relationships · social philosophy

Compatibility and the spectrum of cynicism.

I would argue that the main thing the prevents people from getting into relationships isn’t a lack of basic compatibility with others – but a mismatching of their level emotional cynicism and bad timing.

Let me explain.

Basic compatibility

There are some core things are basic deal breakers about whether someone is a romantic match for us or not, things like:

  • Whether they’re a smoker or not
  • Their level of exercise
  • Whether they do drugs or not
  • Their age
  • Their employment and/or social standing
  • Their political views
  • Their religious views

Different people are going to have different deal breakers. Many of us would never consider dating a smoker – but some people are ok with it. Some people couldn’t stand the thought of dating someone with an opposing political ideology, others are political apathetic and don’t care.

The point is – of the entire dating pool, there’s a subsection of people of people who you’re actually going to have some semblance of realistic compatibility with.

Now, if you’re an intelligent progressive-minded person living in a small shittown – then it’s likely that your eligible dating pool will be unworkably small – and working with that is not what I wish to deal with here.

For somebody in a decent sized progressive city – your compatible dating pool is still going to contain hundreds or thousands of prospects.

Chemistry

After basic compatibility is met – there’s still whether the two of you get along or not.

It’s possible that you both have similar lifestyles and share similar world views – but you go on a date, and you just don’t get along. You don’t find their jokes funny, or you finding their flirting wooden. Maybe they have a certain physical appearance that you just don’t find attractive.

But even if after we eliminate all of these – I would still say that people in decent sized progressive cities still have a healthy sized dating pool of people they’re compatible with, and are attracted to – so what prevents people from getting into relationships?

Perhaps people are too picky

Let’s get this point out of the way first. It’s plausible that many people are being too picky. They want someone who earns $100k a year, and has rock hard abs, and is super intelligent, and likes dogs, and shares their taste in movies, and always knows the right thing to make them laugh. If they’re not considering dating anyone who doesn’t meet all of these criteria – then perhaps they narrow their dating pool too small to be workable.

I’ll concede that this may be the case for some people – but I don’t think it’s the primary factor that prevents most people from forming relationships.

Enter the emotional cynicism spectrum

People, in a given moment, have an emotional state that fits on a spectrum of distrusting and cynical on one end, and joyous and willing to love on the other.

Being more cynical will mean when a guy says hello in the supermarket line, the person is more likely to dismiss them as a creep or give a curt response. Whereas existing on the more open to love side of the spectrum will more likely result in a friendly conversation that leads to a date.

The point here is – whether this date happens or not – isn’t due to their inherent compatibility, but their respective emotional states at the time.

People’s day to day life experiences affect their emotional state. For example, being sent some abusive messages or being ghosted will likely make someone more cynical – while having a stranger pay for your bus when you were out of cash will make you more willing to love.

Our emotional state is likely to fluctuate. You go on one friendly date – it goes well – you become more willing to love. That allows a date with a different person to occur. You get ghosted. You become more cynical.

It’s this dynamic that ultimately makes finding a mate seem difficult, despite the apparent abundance of potential romantic partners – we may be just meeting each other at the wrong times; had you met that person a week later – the date might have gone entirely differently.

There’s a couple more points I’d make:

  • Both partner’s being open to love isn’t what’s necessary for a pairing to occur. I would argue that both partners being cynical can also allow a pairing to occur – as both go in with a more standoffish stance – and both feeling like that’s what they deserve. I would say though – that this kind of relationship is ultimately going to be less satisfying – or, at least not what this writer is looking for.
  • I think there’s also a similar timing problem in terms of social maturity. For example we might be meeting people who we’re fundamentally compatible with, but who still find upfront communication awkward. This kind of timing problem doesn’t have the same fluctuation that the emotional cynicism does; it tends to be something that develops in a linear fashion.

The cute optimist in me says that in considering this – maintaining an optimistic emotional state in response to events that might make you cynical is the important takeaway here – as it’s the being optimistic that is going to be opening the doors.

That said – it’s good to go in optimistic, but with an attitude of detachment – anticipating that there’s a decent chance that something won’t pan out. That atleast lets that eventuality not affect your emotional state as much as it might have.

