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.

Another dating trend that doesn’t involve dating: Breadcrumbing

Breadcrumbing, is the latest dating trend and label that replaces stringing along. The New York Times describes it as  “They communicate via sporadic noncommittal, but repeated messages — or breadcrumbs — that are just enough to keep you wondering but not enough to seal the deal (whatever that deal may be). Breadcrumbers check in consistently with a romantic prospect, but never set up a date. They pique your interest, of that prospective job, perhaps, by reminding you repeatedly that it exists, but never set up the interview.”

Basically, you’re keeping your options open while stringing someone else along with the least amount of effort or regard for the other person. Like ghosting, the other person is entertaining them when they reach out. What kind of reaching out you ask? Oh, “liking” a photo on IG or fb is the signal that game is back on. Right. What? It’s probably the saddest and minimal amount of effort to demonstrate interest in someone. I mean, we spend more time liking cat photos.

Urbandictionary.com

For us to accept these behaviors with disregard for how it impacts us emotionally is what the core of what I call, The Millennial Virus, is. What is it doing to our sense of self? Are we becoming more narcissistic? Are we becoming more insecure? Are we accepting sub-optimal relationships just to feel connected to something? Is technology driving dating, sex and emotion? Is it creating a generation that is passive-aggressive in life?

As a Behavioral Scientist, what amazes me is the hypersensitivity we all seem to have about almost all aspects of life EXCEPT relationships. Isn’t it interesting that we stand up against bullying, shaming, or political un-correctness; but with people we have interest in we act with total disregard? Some say it’s technology that’s driving our behavior, some say it’s the lack of employment, or that we are to attached to our devices or the way we are cognitively evolving.

Let’s look at some of the most common types that will most likely breadcrumb:

  1. Stalker types. These are the ones that reach out on your social feeds every now and then, but don’t follow-up with any sentences J They treat you like you are a notification on fb that they forgot they were connected to. If they can’t reach out to you in a text, what makes you think they are interested in having something pop off with you?
  2. Booty call types. These are the “DTF” “WYD” messages you’ll get at night. They aren’t interested in going beyond just the sexual set up you have. If this is acceptable to you, proceed with caution. Because it may not evolve into a
  3. Can’t get over you types. These are the ones that reach out to you months and years after it’s over in hopes of rekindling the relationship. If they failed the first time, chances are they aren’t new and improved. They just realize the error in not having you in their lives and hope that you are going to want to waste time with them again.
  4. Predator types. These types stalk you on your social feeds to keep abreast of the latest going on in your life. Once they notice a difference in posts or photos that indicates your seeing someone or they see that your seeing someone, they all of a sudden find you interesting. If they were on the fence about dating you and only reach out because you are happy in a new relationship, enjoy your new relationship.

In all these types, the underlying issue is not just their non-commitment issues, it’s their ego. Filtering through hundreds of profiles, spamming everyone, and getting rejected is rough on the ego. A way to deal with the rejection ratio is to find any kind of attention.  At the end of the day, people want to feel some level of relevance, importance or their own delusions of grandeur. Some get their rocks off by knowing that they’ve hooked you with a like or that you are still around when they disappear. Their ego is fulfilled when they reach out to you after months and you accepted their previous behavior and continue in a cycle of a dis-satisfactory relationship. Your ego, on the other hand, begins to take a hit to your self-esteem. Now you’re asking yourself questions like: why they reached out if they hadn’t ever planned to follow through, what’s the point of reaching out to me and why not meet up with me and finally why do I continue to attract these bullshit types?

 

The Millennial Virus

Most of the articles and research on millennials is targeted on marketing to them, how we could sell better to them, how we can better understand their preferences, or we characterize the hookup culture like it’s something new. We try to talk about their sexual patterns, how many, how often, variations of sexual practices, birth rates, and on and on. But, we never talk about what I call, The Millennial Virus (c), what they are at risk of. We never talk to them about the risk of getting an STD. Today, NYC announced increases in STDs among millennials. The hookup culture is nothing new-it was AIDS prior to this generation.
So, I conducted polls over quora, google + and reddit and 50% were aware of STD risk, but were unaware of the recent CDC report that states “ages 15-24 make up just over one quarter of the sexually active population, but account for half of the 20 million new sexually transmitted infections that occur in the United States each year.”
Credit: Anqa
According to a study conducted by Downing-Matibag & Geisinger (2009), “nearly half of participants were unconcerned with contracting a sexually transmitted infection from penetrative intercourse during a hookup, and a majority were unconcerned about diseases in hookups that included fellatio or cunnilingus. Most students reported not considering or realizing their own health risks during hookups, particularly those that occurred within their own community such as with someone else on their own college campus”. Another study by Paik (2010), reported “individuals involved in hookups are more likely to have concurrent sexual partners”. Which only compounds disease risk by increasing the spread of infection.
We like to blame Tinder, Bumble, and other dating apps for this behavior, but when I asked where people are hooking up; the top places were:
1. Tinder
2. College dorms
3. Instagram
4. Facebook
5. Bars
6. Clubs
7. Cars
8. Frat parties
When you ask why don’t people prefer to use a condom? The answer is obvious: “we don’t like the desensitizing feeling condoms have.” You know what is more desensitizing? An STD.

