Comments: Week of August 12, 2013

1. “Cutting ties is no longer so easy—nor, I guess, do we really want it to be,” Maureen O’Connor wrote in an essay, at the center of our special sex-themed issue, on how hard it is to break up with people in the social-media era (All My Exes Live in Texts,” July 29–August 5). “Far more informational abt millennial courtship than 10 NYT Styles stories,” tweeted the Guardian’s Heidi N. Moore (we think that’s a compliment). “I’m a little too old to be directly affected by this new reality,” wrote Dave Pell at Time’s Newsfeed. “In my generation, we’re mostly worried that our kids will someday read our old tweets.” The social-media-savvy cohort saw their lives reflected in O’Connor’s World Wide Web of exes. “We could make cutting ties easier by living without a digital presence and be spared the reminders of one’s ex after the relationship goes awry,” noted Elise Hu at NPR’s All Tech Considered. “Or we can jump into the digital present with knowledge that our hookup(s) are likely to always remain part of our digital past.” “My boyfriend snapchats exes but I have to accept that they’re just friends?” wrote one reader at “How can you move forward with someone if you’re holding on to these past relationships?” And a few thought O’Connor was making a big fuss about old news. “People have had this problem since the advent of postage,” wrote one. “Have you ever read a Jane Austen novel?”

2. Reactions were more or less unanimous when it came to a roundtable discussion led by Jada Yuan among pickup artists and the authors of several dating guides (The State of Seduction,” July 29–August 5). “What happens when you put six self-absorbed, out-of-touch ‘pickup artists’ in a room together? Some of the worst sex and dating advice you could possibly imagine,” wrote Julia Black at Bustle. “Their discussion was enough to keep my jaw glued to the floor. Someone get these guys a reality show, because throwing something at your TV is so much more satisfying than ripping a page out of a magazine.” It was the panelists’ retrograde views of gender that struck irritated readers as most out-of-touch. “Gender essentialism may help sell books on how to decipher the behaviors of the ‘opposite’ sex, but this is 2013—nobody buys books anymore,” noted Amanda Hess at Slate’s XX Factor blog. “Smartphone-enabled ­daters across the country are busy interpreting their own texts and coming to alternate ­conclusions.” “This is the most one-­dimensional, ignorant argument I have ever heard,” added a commenter.

3. “Perhaps the global economic slump that we have endured since 2008 might not merely be the consequence of the burst housing bubble, or financial ­entanglement and overreach … but instead a glimpse at a far broader change, the slow expiration of a historically singular event,” Benjamin Wallace-Wells wrote in a story exploring economist Robert Gordon’s thesis that the rate of economic growth we’ve gotten used to over the past few generations may be gone for good (The Blip,” July 29–August 5). Many readers found his thesis troublingly resonant. “Gordon has painted a realistic and accurate view of the evolution of production,” wrote a commenter on “We need to adjust our expectations and make a one-percent [growth] economy work. Frankly, we have no other choice. We have hit a wall.” “Look at the growth rates of the rest of the world: China, India, Africa, Latin America. It may be that the banner of growth will pass to other countries,” argued another. “It may be that the third industrial revolution will speak Indian English instead of British or American. But at least until the world is homogenized such revolutions will continue.” Others added more optimism. “I am hopeful. I believe more revolutions are possible, if only because a fully computerized society may produce unimaginable beneficial emergent properties over time,” wrote a commenter. “There’s always some person who tells you things are over, that there’s nothing left to do,” added another. “In an age of robots, genetic computing, and asteroid mining, is anyone going to seriously say that growth is over?”

4. A clarification: The sleeping couple depicted in photographs by the late Ted Spagna that ran alongside an account of the life of an unrepentant cheater (There Is Such a Thing As Respectful Infidelity,” July 29–August 5) are themselves still happily married, more than 30 years after the photo was taken.

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Comments: Week of August 12, 2013