On Tuesday, Erica Newland wrote about how Ghostwriter beat the competition in its prescient depiction of the internet. Yesterday, I revisited Hackers, and explained why that movie’s attitude towards openness became the norm for the rest of us, even if we’re not elite computer nerds. Up today, You’ve Got Mail, the first mainstream romantic comedy about internet dating — of a sort.
Online dating is a sufficiently established part of American culture now that publications like the New Yorker devote long features to the algorithms behind different pairing services, and it doesn’t actually feel like hucksterism when Match.com claims that one in five relationships now begin online. Part of what’s fascinating about watching You’ve Got Mail again is because the characters were still figuring out things like instant messaging, much less the conventions of getting to meet someone online and figuring out the tipping point at which you were interested in meeting them in the real world. The truth is that some of the questions the characters ask, like “Is it infidelity if you’re involved with someone on the internet?” are ones we still struggle with today. But some things have changed — today, urban New Yorkers don’t have to worry about a busy signal making it impossible to make a cybersex date.