It’s hard to say what this means in practice. Say you’re arranging a date for a Friday night. A common likelyhood is that they’ll flake on the date. I guess a healthy technique to manage that outcome – is to have also made plans for what you’ll do if that happens, one that doesn’t involve acting cynically yourself. For example you might make plans of ‘If this date doesn’t happen, I’ll go for a run instead’. I don’t think this would necessarily negate all negative emotional experience – but it’s the best you can do.

It’s funny – I feel like the tail end of this post might spread a little cynicism. But I think it does objectively demonstrate a healthy and emotionally mature thinking. I would hope this has an uplifting effect in knowing that there are others out there with with this kind of emotional consideration.

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relationships · social philosophy

Thoughts about #ihave

The #ihave hashtag is a response to the #metoo hashtag. The #metoo hashtag shares stories of (primary women) people’s experience being the victims of sexual assault or harassment.

The #ihave hashtag is a response to calls of ‘Where are all the men who have commited these offences?’.

Here’s one such tweet:

This Facebook post here is the one that I saw first – of men using the hashtag to admit their own role.

I’ve long thought that the conversation about sexual assault has lacked the perpertrators side of it, and that ultimately isn’t helpful.

This Ted talk here was produced a few years ago – it’s very moving, and I think the conversation needs to sound more like this. The problem with hearing just the voices of victims is that it doesn’t help us understand why all these assaults are taking place.

There’s a reason perpertrators are reluctant to tell there story of course – there’s a huge social stigma to being labelled a creep or a rapist.

So when I saw this hashtag being a thing – I was faced with a binary decision. Do I jump on board and admit that I’ve done creepy things before, or do I conciously ignore it?

Seeing this as an opportunity to make the change that I want to see – more honest and pragmatic dialog around sexual assault – I jumped on board.

I first posted on Twitter – which is relatively safe. Although it uses my real name and is easily tracable back to me – I don’t really have any followers there. My Facebook on the other hand is a different story – I’m friends with all of my family there, women I have potential romatic possibilities with, and some, but not many, people from work.

I ultimately decided it would be more effective posting there and did it. The message I posted was:

I feel nervous posting this – but I think it’s genuinely, and perhaps a more difficult part of the conversation that needs to be happen if we want to make progress, so here goes: #ihave. I’m hoping this hashtag catches on.

I made it public, so it would show up when other people are exploring the hashtag.

It’s worth acknowledging that the post is fairly coy – making no reference at all to sexual assault or other violations.

I was immediately asked by my brother what it was in reference to, and I had to clarify it was in reference to sexual assault/harrasment.

The response I got was supportive. Supportive messages and heart reacts, from women I respect. No nasty messages or comments.

I observed two men within my immediate Facebook network posted similar posts, and at least two more in the networks beyond that – but I didn’t look especially hard to find them.

I wouldn’t say the experience was relieving, although I am grateful and impressed at the grace demonstrated in the responses. I was constantly checking my Facebook and Twitter feeds for new mentions of #ihave, and getting into arguments with people on Twitter. It’s one of those conversations where speaking up is good, but it’s better to make a couple of bold and sensitive comments, than to create noise with all the rest.

There’s also the knowledge that there are probably plenty of people have probably seen the post, but haven’t said anything. They’ll now be wondering ‘Just what did David do?’ and look at my sideways. The whole thing makes my social situation a bit more complicated. (Note: The details of what infractions I’ve committed I’m not going to get into here. It’s a sensitive topic, and just as your wouldn’t insist a #metoo talks about their experiences publicly with strangers – the same goes for #ihaves. A retrospective edit: it occurs to me that for people who know me – they might find this lack of specificity disconcerting and be unsure about how wary to be of me – so to clarify – nothing violent, no penis in vagina rape, no drugging; there has been unwanted physical advances that they were unappreciated were soon made apparent to me, and other behaviour that has creeped women out).

I would also stress that it’s not like the #metoo campaign brought me to some sudden and recent profound realisation. This is something I’ve been working with for years – it’s just now that the #ihave trend gave an explicit window to say something – the other choice being consciously ignoring it.

I didn’t participate out of an act of self-flagellation – I participated because I want more light to be shone on this very much unspoken about part of the conversation.

Speaking broadly – regarding my emotional and mental wellbeing, my social life, my sense of life satisfation – feelings of guilt around my interactions with women are a significant, but not the only hazard I’ve been dealing with. There’s also addiction, depression, and selfishness/lazyness.

