Dating. People. Relationships. They remain some of peoples' greatest curiosities. This is why many of us/you are here. You want to know how others think. Especially in terms of how they think about you. What is your value to others? Your appeal? How do your thoughts and ideas compare? Are there people out there who, although not the same as you, could appreciate you? This is #socialmedia. This is #GAG.
See these birds? Beautiful, huh? All unique, diverse, beautiful in their own way. Yet here they are, in boxes, easily comparable. Do any stand out more than others? If so, that is because of your preferences (in this case, distilled down to simply colour and pattern.) They are of equal intensity, and only the hues are different. So why am I using this photo, of all the trillions of possibilities, to exemplify dating today? Well I like the boxed nature of it. This is actually my favourite bird photo of all that I have seen my entire life (and I've looked at and saved quite a few, I must say), but I like it more as a metaphor. This is what we wish dating, choosing a partner, was like. So many wonderful choices, and all lined up and ready for our choosing. Some tweet like this, and some tweet like that, but they are each as appealing, just in different ways. But the reality is something much different.
More Like This...
Imperfect. Seemingly wild. Chaotic. Unpredictable.
First, a dose of reality. Dating is not going to get better anytime soon, or before it gets worse... probably. Why? I'll summarize it simply as this: the internet, and our brains. Technology is fast and evolution is slow. "But then why are you writing this?" Because all hope is not lost. What we need is a bit of attitude change, a recalibration... perspective.
I wrote a mytake, The Death of Dating It was all right. It wasn't particularly popular. It explained (my theories) on the why's, and attempted to give a bit of a pep talk on how to reverse the ship, but ultimately, my title was too dark. But what I learned from it and since then, from many, many, hours - years, in fact - of reading, listening, thinking, and talking with others, is that regardless of circumstances, regardless of how the world is, people want hope, and at any given point in time, the desire, the drive, to pair up, is innate and enduring.
Our logical, rational, thinking, large grey matter brains often tell us the problems, and our memories hold the emotions of the pain of past experiences, but it doesn't matter how big the real estate of these components is in our brains. There are biological drivers, and the amygdala - the first to form in the brain - that will never die, never fade away. It's built into our hardware, and it wants to survive, to have sex, pleasure, and so much more.
Sex is more than just the act of sex. It builds intimacy. It's affectionate. It bonds. It feels good to be wanted. Sex is validation of who we are. But sex is temporary, fleeting. What, then, sustains us? Connection. Understanding. Being heard, listened to. We want to talk, share, and connect. Sex is often a tool we use to achieve something much greater than the temporary high.
But I'm not writing this to help you get laid. I have little interest in helping with that. This is about why we're not all fucked. (Or being fucked, lol. Or wanting to fuck.)
Despite every, "Yeah, but..." the proof of desire (for sex, love, connection) is in the numbers. What gets clicked on? Straightforward, illuminating, clear, how-to's. Answers. Solid, well-founded, suggestions and advice. Clarifications. (I would have said 'information' but that has been so bastardized now, along with 'facts' and 'truth', it hardly feels apt to include, sadly.) So I'm going to try and shed a little light, give a little hope, and maybe... a way through.
Problems with Dating Today, In a Nut Shell:
- The Static Image: Most people are eliminated as potential partners because of a profile pic online. (Or several pics.) Still/static images are always less flattering than video and real life, which, by contrast, show many angles, shifting lighting which creates depth of field, light and dark creating nuance, etc., and the removal of body language, language and conversation, pheromones, personality, community and a shared network of people which help vet and unite in at least some commonalities while providing a certain amount of safety and security, all factor greatly into our decisions about who we ask, and allow, into our lives.
- Filters: Dating app filters have tallied and quantified human beings, assigning not just identifiable characteristics but value, worth. The average height globally for a female is 5'4", and 5'10" for a male. There's been a massive uptick in the search for a 6' male, and why is that? Because the option now exists, because of filters. Same thing goes for body shape, age, hair colour, and many other metrics.
- Economic Instability: An unstable, unpredictable economy, high cost of living, shrinking middle class, growing divide between rich and poor, the pandemic, all exacerbate instability. Money matters. But wealthy people are few and far between, and wealthy people (and yes, I'm using 'wealthy' not 'rich,' because they are not one and the same) know they are desirable, and the smart and wealthy are not going to give up this information about their assets, their net worth, to people only to be used for their money. Just like celebrities who can, despite what shallower minds think, feel lonely, and used, everyone wants to know that they are liked for who they are, not for what they have.
