Monday, November 23, 2009

ShidduchVision... What's Right and What's Wrong

It seems that there's been a bit of hoopla over the opening of the first ShidduchVision center in Lakewood. The purpose of ShidduchVision, as stated on its website, is as follows:

ShidduchVision™ IS A SAFE AND CONVENIENT VIDEO CONFERENCING PROGRAM THROUGH WHICH SINGLES IN DISTANT LOCATIONS CAN ‘MEET’ EACH OTHER. THIS SYSTEM USES SOPHISTICATED COMMERCIAL VIDEO CONFERENCING TECHNOLOGY IN A REFINED, TZNIUSDIK ATMOSPHERE, IN A CONTROLLED STUDIO ENVIRONMENT IN PRIVATE HOMES. ALL NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS WILL BE TAKEN TO PROTECT THE KEDUSHA AND TZNIUS OF THE PROCESS.

USING ShidduchVision™, THE SINGLES CAN HAVE THEIR INITIAL MEETINGS IN A PRIVATE, PLEASANT ENVIRONMENT, AND THEN DECIDE IF THEY WISH TO MEET IN PERSON.

(Yes, it's in ALL CAPS).

OK, I grant that there might be a few upsides to this: It allows for a guy/girl who come from out-of-town to see each other first before making a long trip in. Sometimes dates will fizzle just based on looks alone, and this will allow some people to avoid wasting travel time and money on dates that just won't lead anywhere.

I suppose that it might help with a guy/girl who is brand new to dating and nervous about spending a few hours alone (or as alone as you can be in a hotel lobby) with a guy/girl. This might prove to be a less threatening atmosphere by which the two can meet for the first time. Hopefully, after they've broken the ice, s/he will be more comfortable meeting in person.

There may be other positive developments as well. However, when I read the FAQ of ShidduchVision, I get a very uneasy feeling -- one that tells me that despite however well-intentioned this is meant to be, it will end up warping the dating process even more than it is already warped.

Consider the following "features" of the Shidduch Vision system:

In differentiating themselves from simple webcam usage, the SV site states:

With webcams there is no control involved, so singles who ‘date’ via webcam are working outside of the Shidduch system.

Huh? What "controls" are involved? Is there a monitor listening in to the conversation to make sure it doesn't stray from the straight and narrow? I don't believe that to be the case, based on the other FAQs. So then, what sort of "control" is there? And how is doing so "outside the Shidduch system?" If a duly-recognized Shadchan sets up a couple and privately arranged a webcam meeting then that's "outside the Shidduch system?" How is it any worse than if the Shadchan actually sent them on a physical date?

The FAQs also constantly emphasize the "znius" and "kedusha" of the dating system. Of course, if you think about it, considering that the couple are now totally alone in an isolated environment (certainly more isolated than a hotel lobby), perhaps it's possible that something inappropriate might be shown or discussed. The FAQs cover that as well:

Although inappropriate behavior is extremely unlikely, it could possibly happen (as indeed, it could on a traditional face-to-face date). Therefore we have put a reporting system in place so that anyone reported (by the single or Shadchan) to have acted in an inappropriate manner will be have their privileges of using the ShidduchVision™ system revoked permanently, and will be reported to his/her Rebbi/Rebetzin, etc. We will have zero tolerance for such issues.

Of course, if both parties wish to engage in ribaldry, then there is no way to catch them (officially). The system presented above relies on one party to report the other. Since the couple in the Shidduch Vision booth is now *more* isolated than they'd be in a hotel lobby, I would think that this presents more of an opportunity for inappropriate things to be said/seen.

Another concern I have is in the consequences involved for inappropriate behavior. The FAQ states that if one party acts inappropriately, s/he will have his SV privliges revoked and be reported to his/her Rebbi/Rebetzin. I have two major concerns with this:

1. Since when did Loshon Hara and public shaming become permissible -- even if the accusation is true?
2. Considering the fact that the conversation is not recorded and that no one is supposed to be monitoring it, how can anyone's charge be substantiated? Ultimately, it must come down to a he said/she-said. And without any proof at all they're going to embarrass the person in front of their rebbi/rebetzin and quite possibly ruin future shidduch possibilities?