Do You Really Need to Love Yourself First?

That’s the burning question many people had from my last article for the Huffington Post on self-esteem. Thanks to all who shared their stories, feedback, comments and insights. It inspired me to write this article. I know you’ve been told you need to love yourself first before you can love someone else. I disagree. Can love exist without self-love? Yes. Let me explain by asking you to ask yourself the following things:  
  1. Do you prioritize others over yourself?
  2. Do you tell yourself the truth?
  3. Do you accept the past or do you ruminate about it?
  4. Do you blame others (parents, ex-partner/spouse) for your past failures?
  5. Do you follow your gut the majority of the time?
  6. Do you carve out “me” time consistently?

Do you do any of these things and still want and find love? Of course you do. We all do. Does it stop us from loving others?

Still think you need to love yourself first? Ok, let’s look at the latest dating trend Benching. In this article, Jason Chen is writing about his experience with rejection and how common it is for people to start dating then blow them off and re-surface months later and resume dating again. So, he became a bench-warmer waiting to get picked; while the other person is dating other people. He’s wondering why he got blown off, but the person comes back and you give them a chance, right? What does this say about what people feel about themselves? Why do they allow it? Should you give people the benefit of the doubt? Sure. But, what’s the cut off? Should your ego, sense of self, or self-respect take a hit? And even when it does take a hit, don’t we still seek love? Isn’t that the opposite of loving yourself first?

What does it say about self-love? If you ask people do you love yourself, they’ll likely tell you yes.

Here’s my burning question: If you love yourself first, then what explains the faulty decision-making in relationships?

It’s not about self-love, it’s about self-awareness. I think that self-awareness PKNFYSTO4Eis one of the keys to our relationship decision-making process. When you’re self-aware and ask yourself the same above questions, you’ll find what you accept for yourself and what helps you decide on who, when, and how to love. The interesting part of self-awareness is that it becomes most challenged while you are in a relationship. 🙂 Have you ever realized that thing that s/he did that annoyed you triggered another aspect of you?

The heated you: It’s not about the toilet seat! It’s about you having no consideration for me whatsoever! 

Your inner voice: OMG! Who can’t put down a damn toilet seat?! I’m gonna be miserable the rest of my life putting up with this shit!

The over-reaction to a small thing triggered larger issues: lack of consideration and poor communication. The irony is that people become aware of the lack of self-love in relationship to others. 🙂 Self-love is cultivated over time. With each relationship we hope to get a better understanding of our needs and what we will seek out in the future. Our sense of self is challenged in each break-up because we’re trying to understand why it happened, why we allowed it to happen, or what was wrong with that person that they didn’t see the greatness in us. 🙂 Either way, we walk away wondering is this person kidding me with their bullshit behavior or was I kidding myself?

 

Top 5 ironic reasons you aren’t finding the right one

Summer’s here so people try to blame the weather for not wanting to commit (aka the break-up season). The summer isn’t the reason you can’t find the right type. The reason is simple: it’s the irony we create about love and relationships. Here are 5 examples of what holds some people back and how to change it:

  1. Some people allow one past relationship to disallow their future relationships and happiness. Re-read that statement. Does it sound like it makes sense? Doesn’t it sound paradoxical? Aren’t you looking for happiness? Aren’t you seeking out that one right person? By allowing one person to determine your future is delaying your happiness. Isn’t that counter-productive to your goal? The next time you find yourself thinking about the negative aspects of your past relationships, meditate on this mantra: Chalk it up to your ex’s inability to handle your greatness 🙂
  2. Your heart will keep seeking love, but your brain will identify patterns and stop you from seeking love. Harmonize the two by creating a list of the patterns you see. Sometimes you will find that these patterns reveal what you think you need and not what you want. Pay attention only to the aspects that you need. That part is responding to your nature and character. What you think you want is responding to your past experiences.

