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.

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.

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?

 

PokeDates: Meet people not profiles!

Tired of meeting people only to find that they don’t look like their photos, or age, or height? PokeDates can fix that! PokeDates is based on meeting in real life, sharing interest in PokemonGo, and just showing up!

“At Project Fixup [the creators of PokeDates], we believe that dating should be about getting out there, meeting new people, and enjoying the world around… not sitting on your computer browsing, swiping, and messaging back and forth. Project Fixup is about OFFline dating, and saving you the hours of time you would spend online to end up with the same date.” – See more at: https://www.projectfixup.com/pokedates/#sthash.yoW4i0Nu.dpuf  I love it! No more dealing with fake profiles or trying to figure out what you have in common. First attempt is free, $20 afterwards.

To get started all you have to do is create your PokeProfile! If anyone trying out this new app, let me know your stories!

1     Answer a few questions

Get started by taking our short questionnaire so we know a bit about who you are, what you’re looking for, and what you like to do. Once your questionnaire is complete, it will be reviewed and approved by your fixup specialist.

2     Share your schedule

Once you’ve been approved by the fixup specialist, you’ll be eligible to get fixed up. All you need to do is update your availability so we know when you’re free. Once your calendar is up to date, we will start working to find someone we think you’d like to meet and set you up on your first fixup.

3     Confirm your fixup

You’ll get an email with all the details of your fixup, including a convenient time and place to meet. If everything looks good, just click confirm and you’ll be all set. You’ll only get charged if the fixup is confirmed by both people – there are no subscriptions or hidden fees. Fixups start at just $20.

4     Have fun

Just show up at the right place and time to discover somewhere fun – from your city’s best craft beer bars to their most underrated taco joints – with someone new. Each week, you can have a different unique experience with an interesting person. Trust us, it’s a much better way to spend your free time than in front of your computer screen.

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.

Is Tinder cheating on itself? Super Like?

CSILVAMSW_HPLTinder has been under some heat lately with the app being associated with increases in STD rates and destroying millennials dating experiences.  So, what does Tinder do? Create a new feature called Super Like. “We wanted Super Likes to be really special while making sure everyone can use them, so to start we’re giving Tinder users one Super Like to send each day. ” -Tinder blog

Yup that’s right, now you can reach out to one person a day and hope they respond to you, too. Is this Tinder’s attempt to make the site more monogamous?

In a recent HuffPostLive segment, I got to share my thoughts on Tinder’s new feature Super Like: http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/why-does-tinder-have-a-new-super-like-function/521e53bbfe344436f2000120

Let’s look at it from a feature improvement point: the #1 complaint women have about Tinder is the non-relationship responses they get/the direct hook-up responses that the app is known to be. Super Like may improve the probability of getting less unwarranted communication from users.

From a female user experience point, Super Like as a feature may be an empowering one for women that know what they want. You are running probability on these sites, a distinguishing feature like “I’m not bsing on here don’t bother to contact me if it’s not similar interests” can change the script that is currently being designed in dating. {That women play a passive role and have to be reliant on men discarding them for more kinky and/or shopped photos.}

Tinder was created by the same group that created Grindr, the gay hook-up app. All it did was apply that same principle to the hetero world. Should it have changed their business model before now? Would they have laughed all the way to the bank?

By changing the behavior of the users of the app, it will change the dating experience of the users. Perhaps, women will feel less devalued and men will get more real responses. Ultimately, they will get closer to finding a relationship. What do you think? Is Tinder cheating on itself?

5 types to avoid

  1. The emotionally and financially needy types. Emotional and financial neediness makes you attract co-dependent relationships that, in the long run, don’t fill either of these needs. Both emotional and financial need can be addressed in the short-term (money can be earned and support can be given), but it establishes a false sense of security in the long-term. ITA18FXIBLAlthough emotional and financial neediness takes time to overcome and seems harder, so is divorce. Which will land you in the same category anyway 🙂 It’s better to overcome some of the hardships you encounter so that you can experience the true happiness you wanted in the first place.
  2. Fixers. Stop trying to fix people. You didn’t break them to begin with. Change can happen if the person: a) wants it or b) life forces it of them. You can be a change catalyst if the person is at either of these points in their lives. Other than that, you can’t correct other people’s fucked-upness to your partner.
  3. Sex your feelings away types. Know your worth. If you treat your vag or dick like it’s a common sandwich, why would it surprise you that you aren’t relationship material? You’re deluding yourself and expect the world to give you the opposite of what you say you want and are doing. Level with yourself and others. There is nothing wrong with not wanting a relationship because you’ve been hurt or aren’t emotionally ready for one. Sexing your feelings away doesn’t get at resolving the core issue. For some, it creates a whole set of new issues.
  4. Insecure types. Insecurity makes you stop seeking and makes you start settling. You may not even realize you have started settling because you may have created a relationship that makes you comfortable in your insecurity. If you are controlling or obsessively jealous, the other person will adapt a pattern to avoid confrontation of your insecurity. Ultimately, though, you’ve created a relationship that won’t really address the core issues of your insecurity.
  5. Cheating types. If someone cheats, they’re designed to do it again and again. It’s got nothing to do with you, it’s their ego trying to fill a void. If you’re filling that void through people, re-read #3.

Ahhhh the tangled web we weave

I have to say that I wasn’t surprised that a site like Ashley Madison existed, but that the Impact Team hacked it for the greater good, did. “Will The Impact Team be hacking any other sites in the future? If so, what targets or sort of targets do you have in mind?
Not just sites. Any companies that make 100s of millions profiting off pain of others, secrets, and lies. Maybe corrupt politicians. If we do, it will be a long time, but it will be total.” Impact Team to Motherboard.vice.com 

hmmm So, what did this grand social experiment demonstrate? Nothing new. That some people who want to cheat will? Let’s look at other not-so-surprising details. People are shocked that the site contained fake female profiles? Of the 37M users, only 5.5M were women. If you go onto POF, some men start their profile with DON’T CONTACT ME IF YOU’RE FAKE.

Ok, let’s look at what other things shock people. That people paid for privacy and their data was revealed? Wait. What?!?! You mean to tell me that someone created a business model capitalizing on your indiscretion and desires for a profit on the INTERNET?!?! You mean they took your money and never did what they said they would do? Paid delete=the Nigerian Embassy wants to give you 3.3M USD.

Of course, when you are looking to be discreet, you naturally log on during work hours, right? Sure, but from your work email or computer? AND you work in the government? OR better yet, you build your platform around family values?

Oh, the CEO stepped down? No way. Could it be all of the encounters he had off the site, the massive law suits, or the threats he’s getting by the minute?  “Life is short, Noel Biderman. Have an affair.”

Oh ok, since you didn’t think any of that might happen, let me tell you what might happen next: divorce, losing your home, losing half your shit, and maybe joint custody. Gee, isn’t that what you were trying to avoid? 

Divorce lawyers and the housing market thanks you.

YOU’RE JUST A DUMBASS