These are all things I’ve been managing, with ups and downs over the last several years. Things that have helped have been exercise, a good diet, not smoking weed, private journalling and vulnerable conversations with people I trust.

Recently things have been going quite well for me – I’ve been motivated, my exercise is going well, and I’ve been having good romantic interactions with women (including one recently where I explained ‘It’s really important for me to use my words to scope out how you feel about a thing. I feel much more comfortable doing it that way.’).

So while I do think I did a good thing by participating – I also I feel like I’ve potentially jepordised my own emotional and social wellbeing, and it did set me in a bit of spin. I didn’t have a particularly productive day. I do feel a bit better now that I’ve written all this – writing is one of my ways of maintaining a healthy emotional state.

In terms of improving our sexual culture for future – for our children – I would say the single biggest thing we need to do is talk more about consent. Give examples of how to seek and how to give or decline consent.

In terms of improving our own wellbeing for traumas of the past – I do think that forgetting things is a healthy mental mechanism for getting over trauma, and that’s where I’m not really interested in reliving or rehashing a lot of this stuff. For my own well being, I want to keep moving forward.

I know that there’s a lot of people who think that’s selfish and irresponsible of me. But I don’t think continuing to live in guilt or shame is going to improve anything for anyone – bar people who get a sadistic sense of satisfaction at seeing people in misery.

My advice for both #ihaves and #metoos is to not keep rolling around in the gutter if you don’t have to. You only get one life – it’s not like at the end they’re going to say ‘you got a shitty roll, here, have another go’. I say the best way to heal is to keep reliving your trauma but go out and have good, healing experiences that set the new normal.

I guess what I really mean when I say I don’t want to keep rehashing this stuff – is that I’m not keen to keep writing on this topic in an open and public manner, at least for now. It’s stressful and generates a lot of social uncertainty. I’d happily engage in some kind of research project relating to my experiences where I’ve good a chance to tell my side of the story. And I guess gauging how things go – I could keep writing about it – but I do have other things I’m doing with my life. That’s at least where things are at two days after participating.

There’s a couple of consent related things I produced a while ago – which I never posted (in large part, because I was very self conscious about it), so I’ll probably post those – but from where I am now – I don’t feel like this is an issue I want to keep engaging with. (Unless it’s talking about tricks for making consent and social rejection fun and less awkward – in which case I’m totally into that – because that’s a fun topic.).

One more thing – in my own experiences with being the victim of workplace bullying I know how powerful an apology is for moving forward. An apology seems like a simple thing – but I think most of us find apologising difficult – probably out of a sense of pride and thinking that they’re not necessary. For anyone who has been on the receiving end of my advances – I genuinely am sorry – and I hope this piece is demonstrative of that; I wish you peace and happiness for your life.

relationships · social philosophy · Uncategorized

So it’s apparent that they’re not interested, now what?

It’s a common theme in contemporary dating, you’ve been talking, you’ve been on a date, and… they haven’t messaged you back. Have they just forgotten? Are they feeling anxious? Are they just not into you? I’ve written about this here.

But what’s the next step? You figure they’re not into you, what do you do now, to improve things best for you.

Here’s a few simple tips:

  • Unfriend them on Facebook, unfollow them on Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • Turn off chat on Facebook.
  • Delete the conversation thread on Facebook.
  • Delete their number.
  • Delete the conversation thread on SMS.
  • Delete any emails you’ve exchanged.

turn off            delete

Sounds drastic?

Not really.

The most important thing to do now – is what’s best for you. Seeing them on your newsfeed, or seeing that they’re active online, is just going to trigger a twinge of rejection.

By deleting their social media presence, they’re out of sight out of mind, and you begin to forget.

I’ve been rejected many times in the past. One particularly poignant heart break, I wrote about here.

The thing with all of these heartbreaks, is at the time it feels intense. These days, unless I’m actively trying to remember times I’ve been rejected, I don’t even think about them.

That’s the state you’re going for, not thinking of them, and to do that, delete the messages and unfollow them on social media.

 

relationships · social philosophy

What do you do when someone doesn’t message you back? v2.0

The last post on this subject  gets the single most traffic on this blog, but it’s a bit long, so here’s a more concise and more practical version.

