Modern Romance Summary

Modern Romance Book Summary and Review |  Aziz Ansari

Life gets busy. Has Modern Romance been on your reading list? Learn the key insights now.

We’re scratching the surface here. If you don’t already have Aziz Ansari’s bestselling book on modern dating, get the audiobook for free to learn the juicy details.


We all hit the road searching for a life partner or soulmate at some point. It’s quite the norm these days to hop in and out of relationships as we meet new people and try dating in a quest to find love. Was romance always like this a few decades ago? Present-day singles have more options for romance than ever before. Thanks to modern technology, we have an astounding ability to connect with thousands of potential partners. Unfortunately, so many people remain dissatisfied. Why is it so? Are we too spoiled for choices to make the right choice? 

Aziz Ansari collaborated with Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University, to investigate dating trends. They created Reddit message boards and interviewed many people about their dating experiences. This data is combined with expert insights, graphical data, and humor in the book to demonstrate how dating works. Aziz begins the book by telling how he met and asked Tanya out but never heard back from her. He realized this was common among his generation, so he began to wonder why younger generations had more difficulty finding love than older generations.

The transformation of romance goes beyond technological advancements. Within a short time, the process of finding a suitable partner has changed dramatically. The older generation found love next door, sometimes, or within the neighborhood. Families met and consented to marriage after determining that neither party looked like a criminal. At the age of twenty-four, couples would be married and have children. Today marriage is no longer a priority. People marry much later while spending many years searching for the perfect person, a soul mate.

Summary of Modern Romance
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Aziz Ansari’s Perspective 

Aziz Ansari is a stand-up comedian best known for his role on the late, great television show “Parks and Recreation” as Tom Haverford. In 2010, he also hosted the MTV Movie Awards and his own Netflix show, Master of None. Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance for years. He was inspired to write the book Modern Romance after bringing up the Tanya fiasco in a comedy routine and reflecting on the universality of his experience. However, he chose to take things to the next level with his first book.

Collaborating with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg on a massive research project, Aziz Ansari has unearthed modern romance’s dynamics. The intense research on the topic included hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted in cities ranging from Buenos Aires to Tokyo to Wichita. 

They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and set up their online research forum on Reddit, which attracted thousands of messages. They interviewed experts, consulted books on human behavior, psychology, and sociology, and uncovered sober academic studies about current dating trends. They enlisted the help of world-renowned social scientists such as Eli Finkel, Andrew Cherlin, Helen Fisher, Barry Schwartz, Sheena Iyengar, Robb Willer, and Sherry Turkle. The result is unlike any other social science or humor book we’ve seen.

About Eric Klinenberg

Eric Klinenberg is a professor of sociology at NYU. He’s the author of Going Solo (Penguin Press) and has contributed to The New YorkerRolling Stone, and This American Life.

StoryShot #1: The Search For A Soul Mate Is Taking Longer Than Ever Before

Ansari and Klinenberg pay a visit to a nursing home and trade donuts for conversations with the community members. They discovered that most of them met their wives and husbands because they lived in the same neighborhood or city. “People will only go as far as they have to to find a mate.” While older people and individuals from small towns could marry closer to home, Ansari acknowledges this idea would seem outrageous today: “Remember where you grew up when you were a child, would you marry any of those clowns?”

People often got married and had children when they were young. Most people these days postpone marriage to concentrate on their careers and education. This is because they can enjoy adulthood’s perks without settling down. Many people today are more experimental with love; they try to turn the cards in their favor, go on exciting dates, and do things that help them feel what it’s like to be with a person. When they fail to get the spark they are looking for, they move on to the next in search of the perfect connection.

StoryShot #2: Initiating a Relationship Is More Complex Than Ever

Anyone who owns a mobile phone and is in a romantic relationship knows how fast and ruthlessly the handset can work against you. It’s an innocent medium of communication one moment and a poisonous breeding ground for self-doubt and self-loathing the next. You think you’re a rational adult, but suddenly you’re getting worked up over how to reply to a 2 a.m. message from a crush whose only feedback after three days of no contact reads, in full, “wsup.”

