“Good Credit is Sexy” Duh?

invisible man

“Good Credit Is Sexy,” says one site, Creditscoredating.com, which allows members to view the credit scores of potential dates who agree to provide the numbers.

This is a tidbit from a recent story in the NYTimes. I may be old, quite old, but even in my advanced stage, credit scores and sexy are about as far apart as I can imagine.

I have often written about the use of scores to represent, or better to claim to represent some quality of a product. Invariably, I argue that scores that attempt to capture the quality of anything or some aggregate measure of a constellation of characteristics cannot do what they claim to do. Scores are good in determining the outcome of some athletic competition, but how many time have you said that the best team or athlete was robbed of a victory.

Games are, by their nature, activities designed to produce a winners and losers, and scores are a very convenient way to signal the end of a game. But much of life is not so simple. Picking a mate can be a winning or losing proposition, but it is more than a game. Games are generally competitive; relationships between the adversaries are not usually a consideration. Sportsmanlike behavior was once a feature of many games, but seems to have largely disappeared. Placing bounties on creating injured opponents is about as far as one can go from any sense that there is any sort of extended relationship among the players.

Now I discover that the way to pick a date, not quite a mate, but perhaps for many a step along the way, has been reduced to looking at one’s credit score. If there is a better metaphor for the reduction of human being to some reified, nonviable entity, I doubt if I will stumble upon it. Maybe the invisible man will do it, but I will stick with some numerical score as the winner in this category. I, and many other, have described the modern human, as homo Economicus. Economists use wealth or income to describe the condition of such a human, but creditscoredating has done them one better. They are not the only player in this new game.

The credit score, once a little-known metric derived from a complex formula that incorporates outstanding debt and payment histories, has become an increasingly important number used to bestow credit, determine housing and even distinguish between job candidates.

It’s so widely used that it has also become a bigger factor in dating decisions, sometimes eclipsing more traditional priorities like a good job, shared interests and physical chemistry. That’s according to interviews with more than 50 daters across the country, all under the age of 40.

“Credit scores are like the dating equivalent of a sexually transmitted disease test,” said Manisha Thakor, the founder and chief executive of MoneyZen Wealth Management, a financial advisory firm. “It’s a shorthand way to get a sense of someone’s financial past the same way an S.T.D. test gives some information about a person’s sexual past.”

I guess it is all a part of the new information age. With the ability to measure each other is simple numerical terms, and the ever growing massive databases that are being mined, we will have little left of whatever humanity we were born with.

The article begins with a vignette of a failed date that Jessica LaShawn was trying to establish. It went awry when the prospective date asked Jessica for her credit score. Just the ask cooled the possibility, but her poor score would have done more serious damage. The column ends with:

“Days after her failed date, she said, she got an apologetic text message. Her date reiterated that the problem “wasn’t me, it was my credit score.”

Sorry, Jessica and others like you, it is YOU that showed up. It is a one-dimension version of you, but it is you all the same. It’s going to get worse as the numerical information about everything you do piles up at every node in the Internet your signals cross. Massive databases and data mining are the new thing. So long Jessica; hello W378N99YX. Just like the confirmation code on the last airline ticket you bought. It can’t tell you anything about the flight. Nor can the number that Jessica is becoming tell you who she really is.