Database of Desires
Yesterday morning I received a form-letter message on my e-mail telling me that someone in the class of 1999 wanted a piece of me. I perused it twice in utter disbelief, and then I left it on the screen, like an unopened, hand-written letter without a return address.
If I had followed the instructions in the email, I would have 1) gotten giddy and then 2) submitted on the web the names of 10 seniors with whom I wish to share saliva. Then the anxious wait would begin until June 1st. That's when the entire information superhighway will be brought to a standstill by Harvard seniors checking the site to find who their matches are, just in time for the hot and heavy "Last Chance Dance" at the Roxy. You can imagine how this might create quite a stir in the ensuing weeks.
I'll forgo the social commentary for a moment about how this e-romance phenomenon reflects the sad state of Harvard's dating scene. Though, I can't help but observe that students here tend to bottle up their romantic energy until certain organized mass-releases such as when their house throws its annual "debauchery party" or "bare as you dare dance." Some may wait even longer, like until one week before their graduation.
No, what I'm really puzzled about is why my fellow seniors are willing to trust a Web site with their most personal of secrets. Having worked a couple summers in the bold and burgeoning field of database development and Internet design, I understand the technology behind these romantic matching Web sites. I can assure you that if the seniors who created this program wanted a printout of the sexual interests of my entire class, they could have it within a minute, no matter how many passwords the users enter. I doubt any of these high-tech matchmakers has the complete self-control to not take one peek at the bustling database of desires sitting right in front of them on the Web site's server. And if they can take a peek, it's just a little cajoling from a roommate or a few drinks before they're rolling in laughter in somebody's common room until the wee hours of the morning mocking their classmates' sexual selections.
Sound cynical? Of course a hookup program for a dance is no big deal. But this harmless, frivolous Web site is an example of a real danger facing us in the information age. Soon your entire dossier, complete with your travel destinations, on-line buying patterns, wealth and now even your love life, will be accessible to such information elite. And someone, somewhere, just might be having an awful lot of fun with it.
Personally, unless my curiosity really gets the better of me, I'm planning not to enter my picks online. Don't get me wrong. I'm coming to this party, and I'm going to tear it up on the dance floor. But I guess I prefer the eyes-met-across-the-room tradition to the whole compatibility-query-analysis-advanced-search-engin e thingy anyway. Anyone who still wants me can find me at the Roxy.