- Fantasy vs. Reality: It's a highly competitive world, and a series of world events have slowed individual progress, for many, to a crawl. The world went online... and for the most part, stayed there. The fantasy metaverse will become a more and more appealing alternative to the harsh realities of... reality. It's easier to escape and pretend one is a superhero, or a supermodel, in some other alternate universe, than to work on oneself.
- Social anxiety: Simply put, people are getting out of practice on how to converse, and how to do it well. Why? Again, the internet. #Emojis are not words, #Likes are not words, and "Hey, how are you?" is just not going to cut it, in terms of sparking conversation online and inspiring someone to want to chat. Without peoples' faces opposite us to give us clues and real-time information, misinterpretations, misunderstandings, and just not enough information is creating anxiety and poor communication. The art, and skill, of truly good conversation, is dying.
Today it's All About the Paper
People can 'look good on paper', or look bad on paper. (Or, in modern terms, your social media presence/footprint/status, ancestral background, age, health, attractiveness, education, occupation, net worth.) The thing that's been stripped away, strip-mined out of all of this now, is the decision to look beyond surface. No one wants to admit that they don't compromise enough. And I know people, the greatest people I know, all have truly legitimate reasons for why they are not in romantic relationships. There's no point giving examples, but suffice to say, there are many reasons and they are all valid. I understand, and agree with every one of them. But generally speaking, there is a trend to not give the less-than-ideal on paper a chance.
And for those who are in relationships, who did ultimately make a choice, the common refrain is just how particular, how unyielding others are, how high their expectations, and just how much work it is to maintain even semi-healthy relationships. It will never be a cake walk, aka easy. There will always be work, compromise, and negotiation. Perhaps even daily. And it is everyone's prerogative to make these choices, these decisions to stay or to leave. Marriage contract or not, commitment to another, and, yes, often putting their needs and preferences above one's own, is necessary. No one who is in a relationship is happy all the time. No one likes their partner all the time. It could be distilled down to something like love and frustration vs. freedom and loneliness. One does not exist without the other. The key is in the ratio, how much, how often.
I don't believe the state of dating will improve as long as people fish in the online pool. (Because as I said: essentially, filters. Also, the 'swipe left' gamification such as created by Tinder.) Can you find love online? Yes. That's a firm yes. But what is happening is that the more people do reach out (which are almost always males - probably due to a combination of a slowly-dying social custom, 'tradition' of it being a man's 'job' to do so, the false female-led myth that 'men love the chase' which is absolutely wrong for the vast majorty of men, and the biological driver that is sex, felt more strongly by men), the more the effect of rejection tallies and amplifies.
Men are more cause-and-effect, problem-solving oriented, strategy-based. That doesn't mean they are better at solving problems, or analyzing - they are still just as prone to developing biases, feeling emotions, and losing objectivity - but nonetheless they do work for results. And when they don't get them, their disappointment manifests in various ways. (Anger is not pleasant, but society has often taught men that vulnerability is not as acceptable as some of the other more hot-headed emotions... apparently.) So this initiating, reaching out to girls/women... it will end. And of the ones who are doing it, a large portion of them tend to be players, which do not represent all mankind. Not even close. They are merely the bold ones who can take rejection, and pick themselves right back up, only to try again. It's a strategy that tends to pay off enough for them to continue. But it leaves the incorrect impression that 'all men are dogs', which is just not true. The truth is that the quiet ones simply do not get factored into the equation.
It doesn't feel like it's ending yet, perhaps, to you (girls), because you still receive looks on the street and new messages and notifications in your inboxes. That's because they're new men, not the same men. But one by one, men are trying, not having success, or worse, and checking out. There's little point in veering off into a discussion about INCELs and MGTOWs, but they are the extreme ends of a trend. There are many men who are still trying, and many who are not but they do not spend any time pursing, or bashing, women. They're busy with their lives (not thinking about sex and how to get laid every 8 minutes like some stupid 'study' once declared.) Because most men, just as women, do want compatability and quality, not quantity, when looking for a life partner, and the only thing that would truly motivate them to be in a relationship is if they met a truly great woman. And I mean great.
So, Where Has the Motivation Gone?
