The Dating Paradox

Social media has been linked to higher levels of loneliness, envy, anxiety, depression, narcissism and decreased social skills. As a Behavioral Scientist, I wonder what causes this paradox? The narratives we share and portray on social media are all positive and celebratory. It’s a hybridized digital version of “Keeping up with the Joneses”. Meaning for some, sometimes it appears everyone you know are in great relationships, taking 5-star vacations and living your dream life.

However, what is shared only broadcasts the positive aspects of our lives-the highlight reels.

Since we’re only getting people’s highlight reels and comparing it to ourselves, it is natural to have reactions to what we’re watching. How does this impact relationships, dating and our love lives? I conducted in-depth interviews with men and women, ranging from ages 28-73, that are active social media users and found that:

  • 60% of people using social media reported that it has impacted their self-esteem in a negative way
  • 50% reported social media having negative effects on their relationship
  • 80% reported that is easier to deceive others through their social posting

Paradox Effect

It seems that social media is creating a paradox effect: giving off the illusion of many choices, while making it harder to find viable options. Can it be that our highly connected world has now become disconnected? Posting dinners, selfies and vacay photos over human interaction for some is interaction. That IS their interaction. The paradox effect in dating is creating the illusion of having more social engagement, social capital, and popularity, but masking one’s true persona. Since some are interfacing digitally more than physically it is much easier to emotionally manipulate others because they are reliant on what I call “Vanity Validation”. The one you portray on your networks and the true you, for some creates a double consciousness. Your lauded self on social media is constantly seeking more validation through electronic likes, not life. 

Vanity Validation

In the latest Match Singles in America study’s findings on how social media has impacted people’s dating lives, they found that 57% of singles say social media has generated a Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). In my study, 50% reported feeling FOMO when comparing themselves to others on social media, while 60% of millennials reported feeling FOMO. Are we comparing ourselves to other people’s highlight reels? Are we creating a false reality? It seems that we’re only willing to share things that get positive reinforcement. If we’re living through only focusing on the highlight reels, how do we express the negative side of our lives?

If you’re comparing yourself to someone else’s profile, aren’t you discounting yourself? Anything that we share on our streams are things that we’re either excited about or creating some popularity for yourself. Are we supposed to applaud that you eat? Are we supposed to applaud that you are out? Are we supposed to applaud the 100th seflie you took while you were out? Are we beginning to learn to relate to people for immediate gratification only?

Won’t this impact our dating behaviors? If we only broadcast the “look at me”, are we able to deal with the side of rejection, detachment, and non-commitment? Are you surprised when people blow you off or lead you on aka ghost, bench, gaslight or breadcrumb? Yet another paradox. Here we are thinking the world is a positive and reinforcing place, that we are interesting, we’re so popular; then we get ghosted, breadcrumbed, benched.

5 things you can do right now to change your online dating experience

1. Don’t force fit someone into your life because you are experiencing online dating fatigue. The process of several serial dates with people that you lack chemistry with or experience rejection from people that you think are potential candidates can be very frustrating and result in online dating fatigue. Where you just want to quit for awhile till you regroup. It’s totally understandable. Take a break, if you feel you need it. But, don’t let the fatigue inform who you choose.

2. Meet in real life. The point of online dating is to date, not to have a epenpal. If you haven’t gone on a date after a lengthy back and forth, cut it off. Two things are happening to you while you epenpal: 1) you are creating a false reality about who is behind the device and 2) you are delaying your own happiness by dealing with someone that isn’t on the same page.

3Screenshot 2014-11-06 at 1.56.54 PM. Diversify your dating approach. Don’t just rely on online dating as the only method of meeting someone. That will create online dating fatigue quickly. Include in your strategy both online and offline because love is a complicated process and has no formula. We can’t create the when and where. We just have to be there.

4. Approach online dating like it’s a social experiment. It really IS. Treat dating like you are collecting data on what you want and don’t want. See what combinations of qualities and characteristics better complement you. Approaching dating as though it is testing out our happiness hypothesis or algorithm can help minimize some of our own expectations. Create an equation (just like the dating sites) that includes the elements that you absolutely require (fixed variable) and the elements that you think you want (random variable). Focus just on characteristics, qualities and life desires.

5. This is the grand daddy of them all! Ready? Men, listen to me: don’t lie about your height. Women hate when you lie about inches 🙂 The reality is that men over 6’0″ in US society is about 15%. Seems like 100% online 🙂

Want to improve your OKC profile? Christian Rudder tells us how.

