DePaulo's pants to be on fire, as she's an advocate for single living, and I love her for fighting that fight. Sure, the app, just like any controversy, is a fun thing for people to bitch about on Twitter. Which of course keeps Time in the conversation—no accident there. But there are a few other things at play here.
The Truth Hurts
You already know how babies are made. And that if you want a husband and three kids that you give birth to yourself, then yes, you have a window, and that window will close at some point. That's biological fact. And while that window, by the way, is getting bigger thanks to medical intervention, our bodies were designed to have kids at a certain age. We know this.
What you're particularly undone by, most likely, is having the data spelled out for you. That hurts. Because that, too, is a fact. And if you're unhappy about your marital state, that's going to push some buttons.
Realize that the more we can quantify our lives (how many steps we've taken, how many calories we've burned, and yes, how many of our friends are married), the more data we have to play with and wonder at. We don't know what to do with it all yet, so that's where apps like this one come into play. Expect more. Expect 'When you should have last voided your bowels'. Oh, it's coming.
But data makes no judgment. It is what it is. If you don't like it, then you don't like where you are ... and that's ok! But don't be mad at the data.
I tried the app, and it told me that the median age of my married friends is 39.8 years old, and that my target date is 6 months ago. And then it tells me to buck up, because half of my friends were married later. I don't know if that means that was the age when they got married, or that it's their age now, and they happen to be married. Still working out the kinks in that, I guess. Ok, well, good to know.
What Are You Really Angry About?
What you really hate is the implied judgment—as any of us would get defensive about someone pointing at the road you traveled and suggesting you should have hung a right 10 years ago.
But since when is falling lockstep with your peers your only goal? Putting the biology argument aside (since not all people marry so they can have babies), it's always a bad idea to do something just because others are doing it. This isn't about graduating on time. It's about your life. And your life may be very different, very rewarding, or very disappointing compared to others—in myriad ways that are not measurable (yet). Keep reading...
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