Lastly, I have a concern on how this might become part of the "chumra creep" that is encompassing many of our communities. As I said at the top of the post, there are certain positives about this system and it can serve a useful purpose in a limited set of circumstances. What I am afraid of, however, is that this is going to go from being a useful tool to being the popular, then the norm and finally de rigueur. Do you think that in ten years or so a person will be looked down upon for going on a "physical" date right away without doing Shidduch Vision? I think it's a real possibility. I'm afraid that this will become just another "layer" of dating and another "rule" that singles have to follow, lest they be shunned. And the last thing we need to do is make the shidduch dating even more complicated and cumbersome than it is now.

The Wolf

22 comments:

zdub said...

What is particularly ironic is that they have both a website and a youtube video. ASSUR!

(BTW, I noticed that they amateurishly attempt to disable copying text from their site.)

tesyaa said...

These "services" are very controlling, aren't they? Like Dor Yeshorim, which will kick you off their registry if you learn your results by private testing.

That alone should give people pause.

Garnel Ironheart said...

I think your last concern is the most pertinent. You're absolutely right to be concerned that 10 years from now some boy will be told "You actually met the girl in person instead of over the webcam? For shame!"
On the other hand, it seems to reinforce that while one should not report pedophiles, it seems acceptable to report guys with bad senses of humour. I guess it's a chapter of Shulchan Aruch we haven't come across.

G*3 said...

I’m less concerned about the chances of this becoming the norm than I am about what the quotes from the FAQ say about the society this system is meant for.

There’s a Shidduch (big “S”) *system*?! It makes it sound like a government-run program with tight controls, and that it is illegal and dangerous to use any methods not approves of by the “system.” Shidduch dating is nothing like that. Its a series of blind dates set up by anyone from a casual acquaintance of the two parties to ‘professional’ shadchanim. There’s no central agency that licenses shadchanim.

Then there’s the attempt to force people to behave themselves by threatening to ban them and tattle on them to their Rebbi. “If you don’t follow my rules, I’m telling!” Do they really think that young adults won’t behave themselves? If someone does something inappropriate and causes their date (I use the term loosely) to feel uncomfortable, there should be consequences. But is it really necessary to say that up front, in the form of a threat?

I think that the society that this is meant for 1) doesn’t think people are at all capable of behaving themselves without threats and oversight, and 2) believes that rigid control is the only way to keep people in line.

Does this whole thing remind anyone else of 1984?

Anonymous said...

Given the great number of misunderstandings found in the "heimishe" communities with regard to usage of English, banning people based on a single unsubstantiated report sounds absurd.
If I told a Lakewood girl I was a conservative (meaning politically) and she reported me as a not-frum Conservative Jew, I'd have no recourse?
For me, at least, this system is a shortcut only to tzuris.

Anonymous said...

You're scraping the bottom with this. Much ado about nothing at all.

Ilan Mordechai said...

Im VERY opposed to this. NEEDLESS COMPLICATION. If in the end of the day you will need to do a specific amount of hishtadlus effort and tefilla to find your zivug anyway, why make yourself have to go through more people albeit with less effort each time?

megapixel said...

dude speaking of shidduchim, what is with the single muslim.com ad on your website?

Zach Kessin said...

I think its a power play. The more control that the Powers that Be can have over the shidduch process the more they can control the community.

Think about it if in 5-10 years you must use this thing and yo can be cut off its can be a very big stick for keeping people in line. (Of course it could really back fire on them, I hope)

Anonymous said...

Don't the rabbis realize that this will lead to temptation?

First, it will be a conversation about how many children the couple want to have, where they will send them to school, who will support them, etc., and the next thing you know, the yeshiva bochur will be asking the innocent girl to unbutton just one button, come on, sweetie, I'm so horny, I just want to see your collar bone. I'll still have respect for you on our next conference video date....

Yerachmiel Lopin, frumfollies blogger said...

I agree, "power play." The rest of the world has Skype. It works, its free, it includes video if you want.