I recently had the honor of being a panelist with Christian Rudder, OkCupid‘s co-founder, on HuffPost Live about his new book Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking). On http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/christian-rudder-okcupid-cofounder-dataclysm/53da6a2002a760346200058e  , I had a chance to ask Christian the burning question we all want to know: what are some of the reasons that people represent themselves as what they want you to see rather than the real person that will emerge in a relationship?

Christian attributes that to be something that is part of real life and human nature. He also added that the advantages of OKC is that people can meet each other in real life and determine chemistry quickly. I was hoping that he was going to provide stats about the discrepancy and maybe discuss some of the ways their algorithm may refine the process. Darn 🙁 Screenshot 2014-09-12 at 2.46.55 PM

Other highlights from the interview:

*Women search for men closer to their age, while men regardless of their age still seek 22 year olds. Christian attributes that to men still not growing up and that models in magazines are that age. Check out Dr Drew’s take: http://www.hlntv.com/video/2014/09/11/ok-cupid-online-dating-age-women-men-attraction

*50 year old men don’t usually contact 20 year old women for the realities of a higher rejection rate.

*The hot or not feature is not designed to have everyone flocking to the most popular person on the site, it’s designed to give everyone a chance to pair off with what they find most attractive.

*OKC does not manipulate factual data such as age, sexual orientation, they alter minor details like size of photo to help users have better compatibility results based on their desired characteristics.

Check out the full video for more behind the scenes insights on OKC and let me know what you think.  http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/christian-rudder-okcupid-cofounder-dataclysm/53da6a2002a760346200058e  

Top 3 things to help get over an ex.

Dealing with a break-up, separation or divorce is often difficult. Here are a few things that can help you cope with the break-up, separation or divorce.

1. Try to refrain from highlighting negative things about your ex. Simply because it disrespects you. Afterall, you were in the relationship with the person. When you re-tell events or character flaws, the person listening will wonder why you were in the relationship to begin with. Utilize your discussions to be about rebuilding yourself and not diminishing the other person because that doesn’t improve your sense of self. It may feel good in the short-term, but not long-term.

breakup 2. Cultivate a network of support that has diverse perspectives. That way you will have different outlets to express the range of your emotions.  Especially when dealing with divorce where you can experience anger, resentment, and loss all in the same breath.

3. Forgive yourself. The only thing you did was try to show someone love and cultivate a life for you both. Allow yourself to feel the pain and unburden yourself of what was your former life. All you did was demonstrate that you have the capacity to love and build a life for yourself. You can do it again.

Thanks to a great relationship wellness panel discussion by The Law Firm of Wisselman, Harounian & Associates, P.C.

Really? And that’s why you’re just a dumbass

Say you want to meet someone that has the potential for long-term,  would you write this?

“I think you’re hot. So I’ll lay it all out…

I would like to date someone open to BDSM and some kinky pursuits in a and passionate relationship. I seek a submissive woman who craves a dominant man as a private element to our monogamous relationship. 

Does this appeal to you? Do you want to know more?”

Probably not, right? Ok, so let’s look at the strategy shall we? 🙂 So, this message gets sent out to x amount of women hoping that a fraction of that number responds back to you. And I completely appreciate that you are treating online dating like a job interview. Qualifying candidates to put them on a return call list. Very efficient strategy 🙂 I wonder how many wound up on that return call list?

Want to improve your online dating odds, here’s some tips from a behavioral scientist:

1. Online is hard because you can’t convey the 3-D you. When writing to someone, write as though you are addressing your target audience. The above letter was written by a man trying to appeal to a woman, but sounds like a sales pitch. Don’t write as yourself about what you want only. Be genuine and appeal to the gender you are writing to.  

2. Try to be congruent. If you list that your main relationship option is to find a potential long term relationship but act like you just want a casual encounter; it can be perceived as deceptive. Which will definitely not result in any dates with what you want.

3. Try to be alluring. The main point of the communication and online dating is to go on a date(s). Rather than writing out your life story before meeting, save that for a date! For men trying to attract women, women appreciate you trying to pursue and impress them. It is kind of replicating the real world. For women trying to attract men, men appreciate women that they won’t quickly categorize as having “issues”.

How to stop being single!