Here’s the situation: you’re on Tinder, and one of these two situations has happened:

  • You’ve been chatting with a girl for a while, and you send a message ‘Yeah that’s funny haha. Do you want to get coffee this weekend?’ And boom – you don’t hear any thing back from her.
  • You’ve just matched with her on Tinder and you send an original message like ‘Oooh hey I like your dog! I have a dog too. He’s a Jack Russel named Calvin’; you get no response.

If the situation is that you’re just sending a message like ‘Sup?’, ‘Hey, how are you?’ and not getting responses to those, then you need to take a step back and appreciate that girls on internet dating sites and inundated with messages like that, and yours does nothing to stand out from all the others.

So you’re sending creative, interesting messages – and you don’t get a response – what do you do now?

The most important thing is to preserve your own mental and emotional state.

Dating, especially the early stages of dating, should be fun.  If you’re a creative and interesting guy, and you genuinely like yourself – that’s a good thing; that’s what all us should be seeking to be in life – and what we are typically seeking in a partner. So if you genuinely like yourself, then don’t change those things that you like about yourself because you’re not getting a response; it’s better to be alone and liking yourself than to be with someone and feeling like you’ve sold yourself short.

If there are things that you don’t like about yourself – then work on fixing those things.

I suggest the following steps for dealing with no-replies:

Don’t fixate.

In the scenario where you don’t know this person particularly well (eg. You matched on Tinder), then don’t assume that this is on the one person for you. Remember that it’s a wide world with lots of opportunities[1].

Maintain social and mental state.

If you’re frustrated, then go do whatever you need to do feel better. Go for a walk, have a shower, talk to a friend, play a video game. The frustration will pass.

Calibrate

Flirting is a balancing act between being bold and being respectful. Too forward and you appear inconsiderate and disrespectful. Too reserved and you’re boring.

If you don’t get a reply, chances are your message falls too far on either end of this spectrum. So calibrate, try new things.

Should you send a second message?

This is something I’ve gone back forth on. On one hand the argument for sending a second message is that it’s a pragmatic acceptance your message might have been lost amongst all the others, and that it needs to be you who reinitiates the conversation. On the other hand – it’s back to that main thing – maintaining your own social and emotional wellbeing. Sending a second message might make you feel worse and erode your sense of dignity.

I’m currently of the opinion that, generally you shouldn’t send a second message. Dating should be a two way street, and at least in my experience, I’m going to hold some resentment if it feels like I’m investing more effort into the relationship.

Instead, let it go, for at least a couple of weeks – and then perhaps, if you are still interested then, try pick things up again then. In that time you might be chatting someone else.

[1] If you happen to live in a small town with few opportunities – then do consider moving. One’s success with dating does depending on their available dating pool.

relationships · social philosophy

Why you shouldn’t take Facebook unfriending too seriously.

unfriend

Facebook ‘Friend’ status is a funny thing. Because it’s so black and white – either you have friend status, or you don’t, it can’t accurately reflect the nuances of a relationship between two people.

For example, ‘I’m a little annoyed at Suzy, I think I’ll spend less time with her for while’ can’t be accurately captured by a simple Friends/Not-Friends on Facebook.

On the face of it, moving from Friends, to Not-Friends on Facebook (ie. Unfriending someone) – can be taken to mean ‘I don’t want to be [real life] friends with you at all’, or otherwise cause great offense.

I argue this response draws too much meaning from what’s a very limited interaction on social media.

But the fear of causing offense does exist, and I think it can prevent people from unfriending people they are otherwise sick of, for fear of permanently burning a bridge.

I think it’s good to take a break from people on social media, for one’s own mental health – and that shouldn’t cause great offense.

The rise of social media means that in our social interactions have more, very clear, data points, Friend status on Facebook, whether they like your posts on Instagram, how soon they reply to your messages, etc. We use these additional data points to assess the feelings people have for each other. Perhaps we can make the argument that social relationships are simply more complex and nuanced than they used to be, or if not more nuanced, then at least more explicitly nuanced.

Someone unfriending you does suggest that they’ve made a conscious decision to do so – so it is an insight into something they’re thinking – and perhaps it’s just one social signal we can use to calibrate our social interactions. An unfriend could be an as simple signal as ‘We haven’t talked in a while, so next time we do talk, we’ll have to make an effort if we want to be friends.’.

