You’re not dating, you’re co-texting

More and more our digital dating world keeps coming up with new terms for bad behavior. Thought it was just happening to millennials? Think again.  My Happiness Hypothesis study found that it is happening across the globe to both men and women for millennials and GenX. Many are experiencing it, but don’t know there is a term for it. It is creating the paradox effect in dating: the illusion of having more social engagement, social capital, and popularity; but masking one’s true persona and intent. 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“. Their digital persona is constantly seeking more validation through electronic likes/swipes, not life experiences.

Social media creates global connectedness, sharing life events, dating ease; but it also can create lower self-esteem, obsessive social stalking, and “Vanity Validation”. Has social media facilitated suboptimal dating behaviors? Have we become too reliant on checking social? How has it impacted our dating lives? Has it become easier to ghost, bench, gaslight or breadcrumb in today’s digital world? Are we causing self-inflicted pain while dating? For the Happiness Hypothesis Study, I conducted in-depth interviews with men and women, ranging from ages 28-73, that are active online dating app users and found that:

  • 80% reported it being easier to ghost, bench, gaslight or breadcrumb because of the lack of communication and face-to-face interaction
  • 80% of millennials reported having experienced ghosting, benching, gaslighting or breadcrumbing firsthand
  • 45% reported the average length of dates in between ghosting someone was 8
  • 50% reported an average of at least 3 months before reaching out again to the person they ghosted

Meanwhile the other person waits to hear back and wonder why they weren’t worthy a response. These current dating trends are just an extension of how we use our social media. We’re treating people like we do our social media streams. The shiniest object is what we stop at, then move onto the next shiny object. But, there is a vicious cycle to these dating patterns. What fuels it? Social media! Being connected to the person that has ghosted, benched, gaslit or breadcrumbed can have detrimental effects on your self-esteem. When I asked how often do you check the social feeds of those that have expressed some form of interest in you? 90% said daily. Once they have had a ghosting, benching, gaslighting or breadcrumbing experience, it becomes weekly for 70%.

Are we creating a false reality? What is it doing to our sense of self? You’re a backup plan, but they text or reach out often enough to confuse you just in case their plan doesn’t work out. Are we becoming more narcissistic? Are we becoming more insecure? Has this behavior become normative? Is technology driving dating, sex and emotion?

The Dating Vector: People Are The New Vanishing Point

Andreas Joachim Lins

“So, I’ve been dealing with a breadcrumber for a year. The usual: endless phone and video chats, stalking each other on social. Then there’s talk of a date-that never happens! Then he reappears with the random “like” on IG, “hey, WYD?” Whatsapp message, giving me false hope that maybe he’s not an asshole and IS going to make date plans. He reads my messages, but no reply. EVER.” Monica*, 22, European Blogger.

Thought breadcrumbing was just happening to millennials or just Americans? Not according to my latest research! It’s happening for Millennials and GenXers across the globe to both men and women. Many are experiencing it, but don’t know there is a term for it. Regardless of the term, the experience alone should trigger red flags.

Here’s the backstory: Kelly met Jake a year ago, right after he left the mother of his children. Red flag #1. They were on and off, for about 3 months and then he hooked up with his former baby momma and she got pregnant, again. Red flag #2. Fast forward to now, he has been living with the baby momma and two kids, but has reached out to Kelly to rekindle things. Red flag #3. All the while, Kelly is breadcrumbing LaMar who seems like the ideal guy for her. “Kelly openly told me she should try to build something with me instead of going with this guy, but for some reason she is still pressed on the guy.” LaMar, 29, American Programmer.

Supposedly LaMar is a “great role model, a fantastic supporter, a great friend, a great lover, and a great husband”. Yet, she has been balancing both men on and off for about a year now. Red flag #4.

Par for the course in your 20s, it is what social scientists call your “defining decade”. It is the time in life that you establish your career, love life, and your philosophy about the world. In your 40s, you’ve modified some of the ways you dealt with those definitions based on life’s challenges. You are better at calculating risk and measuring volatility when it comes to your sense of sanity. Long gone are the days of spending years in unfulfilling jobs or relationships. Or is it?

Deb Davis, 48, an American Healthcare Professional, explains “I connected with this man who I had known met for “coffee” and spent 5 1/2 hours in a coffee shop. I had a message everyday first thing in the morning. The chemistry was something I had not experienced since I had fallen in love for the first time with my daughter’s father. And then nothing!”

We are just looking to connect with one person that isn’t about games. Does breadcrumbing shaming have any impact on your future dating? Not according to Davis, “He told me my first breadcrumber did what he did “because he didn’t care”! Well, WTF a man who wooed me, showed me love, and said “I love you” and then never responded to me again! I think it’s safe to say he did that because “he didn’t care”.”

“For the last 7 years, these 2 guys that I briefly dated (at separate times) have always stayed in touch— they will like some posts on FB or send me messages for valentines’ day, my bday, or xmas. Whatever they say to you, I think they just like to have their ego stroked by having me respond, even if it’s just a polite response. I’’m not mad at either one, so I have not told them to lose my number, but it is very clear to me what they are doing: bread crumbing.” Melissa, 42, American Lawyer.

For many, people hold onto the hope of people not being the assholes they really are. How does breadcrumbing make you feel?

