It’s not uncommon for book publishers to approach comedians, like Aziz Ansari, who you probably know him best for his character Tom Haverford on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. It’s what The Daily Show host Jon Stewart calls a “cash-grab: you’re supposed to write your act down and cash two checks.” But surprise, Ansari wrote an actual book.

Published this week by Penguin Press, Ansari’s Modern Romance sets out to see why dating today is kind of the worst. Between texting, sexting, and the game-changing medium that is online dating, singles, even married couples are confused, snooping, if they’re even still enthused by the idea of dating at all. The whole idea was inspired by “the madness” Ansari himself descended into after a woman he calls Tanya didn’t reply to one of his texts.

“There I was, maniacally checking my phone every few minutes, going through this tornado of panic and hurt and angers all because this person hadn’t written me a short, stupid message on a dumb little phone,” Ansari wrote. “I got fascinated by the questions of how and why so many people have become so perplexed by the challenge of doing something that people have always done quite efficiently: finding romance.”

Some of the book’s reviews categorize it as a comedy book, but I’d argue the humor comes second to what the book presents to the reader. Ansari’s comedic voice is invaluable, for sure, but it’s the unique data collected from diverse focus groups, interviews, trusting audience members willing to show Ansari their OKCupid profiles (for real), as well as a “modern romantics” sub-reddit that equip readers with the tools and insight they need to successfully date.

In order to accomplish this, Ansari brought on Eric Klinenberg, New York University professor and sociologist, to help him conduct his research, as well as a number of other experts to then make sense of it. And much to Klinenberg's surprise, sociology and comedy have a lot in common.

“[Aziz and I] both realized that when we did these large focus groups. We’re both focused on observation and the surprising and the unexpected that makes you see the world in a different way,” Klinenberg explained to Medical Daily. “If you’re a sociologist giving a lecture and you make a powerful observation, students might breathe in — but if you’re a comedian, people laugh and breathe out. It’s very funny the way the body responds to sociology and comedy.”

Klinenberg has conducted similar research on his own — his book Going Solo explores the rise of both solo living and the impact it has on businesses and politics — but knew “he would learn something” by working with Ansari, who he’d known to be “really intimate and insightful” through his stand-up comedy.  

For one, Ansari and Klinenberg found that in 1932, “one-third of the couples who got married had lived with a five-block radius of each other before they got married.” And one of every eight married couples had lived in the same building before they got married. Now, people use their smartphones as a “24/7 singles bar,” with plenty of apps, like Tinder, making it easier than ever to connect with someone else.

“I don’t think either of us realized how much online dating has changed the game, especially with the rise of Tinder,” Klinenberg said.

This connection, however, comes at a price. For one, so many options can be overwhelming and encourage some of us to hold out for “the best,” something that may cause us to pass on someone who's worthy of a second date; psychologist Barry Schwartz calls this “the paradox of choice.” Phone calls and face-to-face communication are dwindling while texting rates continue to surge; breaking up with people over social media is a thing now, too. The more time we spend on our screens, which Ansari found Americans did an avergage of 7.5 hours in 2014, the more our relationships suffer.

One study published in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking found Facebook damages newer relationships, and "the complexity of maintaing so many separate communication threats starts to undermine relationship ties." Another study found the fewer mutual Facebook friends couples had, the longer their relationship lasted. The point being relationships today are primarily driven by our digital world, or what Ansari calls our "phone world" versus "real world."

Perhaps the more surprising research had to do with cultural variation. In Doha, Qatar, you could go to jail for PDA (public displays of affection). In France, couples aren't so adverse to mistresses, and in Buenos Aires, romance is celebrated, but also much more aggressive.

Klinenberg said both he and Ansari were “floored” to find that in 2013, 45 percent of women aged 16 to 24 “were not interested in or despised sexual contact, and more than a quarter of men felt the same way.”

In Japan, men and women date much more modestly than those living in, say, the United States. “In Japan, cultural norms favor modesty and posting flattering images of yourself is seen as narcissistic,” Klinenberg said. “Online dating is very complicated, very photo driven, and instead of posting attractive photographs people are posting images of street signs and rice cookers.”

Yep, rice cookers.

Here's the silver lining: For as complicated and stressful as modern dating is, it's also pretty exciting. Of his current girlfriend, Ansari admits the two would have likely never met if they were from an older generation. The trick is to learn how to navigate these differences. 

For one, those "bubbles on a screen" are actual people; they're a "living, breathing, complex person just like you," so maybe don't text "hey" ten times in a row. And instead of thinking of online dating as dating, think of it as an introduction service. Between 2005 and 2012, a third of couples who got married in the U.S. met online; the data shows it can be successful. But in order to translate this success into your own relationships, "the key is to get off the screen and meet these people," Ansari said. Also, seek solace in the fact just about everyone is still figuring out how to date.

“I think the main thing we learned is people everywhere are really struggling to figure out how to communicate in the most basic ways,” Klinenberg said. “Now that everyone has a smartphone and so much of our conversation happens through machines, [we have to figure out] how to make intimate life work on these funny little devices. In the end, we feel like we’re all in it together, from Tokyo to Buenos Aires, Doha, and Wichita, Kansas; we’re all struggling.”