Love in the Time of Ridesharing
Four ways Uber, Lyft, and all the others have changed the culture of dating.
Image: Matteo Gallo/Motherboard
To say that technology has had a significant impact on dating in the last five years would be like saying ice cream is a tasty treat: achingly obvious and a massive understatement. But while it's easy to deduce the effects things like Tinder and long-distance, remote-controlled sex toys have had, there are other technological influences that may not be so apparent. What about the apps that weren't designed with dating in mind at all? What about Uber?
Once you start to consider it, it becomes equally obvious that rideshare apps would change the way we date. Transportation has always been a major aspect of socializing, whether it was going a-courting in your horse-drawn carriage or making out at the drive in. But precisely what effects this new technology has on our love lives is less obvious. After lots of research and spending too much time watching a couple go at it in the backseat of a taxi, here are four ways ridesharing has changed modern dating:
It's a way to meet potential dates
With all the swipeable reams of possible love connections now available at our fingertips, it almost seems old fashioned to meet someone in the back of a cab, but lots of people are attempting to do just that.
"Most of the time, carpool rides are pretty awkward. People just sit there and keep to themselves," Harry Campbell, a rideshare driver who runs the popular Rideshare Guy blog about the driving community, told me. "But later in the evening on a Friday or Saturday night, people tend to be more friendly and interactive. They're in that mood already, more friendly and jovial, so they're more likely to hit it off. I've seen lots of people exchange business cards and numbers and things like that."
Campbell mused that because dating apps and sites have started to overshadow the scene, there's something appealing about meeting someone "organically," in the back of a cab—the "lost art of meeting someone in person," he called it. And since the demographics of people who use apps like Uber are pretty narrow, the odds are high you'll meet someone who runs in similar circles as you do.
But passengers don't stop at the backseat when it comes to using Uber as their own personal speed dating service: drivers often get hit on by passengers, Campbell said, especially female drivers. A quick trawl on Craigslist's missed connections shows both drivers and passengers who didn't have the nerve trying to track each other down:
Though they sometimes hit it off and exchange numbers (Campbell said this is sort of "frowned upon" by the companies, though not explicitly grounds for getting kicked off the app), more often drivers are left having to awkwardly swat away advances without putting their rating at risk. On the flip side, there have been numerous reports of drivers aggressively hitting on, or even assaulting, their passengers.
It's disrupted dating etiquette
Etiquette around asking out your Uber driver aside, what should you do when you're already dating? Is ordering up a car for your date using your account at the end of the evening the modern equivalent of holding the door?
Daniel Post Senning, an etiquette expert at the Emily Post Institute and the great-great grandson of Emily herself, told me it can definitely be a nice gesture, but you should offer first.
"It might be, on the one hand, incredibly gentlemanly or gentlelady-like to offer to send someone an Uber, but don't just assume someone is going to be comfortable giving you their home address," Post Senning said. "Safety trumps etiquette."
Same goes for sharing an Uber—something your love interest might be iffy on after only a 20 minute coffee date. But if you've already been dating long enough to know his or her address, or you get the green light, go for it.
It's made dating easier (especially in LA)
If you live in a city like New York, where you can easily ride your bike or grab the subway or even hail a cab to meet up with your cutie, it might not seem like rideshare apps have made a drastic difference. But in LA, where the car is king, it's changed everything.
"I'll give you $100 if you just drive around for 20 minutes and let us have sex in the back of the car."
"Without any doubt, it makes it easier," Ty Foster, a 30-year-old musician living in Echo Park, told me. "The change has been kind of subtle but profound."
Foster explained that taking a traditional cab was rarely an option—they're hard to come by and expensive in LA—and public transit is significantly lacking. So pre-Uber, most Angelenos had to keep a running itinerary of their day's plans, weighing whether or not they could have an extra beer or if they were up for walking to their girlfriend's house after an evening out.
Now, Foster says rideshare apps have made it easier to meet people, and make spontaneous plans.
"I'm dating a girl in Silver Lake now and being able to meet up with her without having to plan ahead—so I can have a couple drinks, or go to a gig, and meet up with her later without having to think about it, that is an incredibly significant change," Foster said.
It's created a new kink
Rule 34 of the internet states that if something exists, there is porn about it. If you ask me, Rule 34 of sex should be: if something exists, somebody out there has a fetish for it.
Aside from the weirdly-common fantasy about seducing an Uber driver and the fact that, yes, Uber-themed porn exists (NSFW link), there's also a sizable population of couples interested in getting busy in the back of rideshare cars. Some are polite enough to solicit advice on Reddit first, asking how to go about fulfilling this fantasy, while others just go for it and wind up getting caught on the dashboard camera (semi NSFW link).
"I know drivers that have had passengers say 'I'll give you $100 if you just drive around for 20 minutes and let us have sex in the back of the car,'" Campbell, the Rideshare Guy, told me. "I've never had that happen, personally, but I have had couples getting a little too frisky in the backseat. It's pretty awkward."
If it's something you're into, it's probably best to make sure you have a driver who's game first, lest you wind up on a dash cam—or kicked out of the car.
Uber Earth is Motherboard's exploration of the ways Uber has already changed the world and how it stands to do so in the future. Follow along here.