Mostly it's due to [bad] experience. And what follows is often a reprioritizing, a deciding of what is truly needed, and what can be done without. "It's too much trouble. People are too much." And why have so many experienced so much they wish they hadn't? Unselfish, ethical, sound-minded, reasonable, giving, curious, open-minded, people seem to be a rare commodity nowadays. Has morality (and I don't mean chastity, etc.) gone down? I don't have an answer for that; at least not one that I should take the time to address at length here. Experience is a great teacher. It tells us where to invest our time, and how to make the most out of the future; it also sometimes steers us in directions to avoid future pain and discomfort, rather than teaches us how to risk again... only this time, with greater clarity and wisdom. As the saying goes, 'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.' Really, it comes down to being fed up, and self-preservation. Understandable.
Aside from the general (and always true) difficulty and challenge of finding those with like minds, there is another factor at play. When people feel they have more choices (even if choice is an illusion or delusion), they are less likely to choose. The Paradox of choice is a stymying caused by anxiety of making the wrong choice, which creates decision paralysis. They choose nothing. "It's too much work."
Then you've got the [what I will call] level-uppers. They want more, or they want change. They're probably apt to say, "Variety is the spice of life" or some other less delicate euphemism or motto. You men call this hypergamy in women, but guys have their own version which is based basically a tighter piece of ass. (Who conveniently neglect to include this into the equation.) They're two birds of the same feather. They exist on both sides of the fence. Level-uppers are not committed. They are opportunists. Often, they're still in the relationship but spend their free time shopping online, or on the street, for a next possible replacement.
Anyway, back to how to solve this. What is the solution? I expect it will not be online, on dating apps. Each account, each person online becomes little more than a series of pixels and poorly-summarized profiles about what they want, and less about what they offer. The hopefuls market their wares and hope they get a nibble, but more and more are checking out, despondent at the selection. The offerings appear spoiled. It is difficult to find people to share your life, and bare your soul. But life is like that - a series of no's, and then one day a yes. Just as a job, or a move, or a birth or a death, can dramatically alter the trajectory of one's life, so can one person. I don't believe in fate, but I do believe that serendipity happens, and that good fortune happens by both the randomness of life, and by sheer will and volition. Never underestimate effort. Set-backs are not an excuse for apathy. Indecision and inaction have killed more dreams than taking risks ever have. Look for someone, or don't look for someone, but know that whomever you have in your life (be they lovers, friends, or otherwise) will take compromise, and understanding, and open-mindedness. A hell of a lot of it. You do not have to 'settle' if it compromises your core values. But you do have to come to terms with the fact that no one is perfect, everyone is a work in progress, faith is a choice, and acceptance a decision.
If you have not found someone you want to be with, and who wants to be with you, maybe luck has not been on your side. Or maybe you have not put your best foot forward. Or maybe you are not at the place in your life that you wish to be, or a place to receive, or give, to others; and that is fine too. But it is not, I can assure you, that "all people suck" or some other all-inclusive, derisive, commentary about the state of the world. You may live your life single, or live it with another, but whatever the case may be, there is no shame, and there should be no judgment, if you live your life honourably, with integrity, no matter your relationship status. Be the person you want to be. Support instead of blame. Appreciate instead of judge. Love instead of hate. It will make your journey a lot more pleasant in the mean time. And if you don't find love, don't discount the rest. Being kind to others brings appreciation, being understood, and that is often more valuable than someone in your bed.
And Some Final Words (Because I Do Love a Good Metaphor)
My main point is that people are unknown. You do not know their colours, or what lies inside, until you give - time, patience, respect, and an open mind. If they don't warrant it, then so be it. I am not saying everyone is worth it. I am saying that perhaps the answer to today's dating climate, and a feeling of aloneness sometimes, is patience. Not just patience that one day this person will come along (they may, or they may not) but patience to observe, and to listen. Give people a chance to want to trust you. To entrust in you. Be a trustworthy person. Be interesting. How do you achieve that? Be curious. Learn, grow, challenge yourself, look inward, look past others' exteriors, and fight. Fight to not be one of the many people who wallow in negativity, disappointment, and pessimism. Many do not understand “Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” ― Aldous Huxley, Texts & Pretexts: An Anthology With Commentaries. Stop wallowing in the state of affairs - the dating climate, what some person from your past did to you, what you did not get, what you lack, what is not fair, or who's got more than you. They're excuses. Deflection, self-pity, entitlement will get you nowhere in the end. Accountability is growth. The truth is, everyone is missing some things; everyone was slighted somehow, sometime. Be a person who looks up, remains open to possibility, and sees the colour in life. It's all around us. And everyone has colour. What we don't all have is the desire to look, and to appreciate. Nothing is clear, or known, from a distance. To see it, you must walk forward, your eyes must be open... and sometimes your heart must be too.