I would encourage unfriending – in line with my philosophy of quit-what’s-bothering-you  – unfriending actually allows us to be a bit more communicative about our relationships, so long as an unfriend isn’t taken to mean ‘I don’t want to have anything do with you ever.’.

 

relationships

Building a positive dating culture

Last night a friend went on a first date with a guy she’d met on Tinder.

She said the conversation was good enough, but he was a smoker, and the date was marred by that he’d drunk to much to be safe to drive her home. She had to catch a taxi home, and her being a student, this was an unnecessarily painful strain on her finances, and she ended up walking part of the way.

Today, he’s sent her a follow up ‘Thanks for the date, how are you today’ type message.

My friend has decided that she’s not interested in seeing him again, and now the question is how she decides to reply.

I’m of the opinion that she should let him know that she wasn’t happy about having to catch a taxi home. This feedback could be coupled with the feedback that she enjoyed the conversation and felt comfortable.

This would give him the feedback about what makes a good date, and generally improve the local dating culture, one person at a time.

On the other hand one could argue ‘Well why should I? What’s in it for me to provide this feedback, if I’m not going to see them again anyway?’

This is where my idealism comes out, participating in a dating culture shouldn’t be just about coming to a mutually beneficial arrangement between yourself and another party, but also generally improving the world as a whole while you do it.

By providing feedback you may not be contributing to the improvement to the person you  eventually date, but you do contribute to making the dating experience more pleasant for others.

The exact way to word some feedback such that it’s not mean, or doesn’t invite abuse is a different story, but acknowledging that giving dating feedback is possibly a great idea is a good starting point.

relationships · social philosophy · wellbeing

Why, if you’re going to sext, you should use Snapchat

louis-vuitton-louis_vuitton_snapchat_push_di3

Snapchat is a popular mobile application that allows users to send each other photos that delete themselves and are unviewable after 10 seconds.

When I first heard about snapchat about two and half years ago, I, like many people who aren’t already using it, assumed that it was an application that’s primary purpose is for sexting.

The research shows that this isn’t true. A University of Washington poll of 127 users shows that their primary uses of Snapchat are sending photos of themselves, ‘they they’re up to’, or funny things, and that 15% have used it for sexting before.

This mirrors my own use and experience of Snapchat.

At the same time, research shows that about around 15% of teenagers, and 20% of 20-30 year olds have sext before, though these statistics vary from study to study.

Common advice given is that one shouldn’t trust photos sent via snapchat to be deleted forever, pointing out that there are plenty of applications soneone can use to capture Snapchat images without notifying the person of the screenshot. This is true, there are many such apps. There is also the possibility that your, or the person you are sending your photos to, phone could be compromised by a hacker or malware, and snaps be captured that way.

However, I would still argue that if one is going to send nude photographs, then Snapchat is the safest medium for doing it. While Snapchat can’t protect you from people who have the intention of capturing your snaps, it can protect you from someone sharing your snaps retroactively.

That is – if the sexting is occuring in the context of a romance where you both like and trust each other, and implicit in the use of snapchat is that neither of you are using screen capturing software, then the photos are not going to be captured. This relies on your own judgement of a person and their integrity as to whether you are correct about them not using a screen capturing software afterwards. Sexting a charming person you’ve just met on Tinder probably isn’t a sensible idea if you’re concerned about your images being shared, but sexting your boyfriend/girlfriend of 3 months who you trust in other regards has a much lower risk.

If the relationship later goes sour, the snaps that were sent at the time before the relationship soured can not be captured retroactively, and thus can’t be shared out of malice or spite.
This is in contrast to sexting via other methods where the image is persisted, such as MMS, email, Facebook messenger, Whatsapp etc, where the images can be retrieved at will by an aggrieved party and shared.

Bottom line: No, of course Snapchat isn’t 100% safe if you’re concerned about compromising photos of yourself being leaked. One shouldn’t discount a phone being compromised by hackers or malware, or your sexting partner using a Snapchat screen capturing software. If you can accept those  risks, Snapchat prevents the malicous or spiteful sharing of photos in the event that the feelings in the relationship change. If you can’t trust the person you’re dating not to be using a screen capturing software, then perhaps you’re dating an asshole and you should be considering whether you should be dating them at all.