First the Lakewood rabbonim cut off the internet. Than they install their speciual internet connection just for shidduchim. Eventually we will have a Lakewood kosher internet where the shabbos goyim will be chinese and Iranian goym who specialize in internet censorship.

The power play consists of having everything under Rabbinical control. Next will be product place ads on the video hookup (you should pardon the expression). As I have said on my blog, all they have to do to end the Shidduch crisis is ban girls from getting married before 20 until the oversupply of women is gone.

Moshe said...

Just another way for frummies to "make" money. Just like koshernet which is twice slower and twice more expensive than Verizon.

Who wants to steal their business? Can make a version which will record what was said and use voice recognition, yes I know it barely works, to monitor for inappropriate behavior.

Anonymous said...

don't jump to conclusions. i think the system is (or should be) limited to couples who are in different cities or long-distance from each other, i.e., not near enough to have to spend airfare to go out without first meeting each other over the net. the obvious purpose is to make dating cheaper and more efficient under those circumstances: if there is a mutual connection, the couple will not (or should not) be allowed to continue "dating" in this manner indefinitely.

the person behind this idea has a head on his shoulders. he is not an "extremist." if your complaints turn out to be valid there will plenty oportunities to criticize the system; in the meanwhile let it get off the ground without knocking it down needlessly in advance.

Anonymous said...

I think it's well meaning but ultimately very flawed. There is no way you can gauge how comfortable you feel with a person when you haven't been in the same physical location. It's like dating over the phone, except more awkward. (At least over the phone you can relax and therefore might end up having a more productive conversation.)

Seems to me it's all about looks...in which case, just exchange photos! This is a cop-out, where somebody doesn't need to actually come out and say "I don't want to travel if I don't know that he/she is good looking enough" and won't have to appear uncouth by asking for a picture.

jewinjerusalem said...

They can do all meetings with this system. They will even get engaged. No bitul torah. They can get married via a shliach. We all learned the 2nd perek of kiddushin. He can remain in the BMG dorm and she can stay in her parents' home. Now we have solved the problem of the shvare not having enough to support his s-i-l. they'll save a lot on rent and food. maybe we can let the chossen come to Brooklyn to visit his wife for yom tov. i hope I'm not being to forward. As far as fulfilling the 1st mitzva goes, that can also be done long distance. See http://www.vosizneias.com/43851/2009/11/27/new-york-daf-ben-siras-status This will be a tremendous tikun for klal yisrael.

Orthonomics said...

Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but what would be the harm in having potential long distance couples talk on the phone a few times?

If they make a connection they can proceed to schedule a real date.

Anonymous said...

Any spontaneity will need to be reported and punished.

Ariella said...

Orthonomics, you are just too sensible. The more artificial and scripted things are, the better!

Seriously, though, the more innovations I see in the shidduch system (the resume, the proposal to reward shidduchim with older girls, etc.) the more I think we have to gain by returning to the simple, direct approach used in the days when the girls lent each other dresses and went out into the vineyard to meet someone to be their husbands.

Aaron from L.A. said...

Shidduch this,shidduch,that....I'm tired of it already.Can't people just meet others on their own without being characterized as low-lives?This is what happens when the sexes are separated for just about everything.Nobody knows anybody .Nobody knows how to act with someone else.People get married because others tell them or pressure them to.And of course,notice how many people get divorced nowadays.In certain cases a "shidduch" is fine and may even be preferable.But must every match be made by a third party between two perfect strangers? Must two dates and three phone conversations mean "call the caterer"?

Joseph said...

The latest word on the Lakewood street is this: The conversations WILL be monitored and with a 5-second delay to enable the use of a cutoff switch should it be deemed necessary.

You can't make this stuff up, folks!

Anonymous said...

@Aaron: It's ideal to segregate the sexes during high-school. I know many people who didn't "mingle" and had no problems finding a wife and getting married. The benefit of the "3rd-party system" is that it allows a match to be suggested based on compatibility rather than external factors. I sincerely hope this well meaning idea never catches on; as i think it will only cause more problems than it solves. "L'fum tzara agra" - "according to the tircha is the reward".

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