Anyone who has seen the many movies made about World War II knows that soldiers who had forgotten the day's password, or who happened upon Allied troops who weren't from their own company, were always asked something like "Who won the 1939 World Series?" It was a question designed to prove that they were real Americans and not enemy spies. And all real Americans would know the answer, and they'd also probably know the names of every player on each team, because everybody had listened to the games on the radio -- young and old, black and white, Jew and Gentile.
If I had to answer a similar question today -- "Who won the 2012 World Series?" -- they would shoot me on the spot because I haven't got a clue. And the sad thing is, I watched the entire series. The only thing I'm sure of is that it couldn't have been the Cubs.
Like many people, I haven't lost my memory. I've just handed it over to Google and Wikipedia for the duration. Why bother to remember anything when those two will do it for you -- and better? I didn't remember that the Yankees beat the Cincinnati Reds in the 1939 World Series; I Googled it.
Are there any questions you could ask today that every American would know the answer to, but few foreigners? Can you name all the Kardashians? Can you name the winner of last season's "Survivor"? Who won "American Idol" two years ago? Who won the Super Bowl two years ago? What movie won Best Picture at last year's Academy Awards? Who is the host of "Jeopardy!"? What time of day is "The View" on? What was the No. 1 country song last year? How about the No. 1 rap song?
Few people can answer all those questions because there are very few things all of us watch or listen to at the same time anymore.
Even dating sites are dividing people into smaller and smaller groups. I've started seeing ads for dating websites targeted to specific groups, instead of singles in general: FarmersOnly.com, ChristianMingle.com, BlackPeopleMeet.com, Mate1.com for people over 30, ProfessionalSinglesOver40.com, OurTime.com for singles over 50, and SingleParentMeet.com. Sounds like it's OK to be a single parent of any age. Or maybe single parents are just not that picky about who they date.
But even these categories are probably too vague for a lot of people. Would a dairy farmer really want to date someone who raises beef cattle? Would a Baptist want to date a Catholic? Would their families approve? How long before we see ads for MethodistMingle.com or LutheranLove.com? More and more specific dating services are sure to follow as time goes by with something for everyone. Can SingleUndertakersUnder35.com or DrunkenGamblersWithoutPartners.com be that far away?
How did people ever hook up before the Internet? I don't remember so many people being single before the Internet came along -- is there a connection? Maybe the more connected we are, the less connected we become. Or is it something even more basic? Could money have something to do with it? I doubt we'll ever see a dating site called LonelyProAthletes.com, SingleHedgeFundManagers.com or MovieStarMatch.com because those people don't seem to have any trouble finding dates. Lots and lots of dates.
You might say, "But look how many of them break up or get divorced!" Yes, but so do regular people. When a couple two blocks away from you splits up, you don't read about it in the newspaper; it's not splashed on the magazine covers at the grocery store. You might not even hear about it. Until you see the two parties show up on WontMakeTheSameMistakeAgain.com
Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.