Within twenty-four hours of the premiere of “The Bachelorette” back in May, multiple outlets had run reports “exposing” one of the contestants, Garrett Yrigoyen, for liking Instagram posts deemed problematic by increasingly aggressive online thought policers. Despite this, he and Kufrin announced their engagement in the conclusion of the series Monday night, newly enraging the online mob. But we should celebrate their engagement. We need more couples who can see across political divides.
Garrett’s internet transgressions clashed with Becca’s own social media posts, which indicate she’s a card-carrying member of the #Resistance. He was called out for liking posts that “mock immigrants and the trans community.” The Daily Beast ran a piece headlined, “ABC Cancelled Roseanne. What Will They Do About Their Alt-Right ‘Bachelorette’ Contestant?”
The article not only smears Yrigoyen as “alt-right” sans evidence, but also describes him as “a misogynistic, transphobic, anti-immigrant asshole whose opinions appear to be completely at odds with Becca’s,” and accuses the network of giving “platforms to people with hateful beliefs in the hopes of higher ratings.” The Washington Post even profiled Ashley Spivey, a former Bachelor contestant who tweeted out screenshots of the triggering memes in question.
Despite their differing political views, Becca and Garrett are apparently exceptionally compatible. And far from being the awful bigot presumed by commentators, Garrett proved to be the least hateful contestant of the whole bunch. He rarely let a smile disappear from his face, he avoided petty conflict with the other men, and Becca cited his infectious positivity as a primary reason for her attraction to him.
If Becca and Garrett met under different circumstances, she might have checked out his social media before their first date, seen that he liked certain posts that might indicate his political beliefs, decided they probably wouldn’t get along given their presumed differences in opinion, and cancelled the date, never meeting up with the man who is now poised to be her husband. As ridiculous as this scenario may sound, it’s happening regularly in American cities today.
Technology’s growing presence in American dating life presents near limitless opportunities for individuals to stalk a potential match before ever meeting them in person. Nearly one-third of all college-aged or recently graduated millennials use dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble, and these apps actually require you to have at least a Facebook profile to make an account. Many people link other social media accounts as well, and with just a couple taps you can find out where they like to eat, what they wear, who they hang out with, what kind of music they like, and, often, which way they typically vote.
Take, for example, the struggles of a female Trump staffer trying to navigate dating in Washington, D.C. She told Politico that after she revealed her job in the Trump administration to an online match, he asked, “Do you rip babies from their mothers and then send them to Mexico?” Before engaging in conversation, another wrote to her: “Thanks but no thanks. Just Googled you and it said you were a mouthpiece for the Trump administration. Go f-ck yourself.”
Other conservatives in the city share similar experiences, and millennials on both sides of the aisle admit to “swiping left” on profiles that contain certain “might-think-differently-than-me” cues: progressives stay away from those featuring American flags and hunting photos, for example, while conservatives count as red flags liberal arts college grads as well as profiles featuring photos from the Women’s March.
As a young conservative currently living in Seattle, one of America’s most liberal cities, I’ve had similar encounters when meeting new people. In one memorable exchange, I met a girl at a party, and within a couple minutes of our conversation we arrived at, “What do you do?” I was working for the local Republican party at the time, and when I said so, she jerked her head back with a visceral expression of disgust, then advised, “You probably shouldn’t tell people that.” She turned heel, and our small talk abruptly ended.
The idea pushed by these “Bachelorette” critics and urban millennials — that your political stripe should determine who you date — is symptomatic of a broader trend of extreme political self-segregation promulgated in American culture.
People are naturally tribal, and it’s not inherently bad to want to live and work alongside those with the same heritage, socio-economic status, or worldview. But it’s dangerous to elevate a person’s expressed political opinions as the sole or predominant indicator of their moral goodness. Even more so to suggest any given tweet or Instagram “like” (even totally devoid of context) can inform you whether a person is essentially good or bad and thus worthy of basic respect or, alternatively, isolation and rebuke.
There are countless examples to illustrate this point. This year, the opinions and erroneous tweets of right-leaning journalists Bari Weiss and Kevin Williamson whipped a storm among their peers within their respective publications — the latter losing his job. Once obscure Google engineer James Damore lost his job and was branded a “terrible person” full of “scum and villainy” by both his Google coworkers as well as many in the general public after writing an infamous, politically incorrect memo addressing occupational discrepancies among men and women. And most recently, journalist Sarah Jeong faced a different mob after old, prejudiced tweets surfaced when The New York Times announced her hiring.
These recent events, though centered around the workplace, fit within this trend of prioritizing thoughts and words — often in the form of trivial social media posts — over tangible actions and performance. This misguided tendency to equate political thoughts and opinions with morality, or to consider them as the sole arbiters of individual goodness or value, often cuts short personal and professional relationships and opportunity. It’s a travesty that, if unchecked, will infect all aspects of human society and community.
Thankfully this year’s bachelorette resisted the pressure. We should all do the same.