Fall is near which means summer flings are over and fair weather friends are gone. Now, it’s time to focus on what you want in a relationship. Here are a few tips if you looking for a lasting relationship.

NYYSUNSET

Be open.
Begin letting off the ” I am happy with who I am; I am just looking for someone to make me even happier”. Instead of that desperate “I’m looking for anyone because I hate being alone”. Desperate is not sexy; confidence is.

Go with your gut.
If you feel something is off, it IS! If you think she’s “crazy” or he’s commitment phobic, chances are they are not ready to be in a relationship. A relationship is NOT a test of the strength of your intuition. Trust that it needs no confirmation. There is someone out there for you. Don’t delay your happiness by months/years/an extra day confirming your gut feeling.

Don’t use people as a financial plan for yourself.
Look for people that complement who you are and who you are becoming. Like life, money has it’s own cycle and it’s own ebb & flow. The larger price to pay is your sense of happiness, regret and resentment.

Get out there.
Subscribe to online dating services, go out to parties, go out to events, go on groupers. Do something. Don’t sit back complaining about all the things you don’t want to do and wonder why you’re still single.

Treat dating like it’s a social experiment.
It really IS. Treat dating like you are collecting data on what you want and don’t want. See what combinations of qualities and characteristics better complement you. Don’t treat dating like it’s a job interview or when in public treat it like you are online (approaching everyone to see what sticks). If you don’t like the social experiment concept, treat it like it’s a sport.

The gift that keeps on giving

For many, the holidays are times to celebrate family, life, love, and personal goals. However, couplefightingwhen you’re single it can be a time of anxiety. It’s a reminder that you are single; either because you are around family or because your family reminds you of the fact. So, what do most people do? Try to fill that void by entertaining the idea of getting back with an ex.

Here are some things that you can remind yourself to prevent you from returning to a failed relationship:

What you do: Although it may be difficult, try not to reminisce about the relationship. When you do that you are only extracting the moments of the relationship you want to remember that were about companionship. You are recalling only the things that created an illusion of belongingness.

What you can do instead: Weigh out the reasons that you are no longer together, when you start to think that they should be back in your life.

What you do: Although the holidays might be emotional for you, remember that most of the world knows pain. Remind yourself of those that have endured different pain e.g. those that go without water or access to food.

What you can do instead: Perhaps volunteer at a local non-profit organization or attend a charity event.

What you do: Try to avoid stalking your ex on social networks. This only stagnates your growth because it occupies your brain with thoughts about your exes’ activities and whereabouts. Instead of mentally preparing yourself for a better relationship and a more realized version of yourself.

What you can do instead: Remind yourself that they are an ex for a reason.

Top 10 things to help you heal from a failed relationship

First, I’d like to thank all of my followers and readers. I am extremely grateful for your support. Many of you I have cried, laughed, cheered, and ranted with. Most of all I feel like we have gotten to a better place together.

When you are not in a relationship, getting over a relationship/divorce, the holidays can be a challenging time of the year. Each relationship we go through really teaches us about what we need or what we needed to overcome to set you up for a healthy relationship. If you’re currently struggling to get over a relationship, there are a few things you can think about to help overcome some of the pain associated with the break-up.

hearts1. Think about the things that lead you to that relationship in the first place.

2. Think about the things that attracted you to the person.

3. Think about what you were looking for before you got into the relationship.

4. Think about the fears you may have had before you got into the relationship.

5. Think about the things you felt before you got into the relationship.

6. What did the person make you feel about yourself?

7. What did they respond to within you?

8. What did you experience that you hadn’t experienced before?

9. Did you see yourself with the person before you met them?

10. Did you date someone out of your character?

Once you have identified the reasons for some of these questions, you’ll have the answers to help propel you to the next relationship. Sometimes, we keep carrying unnecessary burdens into new relationships. You possess the answers to all that you are feeling; you just have to look at the situation from a different angle. The answers are all within you. You can harm or heal yourself. Returning to the point of who you were before the relationship; puts you in a place of empowerment rather than psychological persecution.  It’s within understanding the unhealthy relationships that we find ourselves and gets us closer to a healthy relationship.

it IS all about ego!

I think that men are more strategic than women when it comes to dating. Here’s why: they have spent their dating lives figuring out what methods work and how to preserve their ego from rejection. mancalcultgThey are better at calculating risk and measuring volatility when it comes to ego preservation. What puts them at an advantage is that they have approached many women to figure out their method. I think they keep all of this information in some sort of spreadsheet like sports stats and go out with these mental stats ready.

