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.

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.

 

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.

What I swipe left to.

On Tinder, the assessment about whether you swipe left (don’t like), or right (like) on a profile – is often made in a matter of seconds, if that. (I would love to see that statistics for how long it takes men to swipe vs women).

Here are a few things that will make me more inclined to swipe left:

  • No picture of themself. 
    I assume that they’re not attractive, or they don’t think they’re attractive, or they don’t want others to know that they’re on Tinder, all which are unattractive qualities (the last being – they’re not playing fairly).
  • Smoking cigarettes in the pictures.
    Nuff said.
  • Pictures of just kids. 
    I get that you love your kids and want us to know that – but Tinder is a dating site – prominent pictures of your kids is creepy. A picture of you and your kid is ok.
  • ‘Not DTF’. 
    I think reflects a cynical attitude toward all potential mates. I get that you might receive several ‘DTF?’ messages – but I’m not one of them. Putting ‘Not DTF’ in your profile suggests to me that you’re going to be quite suspicious and untrusting, and that’s not what I’m looking for.
  • ‘I prefer tall guys’. 
    I’m a tall guy myself, but this line seems incredibly insensitive.
  • The dog or flower wreath snapchat filter. 
    I can’t stand them. I don’t know what it is.
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  • All MySpace angle pictures. 
    This is a common technique used by larger women to make their photos look attractive, despite their size.
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    It indicates a lack of confidence – I’d rather see you rock your body no matter what size it is. I’m much more likely to swipe right on a large girl that has a full body photo,  than one who has just MySpace angles.
  • No profile blurb. 
    It tells me that you think that your pictures are the solely enough to attract a mate (which is likely true), but this seems self centered to me.

 

So that’s some things that will likely make me want to swipe left, here’s what will get an instant right swipe or super like from me.

  • Mentioning liking puns or bad jokes in profile blurb.

Why I’m forgiving of incorrect use of ‘your’ and ‘you’re’

People commonly use one’s ability to differentiate between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ and ‘its’ and ‘it’s’ as a judge of one’s character or value. For example it’s not uncommon to see “Must know the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re'” as a ‘what I’m looking for’ on a dating profile.

I don’t think knowledge of the difference between the various grammar rules is a particularly good measure of one’s intelligence, because the rules are arbitrary and seem contradictory at times.

For example:

I threw the dog’s ball.

Ok, cool. The apostrophe indicates possession.

The dog gave me its ball.

Oh no! All of a sudden the rules change! No apostrophe here! Why not? The ball belongs to ‘it’ doesn’t it?

Similarly:

Give me your ball.

Again, no apostrophe.

It’s easy to see how someone might think that

Give me you’re ball

Is the correct grammar here, using an apostrophe to indicate possessiveness.

 

Sure, correct usage of ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ probably is a pretty indicator of a particular kind of intelligence, but I don’t think people should be written off or not valued, purely based on book smarts. For example someone might not have the best spelling, but know their way inside and out of a motor engine, and still contribute that way.

I myself that I often slip the wrong spelling out, especially when live chatting.

More to the point, there are other indicators that are far more important. For example for me, a belief in horoscopes or denying the efficacy of vaccines is far more of a turn off than incorrect spelling.

 

‘Are you on Snapchat?’ ‘Yeah I am’.

What’s up with this?

This happens quite frequently:

I’m talking to a girl for a bit on Tinder, it’s going pretty well. I ask if she’s on Snapchat, and she responds:

‘Yeah I am’.

Without giving me her her Snapchat username.

Why do people do this?!

It’s so obvious that it’s not useful. I wouldn’t ask unless I was interested in snapchatting with you, in which case, the I need to know your snapchat username in order to do so.

I understand that possibly you’re not comfortable with giving out snapchat username to every person you talk to on Tinder. But if that’s case, then you wouldn’t give me your username when I follow up with asking what your username is.

In my mind, she is intentionally dragging out on the conversation.

For me, I have two and a half possible responses:

  • I can do the obvious and says ‘WHAT’S YOUR USERNAME?’.
  • I can respond with something snarky like : ‘Oh what a coincidence! I am too!’.
  • I can just not respond.

I’m genuinely curious – anybody who uses Tinder, and responds this way when asked if they’re on Snapchat – why don’t you give your username when responding?  Are you intentionally dragging out the conversation?

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.

Book review: He’s just not that into you.

I’m the only single, unmarried child of me and my five siblings. My mother gave me this book with the advice ‘It’ll tell you what not to do’.

The first three chapters irritated me as I disagreed with several depictions they made about dating dynamics. I read on though, while I still thought it was a low-brow read, I could start see some sense of purpose to the book – not as a general dating advice book, but to be used as a nudge to friends to get out of some specifically bad relationship.