“I’m not so much hurt by it, but 1) I’m curious and wondering if he’s okay (I always viewed him as a friend) and 2) there’s a tiny part of me that assumes he found someone just a little skinnier, just a little prettier. That nagging low self-esteem creeps into the back of my subconscious as much as I try to push it away.” explains Hayley Nesbitt, 26, Canadian author of relationship blog 50 Shades of Tinder.

We’re connecting, not committing. We are only broadcasting the positive aspects of our lives on social media-the highlight reels. If we only broadcast the “look at me”, are we able to deal with the side of rejection, detachment, and non-commitment? In life, you don’t always only get highlight reels. Who is by your side when the non-highlight reel moments occur in life? The drama queen? Baby daddy? 4th dude on tindr? The truth is that breadcrumbers don’t really want to be in a relationship. The idea of one is different than having to really function in one.

In reality, all of these dating trends adds another dimension to an already fractured relationship. “It was a tumultuous relationship to begin with, I just ignored the red flags. There will always be a shadow.” says Phillip, 32, IT Executive.

What should we do to cope?

“I hold out no hope that anything will ever be re-kindled with either one of these guys. If their messages bothered me, I would honestly just delete them from FB or block their numbers. That is the advice I would give to anyone that is upset by this tactic.” Melissa, 42, American Lawyer.

Approaching dating as though it is testing out what I call, Your Happiness Hypothesis, your personal algorithm that can help minimize some of our own expectations. Create an equation or a list that includes the elements that you absolutely require and the elements that you think you want. Focus just on characteristics, qualities and life desires. You might find that dating based on a system testing out your happiness hypothesis, will help you figure out what is a better fit for yourself and not have to rely on someone else’s BS.

Breadcrumbs=carbs! It’s McDonald’s! Run, don’t, walk.

“No-one who loves you would do this to you. Therein lies the only solace you’re going to get: Why would you want to be in a relationship with someone who knowingly causes you this much pain or disrespect?” says David, 44, Finance Executive. 

 

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?

 

What does the job market and relationships have in common with the Presidential Debate?

Uncertainty. Why? Because there is high instability in the economy, job market, relationships and almost all aspects of life and no viable solution in sight. Yes, the days of life-long employment are long gone. But, that was shifting over a decade now. Back in my day 🙂 I had to walk 7 miles in the snow barefoot to get to work 🙂 lol I was treating my career as though I was entrepreneurial. Each job was hierarchical in salary and title lending to broader marketability and skill sets. Searching for love requires the same level of detail as reviewing a job offer.

You’ll go through clauses in your contract looking for loop holes, right? You won’t accept terms you don’t want, right? Why apply a different barometer to dating? Why not approach dating like you would a job offer? Or are we? Are we accepting any offer just because it’s an offer? Personality drives profession and partner selection. The key to success in either area is self-awareness. At least according to Gary Vaynerchuck 🙂 Are we opting out of romance or dating for ghosting, benching, gas lighting [insert other dating pattern bs here]? For some, sex has become a screener, your genitals have no value, and photoshop is self-improvement. Technology drives dating patterns, behavior and sex. Why not create your own personal algorithm? bm2om50plo

Approach online and IRL 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 what I call, Your Happiness Hypothesis, can help minimize some of your 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.

For example: a friend of mine has the following requirements of the men she dates: ivy educated, graduate degree, professional, shared religion, family-oriented, certain age range, & certain height requirements. Physical appearance, sense of humor, adventurous, and work-life balance are not priorities for her. Identify the elements that you think you must have and those that you’d like to have.  You might find that dating based on a system testing out your happiness hypothesis, will help you figure out what is a better fit for yourself. Reversing the process of what random pool gets sent to you or selects you.

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.

 

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 🙂

Sometimes those that share the most joy in the world are those that suffer silently. RIP Robin Williams

In light of the tragic death of Robin Williams, a true icon that created laughter and inspiration, I feel the need to go off topic. Sometimes those that share the most joy in the world are those that suffer silently. Depression is a mental illness that can affect anyone. Most of the time, we will not know who is suffering because they suffer silently. Some turn to drugs and alcohol to cope and then become addicted.

“For that first week you lie to yourself, and tell yourself you can stop, and then your body kicks back and says, no, stop later.”- Robin Williams to The Guardian UK  about his battle with addiction.

Depression is isolating. Addiction is isolating. Self deception is isolating. AlROBIN WILLIAMSl temporary solutions to a challenging condition. As a mental health professional, I always wish there was more we can do. It’s the reason I started my blog.

2 years ago I started the blog as a conversation with myself about my experiences and as a behavior modification model for anyone looking to establish healthy relationships. I wanted to create a place where people can go to affirm their experience or seek information to change a suboptimal situation they are in. I wanted to remove clinical barriers and provide any reader with public science. It’s also a clinical model that reverses the therapeutic model. The solution is upfront and the reader works backwards to identify the core issue. Behind the blog I created an algorithm to guide content and the clinical model.

If I can take turn back time, I would do practice with celebrities who suffer silently. We could’ve saved a life and countless lives.

“O captain, my captain.”

Nanu Nanu.

RIP Robin Williams

Depression resources:

http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Mental_Illnesses/Depression/Depression_Resources.htm

Suicide resources:

Home

Addiction resources:

http://www.cdc.gov/pwud/addiction.html

Take good care of yourselves and others.

 

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”.