Ladies, let’s try to adopt some of their method. Not the approaching people part, but the preservation of ego part. Whether you are dating online, in public or a combination of both; there is nothing more frustrating than being out with someone that you would rather be spending time curled up on your coach in your bunny slippers watching paint dry.

Begin sorting men in categories that are more aligned with what your immediate needs are. Let’s say you’re interested in going out briefly because you are bored of your routine. You’re just interested in not being bored. The people that approach you that night really have the value of entertaining and relieving you of your boredom. They may or may not be what you would want to date, but it serves the purpose of socializing and feeding your ego. When you are less guarded and have no extreme expectations is when you are more yourself. Additionally, when you get your needs met, you are able to go into the next situation less stressed. While you are out, if you encounter people you wouldn’t want to date, engage them with questions that you would really like to get answers to about men. Ask general stuff, but try to avoid relationship based stuff. In case the guy is interested in you, he may give you the “you should be with me”-type answers. Men are very good at telling women all about their gender. Let’s call this category: bored. Score that based on how much your ego was satisfied that you got out of it what you needed.

Let’s say it’s girls night out. You all got dolled up, coordinated your schedules, and are ready to have fun. The purpose of the night is to have fun and catch up. Men approach each one of you throughout the course of the night. Not unusual. Men don’t necessarily pick up on cues that women give off, they see a few girls assembled and think touchdown! This time when men that are not dating material approach one of you, one of you should ask him what he thinks would keep your friend happy. Do that all night long. Collect data and compare notes. Score that based on the responses the men give you. Let’s call this category: comedy night.

The next time you go out, try these methods out. These 2 senarios are really only 1 night out each time, but it will help you out for the next time you go out and meet new people. You won’t feel so overburdened by false expectations, frustrated with meeting the same types of guys, or the stress of not meeting the type of guy that you’d like to date. In both scenarios you really gained insights into the type of man you’d like to be with and you got to assert your ego into scenarios that generally are male ego dominated. Normally, you are listening to them talk about themselves and what they want and how you’d be crazy not to pick them. Try it & let me know how it goes.

Ladies, beware: men are the new women!

Ok, so, when I learned that Spanx, Inc. makes shape wear for men, I couldn’t stop laughing. Not that it’s not a great concept because IT IS! But, that there’s the metrosexual, manscaping, calf implants, and manx! What’s next? Men, enjoy the objectification that women have endured for years! You’re gonna love being told you aren’t good enough and that everything about you has to change.

Let’s begin with examples of our theme: men are the new women. The following list classifies some of the types of new modern man that are seeking someone that can deal with their emotional cycles, insecurities, and rants.

The pity seeker.

This guy chalks his life setbacks and experiences to a series of bad luck. Somehow things don’t pan out for him, yet he doesn’t understand how these things keep happening to him. Watching this guy make attempts that don’t materialize makes it hard to think about a future with him. The draw about this guy is that you really feel for him because you want him to succeed at what he does and these types really want to be a good partner because he wants to please you. The flip-side of that is he likes being a victim in life because he is used to instability in his career, life goals attainment, whatever else he sees as failures. He will be insecure throughout the relationship and when you break up he will seek pity from others by vilifying you.

The jealous types.

This guy is outwardly projecting solid and strength, but internally very insecure. There are a few subtypes within this category.  There’s the overbearing and domineering type that wants your cell phone to review your call and text history because he has deep seated trust issues. Then, there’s the guy who thinks that everyone you encounter wants to be with you and let’s you know about it. He is actually secretly jealous of you because of his inability to deal with his own insecurities and can’t deal with your ability to command your life. He doesn’t see where he fits, so he creates one. Both types seem appealing because initially they both come off as very reliable and loyal. Unfortunately, these types can become abusive.

The socially inept type.

This guy feels very uncomfortable in social settings because they are used to interacting with a computer screen and have lost their ability to interact with humans. In addition to know knowing how to function in social settings, they are also oblivious to social cues and are unable to read human behavior appropriately. These guys usually have an equally inept social circle, if they have one. Initially the draw might be the shyness, but their social awkwardness usually stems from childhood. These guys deal with their emotions via their Facebook walls because that is their support network. This guy will break up with you via text/email.