This fits in to a general opinion I have about dating advice books – I often can’t take them seriously. People’s perceptions and strategies for dating are dependent on their experiences of dating – who they’ve dated and what kind of relationships they’ve been in. Because everyone has had different experiences and different values when it comes to dating, there’s no one-size-fits-all set of dating advice guidelines. However, it is possible that a given set of dating advice guidelines will apply to a specific subsection of society.

The book outlines several signs that a guy is ‘just not that into’ a girl:

  • He’s cheating on you.
  • He only wants to see you when he’s drunk.
  • He doesn’t want to marry you.
  • He’s breaking up with you.
  • He’s disappeared on you.
  • He’s married.
  • He’s a bully.

It was at these chapters that I got an inkling as to how this book might be useful. A woman might be in a relationship that is obviously toxic, but due to a variety of cognitive biases everybody is subject to, not recognise it and be playing mental gymnastics to find reasons to stay in the relationship. As a friend one could tell her how obviously toxic the relationship is, but giving advice to friends may not be effective and may damage the friendship. By externalising the advice to an ‘expert’ the advice might be taken more seriously. The book even includes a section on ‘how do I give this book to a friend’.

I agree with the general premise that there can be a dating dynamic of someone being ‘not that into’ the other person. The book has been effective in giving the dynamic a label.

It was the very first chapters that I disagreed with.

One of the chapters is ‘He’s not that into you if he’s not calling you’. An example it gives is ‘I met a guy at a bar, and he gave me his number’. The advice? ‘He’s not that into you, if were into you he would have got your number be calling you’.

I disagree with this. There are several reasons why a guy might opt to give a girl his number, rather than asking for hers – the primary being that a girl may not feel comfortable giving her number out. A guy offering to give his number provides both the advantage of expressing respect for her privacy, as well require a clear signal of interest on her part to move the relationship forward. The fact that he has given her his number is a clear indication that he has some level of interest in her.

In the same chapter another example they gave was a girl who fancied her gardener. She had brought beers out to him and they’d chatted. She said that she suspected that he might be interested in her, but he hasn’t asked her out because he’s afraid to. Again the advice is ‘Nope! He’s just not that into you’.

This paints all men, (or all men worth dating at least) as having perfect social perception to gauge the appropriateness of making such a move, as well as the confidence to do it in a manner that they think will be attractive. Given that the gardener’s livelihood and professional reputation is at stake in this situation, it’s quite easy to see how a guy, even if he fancies the girl, might decide that the risk of offending her by asking her out for a drink and the subsequent potential damage to his reputation, outweighs potential benefits. From his point of view it might be better to hope that she continues chatting to him until he’s more confident that asking her out isn’t going to cause offence.

Both of these examples paint unrealistic and outdated gender stereotypes. While I’m not of the opinion that all differences in gender behaviour are solely the product of socialisation, (for example I think men genuinely do have a higher sex drive, though I think there is also socialised behaviour to act in a hyper sexual way as well) the model expressed paints men as very one dimensional (it doesn’t acknowledge that guys might genuinely be shy) and doesn’t acknowledge the increasing empowerment of woman to ask for what they want.

Does the book’s use as a hint or nudge for a friend to leave a relationship make this a good book? I don’t think so. But – I would accept that perhaps this book has indeed helped some people. I think though – we should be concerned about propagating unhelpful or unhealthy depictions of dating dynamics, and I think it’s more important is to criticise the book for its simplistic and naïve depiction of gender roles.

Online dating as a pick-me-up.

Online dating, and in particular Tinder, has been subject to criticism recently for enabling their users to become non-commital and flakey when it comes to relationships. The argument is that popular dating apps like Tinder allow people to see of their dating options, and never commit to a relationship because the ease of casual sex or new dating options is right there on your phone. The term ‘dating apocalypse’ has been coined – popularised by this Vanity Fair article. In my opinion the article is pretty awful. It reads more like a bad fiction story, and I question the veracity of it. Even if the people in this story are real, I don’t think they’re representative of Tinder’s overall userbase.

But the argument does have merit.

If we take Paul Oyer’s (author of Everything I needed to know about economics, I learned from online dating.) premise – that everybody is seeking the highest value possible mate (however ‘high value’ is defined – and is perhaps subject to person’s own values), even if successful in romance, they will continue searching for higher value mates, so long as their cost of search doesn’t prevent them. Because online dating makes cost of search much lower, (people don’t need to spend an entire Friday night out at party or social group in order to meet potential mates), people will be less inclined to settle with their current romantic match, for fear of missing out on a higher value match that’s just around the corner – if they have the security of knowing that they can easily find an equal value match with a couple more swipes and few interesting text messages.

I deleted my Tinder account about three weeks ago. I found I wasn’t enjoying it anymore – I wasn’t getting as many matches as I used to, conversations were stilted, I’d arrange dates that would flake out, etc. So I deleted my Tinder and decide to focus on meeting people the IRL way – through social groups, parties, etc.

