I had the privilege of writing for Solo-ish -- a section I have long wished to see take root at The Washington Post. The ways in which we form relationships, how we define them and the complexity surrounding them is a never-ending source of fascination for me and so many others.
Say what you will, but this is journalism that matters.
The topic I focused on is a media topic near and dear to my heart: the door data has opened to confront racial bias in online dating. In the piece, I write:
"The publication of data on users’ behavior could be the first step to reducing racism and bias in online dating — and the cultivation of greater empathy may be key to reaching a solution. Just as there is an empathy gap between the wealthy and the poor, I believe there is an empathy gap in online dating."
The problem gets plenty of real estate in the piece, but if there's one thing I have learned while at the d.school: identifying the problem is important, but so is moving quickly towards a solution. That's what Para∆igm is all about.
So, what does bringing empathy into online dating mean in terms of actions we can undertake? While there are opportunities for experimentation in the bells, whistles, widgets and code of online dating sites, there's also a simple thing consumers can do too -- or at least try. So, allow me to extend an invitation to prototype.
If you happen to use an online dating site, take a moment to consider how you choose your potential mates and whether the racial preferences you express on these sites, either actively or passively reflects your values. Take an audit of your actions relative to your worldview, who you say you are and would like people to consider you to be.
Then, sit and talk to a friend about it, ask them about their experience in the context of race and the expression of racial preference. Listen. Ask them why they feel the way they do, and be delicate when you ask follow-ups and request they tell you more. Don’t cast blame — not even on yourself. Rather, be curious, be kind, empathize and, the next time you see someone you might otherwise fear, dislike or reject because it’s quick and easy to make a snap judgment, ask yourself: “What if that were me?"
If you do engage in this act of empathy building, please do let me know. I'd love to hear your story.
You can read the full piece (edited by the always-fantastic Lisa Bonos) over at The Washington Post.