    Teddy Kelley photo
    Credit: Teddy Kelley
  3. You realize you took for granted someone that is gone and that becomes the very thing you want. Here the solution is simple: you’re just a dumbass. Each person we encounter makes us either realize something about ourselves or inspires us to be better people because of the nature of how they make us feel about ourselves. If you encounter someone that makes you a better person and you didn’t recognize that, ummm what’s my blog called? 🙂 Don’t fret. What is designed for you doesn’t disappear. Keep track of what you wish you still had and seek it out in someone else.
  4. You’re seeking happiness, but wind up settling. Deep down inside, when you’re settling, you know it. Sometimes people convince themselves that it is ok; other times they realize that they want more, but don’t think they can get it. In either case, why live only partially happy?
  5. The very type you don’t initially find attractive is the one you wind up with. Several studies show that when you ask successfully married people where physical attraction ranks in the scale of their relationship, initial looks ranks really low. Don’t believe me? Check out eHarmony’s take: http://www.eharmony.com/dating-advice/dating/little-physical-attraction-deal-breaker/#.V2sAaOsrIlg  Moral of the story: Stop treating people like they are your social networking streams. Focusing on the shiniest object. If you are checking them out based on their looks, chances are so are another 100 other people.

Why are men so non-committal?

Spring is near, so I’ve been getting a lot of women asking for relationship advice on non-committal men. If you ask men why they are so non-committal, why they cheat, or why they deceive their partners, the #1 answer you’ll get is boys will be boys. Doesn’t help, does it?

So, I’ve compiled a short list of things to help really get to the bottom of how to determine if your man is non-committal or commitment phobic. Aside from the usual signs, check out: Men and Relationships: 5 Signs He’ll Never Commit by SABRINA ALEXIS or or just go on Tinder. 🙂commt-yourejustadumbass

Here are some subtle cues to listen for on how to gauge if you’re in a non-committal relationship:

  1. Past relationship references. How he describes his past relationships could be a good place to start. Did he have a string of bad relationships with “crazy” women? If it was “most of them were crazy”, then he’s probably looking to blame others for his past relationship failures. Realistically, he may have deeper issues that he has to resolve that you might not be able to. Most people, especially men, loathe failure. They are designed to try to fix shit. If they couldn’t in the past and it became how they related to women, they hate taking chances. If you stick around chances are you’ll be one of those “crazy” exes.
  2. I intended on… That sounds good, doesn’t it. But, most people intend on doing a lot of things that they want, but just never get around to it. Marriage is one of them. Weight loss, exercising, you name it. If you don’t act on what you intend to do, it doesn’t happen. When men want something, they act on it. If they aren’t discussing a relationship, chances are they aren’t looking for anything committed.
  3. Fighting. Yeah, fighting. If you think there’s something better out there, you won’t try to resolve conflict. You’ll just exit out.

 

Top 3 things NOT to say on your online dating profile

People are attracted to what resonates with them. Online dating is no different. We are treating online dating as we do social media streams; the shiniest object is what grabs our attention. So, when we review profiles we are trying to get a better sense of who you are and what you say you are. If you start with a list of things you don’t want, that’s what you’re going to get.

What men say: Not looking for a gold digger.

You come off as someone who doesn’t want to build a relationship/partnership. Why? Because you’re letting past relationships control your future relationships.

What women read:  You got divorced and lost your shit. Does that mean you won’t be able to be in a dual income partnership? Are you blaming your life choices on someone else’s spending pattern? Are you unable to recognize someone that isn’t materialistic?

What men say: Drama queens need not apply. If you have an ex that is a FWB, don’t bother to contact me. If you have baby mama drama, don’t contact me.

Are you hoping to filter out drama queens by telling them not to contact you? Drama queens don’t exist if they don’t have an audience. You just set up a stage for them 🙂

What women read:  Your mailbox will be flooded with “F you just because I have a kid doesn’t mean I have drama.” Or “F you just because I have a past that you don’t understand, that doesn’t make me a drama queen.”

What men say: Don’t contact me if you’re not comfortable sexually.

Telling women they shouldn’t have standards, might not get you what you want.Leave the seduction for face-to-face.

What women read: That begs the question: “wtf is he into?” “F you because I’m not into casual sex/hookups/booty calls whenever you want sex, isn’t going to get you either a hookup or LTR.” Or “who the f are you to start with sex on your profile when you claim to be looking for something substantial.”

 

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.