Aziz Ansari feels your pain. He understands how unappealing it is to stare impotently at a screen, waiting for a text that never arrives, and how impolite it is to apply the passion and commitment of a French deconstructionist to the evaluation of an illiterate thread of grammatically incorrect words. “Modern Romance,” his latest book, references a His would-be girlfriend’s failure to respond to his witty text that sent him helplessly going into a “tornado of panic, hurt, and anger.” The hours flew by. He exclaims, “I’m so stupid!” “I should have typed ‘Hey’ with two y’s rather than one!” “Did Tanya’s phone end up in a river/trash compactor/volcano?” Tanya died.” (No, Tanya simply does not wish to respond.)

StoryShot #3: The World Of Online Dating

Aziz Ansari explores the advantages and disadvantages of modern romance, specifically online dating. He maintains objectivity by focusing on research and data instead of arguing a compelling argument for or against it. He claims that while dating is always shaped by the period it occurs, it still adjusts to current dynamics.

Those findings are not surprising, but strangely, men perform much better when they aren’t smiling. Whereas women performed worse when they did not make eye contact, men performed much better when they looked away. This appears to be highly illogical. “What exactly are they looking at?”

Strangely, the most effective profile photos for men are those with animals, followed by photos showing off muscles and photos of them doing exciting stuff.” Outdoor, drinking, and travel photos were the least effective.

A fascinating aspect was when Rudder examined the data on which photos resulted in the best experiences. So, although “cleavage” shots of women resulted in about 50 percent extra new contacts than the monthly average, the photos that elicited the most communication showed a person doing exciting stuff. Faces were not always required. These images indicated something more profound about their lives, leading to more meaningful interactions.

StoryShot #4: Are There Too Many Options To Make The Right Choice?

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari examines how technology has changed the dating process. Since there were fewer options, individuals used to find their partner in their neighborhood. Singles today are delaying marriage for way too long. They now have more options due to technological advancements, but society views marriage differently with so many single parents nowadays.

The problem with the Internet is that it helped to create the notion that there is the best option available and that if we look carefully, we can find it. As a result, there is a slew of inferior options that we would be a stupid pick. Under one of their Reddit threads, Aziz and his team asked people to explain their ideal first dates. It was incredible to see how many participated in simple and accessible things that required much more thought than a movie or dinner. More exciting dates constitute more incredible romantic achievements.

StoryShot #5: The Modern Dating Scene Presents Unique Challenges In Different Countries

What about dating dynamics in other nations? Much of the research focuses on dating patterns in the United States. Ansari researched cities such as Buenos Aires, Tokyo, and Paris. Beginning in Tokyo, Japan, where hookup culture is generally prevalent. One-third of people under thirty have never gone on a date.

But why is there such an upsurge in hookups over relationships in Tokyo? According to Japanese sociologist Kumiko Endo, one barrier is the rise of the “herbivore men,” with no intention of dating women with successful careers. Furthermore, men prefer living with their parents until their thirties and may also feel disempowered due to Japan’s lack of dependable, high-paying jobs. 

The dating world in Buenos Aires is very different from what exists in Tokyo. Whereas men in Tokyo are chastised for being too assertive, men in Argentina are supposed to be aggressive and go after whoever and whatever they want. In Buenos Aires, for example, predatory behavior that is frowned upon in other countries, such as America, is broadly acknowledged and even encouraged. So while men are aggressive, women are encouraged to seem uninterested and dismiss dating proposals even when they are, which only adds to the confusion. Moreover, online dating is perceived as despair and has not been picked off in the way it has in other nations. The norm in Buenos Aires is to date more than one person simultaneously.

As American daters face unique challenges, every nation has a dating scene that seems frustrating for both men and women looking for a life partner.

StoryShot #6: The Changing Perception Of Marriage And Increasing Break-Ups

In the past, marriage was an institution that provided you with a lifetime partnership in the form of social status, companionship, children, and succession. And yet now we expect our companion to give us all of these things while also being my passionate lover, trusted confidant, and best friend. So we go to a single human and ask them to give what a whole village used to offer. You seek identity, belonging, continuity, mystery, transcendence, and awe all at once. You ask for comfort and edge, novelty and familiarity, predictability, and then surprise.

We are looking for something passionate or steaming right from the start. Before, People used to do their best to heat things after they found the water and devoted themselves to a life together. If it isn’t boiling these days, it seems premature to commit to marriage. However, finding a soul mate takes time and a significant emotional investment. The concern is that this quest for the ideal partner can be stressful. Today’s youth are under enormous pressure to identify the “perfect partner,” which did not exist when good was enough.

