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It leads to stasis, both for individuals and for relationships and (turning my music example into a metaphor) it leads to music that is predictable and unexciting. Online markets assume we know what we are looking for, but sometimes we simply don't know what we are looking for until we stumble across it in a search for something else.Let me illustrate this point by another example from my embarrassing hobby of philately—this story explains how I came to collect 19th-century postal history.A frictionless market is one that puts together buyer and seller without transaction costs.In the real world there is no such thing as a frictionless market, but some markets have more friction than others.Pick-up bars were imperfect markets to say the very least.Now you go online, select a partner, and you are immediately dating someone who is at least interested in you.One day, as I was talking to a stamp dealer and asking him for something he didn't have, he pulled out of folder and of 19th-century envelopes and asked: What do you think of these?
And the problem isn't really just a problem with online dating—it's a problem that extrudes from online markets in general: They lack sufficient friction, and paradoxically this is not a good thing.Online markets reduce friction drastically in that they make the shopping part laughably easy.Let me illustrate this point with an example that has nothing to do with dating.It is a deep dark secret of mine that I used to be a philatelist—yes, you can denigrate that fine hobby by calling it stamp collecting if you wish.I collected certain kinds of 19th-century postal history (mailed envelopes) and I used to enjoy travelling from dealer to dealer digging through bins of musty postal history looking for the items that I collected. Collecting postal history has gone from a labor of seeking out interesting shops and sales and digging through musty boxes to one of logging on to e Bay, typing in a search request (19th-century postal history), and clicking on whatever envelope covers catch my eye. Now I realize that the economic language of frictionless markets isn't very romantic, but the fact is that the dating game is a kind of market whether we want to admit it or not.
The search process has for all practical purposes become frictionless, and the net result is that it just isn't fun anymore. Finding a partner used to be expensive, and the market was inefficient.