Two weeks later, I was feel lonely. While joining social groups and generally putting yourself out there is an effective way to meet people, there are two difficulties with turning it into romance.

Firstly, there’s a lack of social signal about their availability (whereas someone’s mere presence on a dating site indicates that they’re single and interested in dating). This can lead to an awkward conversation.

Secondly, there’s a lack of continual contact with the person. For example if you meet someone at a social group that meets once a week, unless you get their phone number or Facebook straight away,  you only have the opportunity to talk to them in the time that you’re together at time each week. Whereas with online dating, you can maintain a prolonged conversation throughout the day and the week. This means that establishing a connection with someone you’ve met in real life, can take a lot longer than one where you’re able to talk online.

I ended up getting quite depressed, and on the weekend reinstalled Tinder, and signed up to OkCupid. I started chatting to some girls, and you know what? It was fun! I enjoyed myself, and I felt good.

This has led to a rethinking of my online dating philosophy. Online dating should be treated as a flakey and non-committal dating experience. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t have value.

Instead of being seen as a primary and serious way to meet a romantic partner, it should be seen as fun and non-committal ‘pick-me-up’. That is, continue building your social networks in real life, as these tend to be a bit more reliable than online dating relationships. Use online dating for a fun pick-me-up during the day, or as an activity as you’re unwinding at the end of the day.

Of course – online dating matches can turn into a real date, and then a real relationship, and there’s no reason not to pursue this option. But your general expectations for going into online dating shouldn’t be ‘I’m here to find a mate’, it should be ‘I’m here to have non-serious fun, by chatting to people I find interesting or attractive’. Anything that goes beyond that, is a bonus.

Now this might sound a bit cynical, dishonest or unethical. If I’m treating online dating in this non-serious manner, then it could be considered dishonest to the people I’m chatting to if they’re taking a serious approach. Three points to counter this – firstly, not being serious about online dating doesn’t mean you need to act like a jerk. Secondly, I can be fairly upfront about what my intentions are. This is quite a good piece of writing, and I’d be happy to share it, to at least gauge reactions. Thirdly, people don’t have an obligation to act in a way that other people want them to. This ‘don’t be serious’ approach is fairly self-contained, and there’s no explicit agreement that you both have the same intentions when chatting. People need to take their own responsibility for recognising that others may have different values or intentions in their social interaction, and that doesn’t mean you’re both not compatible for a fun chat.

Ahhhhh! This podcast has me questioning my life philosophy.

This Radio Lab podcast talks about liars and self-deception. It starts off entertainingly enough, talking about everyday lying and pathological liars. The final part of it is where it gets interesting – self-deception; the classic self-deception they give is where all evidence points to a partner being unfaithful, but one convinces themselves that the partner is being faithful.

The podcast makes a stark conclusion –people who self-deceive tend to be more successful[1] and happier. The example given is swimmers – the swimmers who scored higher on a self-deception test, later proved to be the faster swimmers in a qualifying competition. The explanation for this makes sense – sports people need to psyche themselves up for their competition by adopting the mindset that ‘I’m the best in the world!’, ‘I’m invincible!’, ‘I’m the fastest swimmer here!’, this is an act of self-deception.

You can see how this would apply to other fields as well – for example a business person who adopts the attitude of ‘I’m faultless, I’m really good at this job’ is more likely to carry this attitude into their interactions, and be perceived that way by their boss and clients.

On the other hand, if someone is more honest with themselves, their internal monologue will more sound like ‘I could have done that better’, ‘I was at fault there’. These people, though having perhaps a more accurate depiction of the world, also tend to be more depressed.

Intuitively – we might say that being able to recognise your own faults is a virtue, highlighting sensitivity to others. Being aware of your own faults being a prerequisite to self improvement.

On the other hand, we might argue that people who adopt an attitude of ‘I’m always right’ or ‘I’m perfect’ tend to be insensitive to others, and don’t have incentive to improve themselves, because they’re already perfect.

This presents itself an apparent trade off – one can be honest and unhappy, or dishonest and happy and successful.

Given that most people’s (or at least my own) goal in life is simply to be happy and enjoy themselves, we might say ‘You know what? Fuck self reflection, just adopt an attitude that you’re awesome and move on with your life’.

This honesty/dishonesty policy also has implications for my writing.

For example, if I’m talking about dating, where I might make a suggestion of ‘Here’s where things went wrong, here’s what could be done differently’, if I were to adopt the dishonest-I’m-perfect attitude, the advice would always be ‘It’s their fault that the relationship didn’t work out, they’re clearly not up to your level’.

[1] Success can be a problematic metric – does objective success exist? Or is it subject to the person?