Because our standards are so high these days, individuals quickly call it quits when their relationship fails to meet their expectations.

StoryShot #7: Texting Is Changing the Dating Scene for the Worst

In what seems like a text-filled universe, the brain muscles that support spontaneous conversation are exercising much less, and our skills are deteriorating. Are our desire and ability to socialize with strangers some other muscle that could be atrophying in the digital age? We all sit on our own, gazing at the black screen, feeling various emotions. But, oddly, we’re all in this together, and we must take refuge in the fact that nobody knows what’s happening.

Texting, as a medium, allows for rudeness, flakiness, and a variety of other character traits that wouldn’t be reflected in a voice call or in-person conversation. There has yet to be an official texting guidebook. However, a general cultural consensus on texts has gradually emerged.

Some fundamental guidelines include the following:

  • Don’t respond immediately. You come across as a loser with nothing happening.
  • Whenever you write to anyone, don’t text again until they respond.
  • The number of words you write needs to be comparable to the number of words the other individual has chosen to write to you.
  • If your texts are in blue while the other person’s texts are in green, and there is a shitload more blue than green in your dialogue, this individual does not care about you.
  • The individual who gets the final message in a chat is the winner!

With all these unscripted rules, texting could be a significant barrier to fulfilling modern romance. Laurie Davis, an online dating consultant, recommends that her clients exchange no more than six texts before having a face-to-face meeting. It is preferable to spend quality time connecting with actual people rather than spending more time on our gadgets trying to check who else is available.

StoryShot #8: Settling Down Is No Longer a Priority 

As he concludes, Ansari acknowledges never being a “relationship person,” and his first committed relationship didn’t happen until he was 23. He liked being single in his twenties, but by 30, as his friends started getting into committed relationships, he despised solitude in bars and events. He began a relationship with an old acquaintance, and they moved in together.

Many people today are scared of settling down. When most people say they are afraid of settling down with someone, what they mean is that they are afraid of settling when a better alternative could be nearby. For this reason, many avoid lifelong commitments and opt for a fling as they search for the perfect match.

We are initially drawn to people based on their appearance and distinguishable characteristics. However, the things that genuinely make us fall in love with someone are their profound, more unique qualities, which usually emerge only after prolonged interactions. Many people are not ready to dive deep enough to pick out these unique characteristics and settle down.

There are two stages to love. At first, passionate love sets in, where you and your partner are head over heels for each other. Companionate love eventually takes over. Companionate love is linked with the areas of long-term bond formation and relationships. During the shift from passionate to companionate love, several people lose interest and part ways, whereas others remain close as lifetime partners.

Final Summary and Review

The modern dating scene appears very complicated from the key ideas discussed above in Aziz Ansari’s modern romance. We pursue romance through tech, and as we strive to traverse romantic relationships in a technological age, our relationships face new challenges. But, although our connections are digital, the texts on your handset are from an actual person with feelings and needs. Before you finish typing, consider the impression you’re creating and try to appear as truthful as possible. 

Note that nobody ever wishes to play games, so try to balance appearing overly eager and overly disinterested. It’s also worth emphasizing that online dating is only about meeting new people, not getting to know them. To truly get to know someone, you must devote time to them.

Finally, don’t allow the sea of possibilities to prevent you from diving in and becoming familiar with someone. Make dating enjoyable by planning new experiences above a drink to get to know someone. Everyone possesses something unique and valuable, and we will be far better and happier if we put in the effort and time it takes to discover it. Couples who participated in new and exciting activities had a significantly higher boost in relationship satisfaction.


“too many people spend way too much time doing the online part of online dating, not the dating part.” 

“Marriage was an economic institution in which you were given a partnership for life in terms of children and social status and succession and companionship. But now we want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition I want you to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long. So we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide: Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise. And we think it’s a given, and toys and lingerie are going to save us with that. Ideally, though, we’re lucky, and we find our soul mate and enjoy that life-changing mother lode of happiness. But a soul mate is a very hard thing to find.” 

What did you learn from Modern Romance summary? What was your favorite takeaway? How can we improve this summary? Comment below or tweet to us @storyshots.

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Summary of Modern Romance
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