Can we hurry this dinner along? I have another date in an hour. A firm request with a timeframe and a reference to her pet basset hound.
Maybe next weekend I can take her to that concert my friend was telling me about. No one does that anymore. I sound so desperate. And two exclamation points? What was I thinking? Am I a complete moron? Technology promised to make relationships easier through quick communication and more options for connection, but did our brains get the memo? Our DNA and ingrained mating strategies seem to be playing catch up to the new ways of finding love in the time of Tinder, Facebook flirting, and winking emojis.
Human beings share a large set of unconscious tendencies that were encoded into our genes over millions of years and are now being played out in predictable ways in modern relationships. People are not puppets to their past, but certain predispositions compel folks to analyze texts, lose sleep over profile pictures, and second guess those they choose as mates. According to anthropologist Helen Fisher, if you took cavemen from 30, years ago and threw them into the modern dating scene, their Paleolithic emotions would be very similar to our own.
These mating shortcuts were hardwired into our species to make sexual selection strategies easier for our cave-dwelling ancestors, but they also make modern dating a never-ending headache. Take for instance, the scarcity principle, which whispers to our unconscious that any asset that is less available is therefore more valuable. These games may appear childish and unnecessary, but your chances of finding a date next Friday may depend on how well you can blend your outdated brain with modern technology.
Fickle lovers The first rule our ancestors passed along to us is to make negative information a priority, because if you have a tiger or a berry bush in front of you, addressing those big teeth should come first.
This is called the negativity bias and it can wreak havoc in our relationships. Focusing on problems has its advantages, but when the smoke detector in our brain is faced with an unanswered text, we quickly suspect the worst-case scenario. Local massage therapist Hannah Strauss has experienced this phenomenon. So much thought gets wasted on it.
Christian Rudder of the OkCupid website found that men get the most matches when their profile pictures show them not smiling and looking away from the camera. Overall, his findings suggest that 90 percent of your fate as an online dater depends on the photos you select to depict yourself. By the way, the OkCupid website alone sets up 40, new dates per day, 3, of which will become long-term relationships, of which will result in marriage.
Indeed, relationships and technology are now so intertwined that from to more than one-third of all marriages resulted from an internet connection, according to research from the University of Texas. For some locals, like Chad Spracklen, who happens to be gay, the internet, he says, is his only option for finding a partner. Others, like Strauss, also attribute their current dating success to having the options that technology provides. Lindsay Goldring, an 80s child who grew up listening to cassette tapes and witnessed the death of landlines, sees the downsides of integrating our digital and real life selves.
Some people remain unconvinced of the benefits of a shifting dating landscape. He is on three different dating apps: Bumble, Tinder, and Plenty of Fish.
According to anthropologist Robin Dunbar, our programming only allows us to process a limited amount of social information at once, because in our tribal past we lived in an average group size of people.
Having this many points of contact with numerous potential suitors may seem exciting, but our brains have trouble committing when we are presented with too many options. Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College, has spent his career studying the problems associated with choice overload and has found that the more options we have the less satisfied we become.
Schwartz has demonstrated that an excess of options can lead to indecision and paralysis. He points to a study where samples of jam were set up in an artisan food store.
In one scenario people could choose between six types of jam. In another experiment shoppers could select from 24 varieties. When more options were presented, people were more likely to stop and peruse the jams, but less likely to buy them. However, when people actually browsed the smaller table they were 10 times more likely to commit and buy a jar. And that here, it is the women who have the advantage. Hiding behind their phones, dating app trolls will sometimes lash out at females when they feel rebuffed.
Unfortunately, for our modern day partners this means that we have an unquenchable thirst to always keep on the hunt for the perfect match.
For the unrequited lover who gets left behind, this dismissal can be literally painful. The interesting evolutionary explanation behind this is that our caveman brains associate rejection with being thrown out of the tribe and eventual death.
Smartphones and online dating hijack this outdated system by giving us a constant source of synthetic happiness. Phone checking, which the average American does times per day, according to the Internet Trend Report by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, gives us a similar high that gamblers feel when they pull the wheel on a slot machine.
This anticipation of a reward for both phone and gambling addicts produces a higher amount of dopamine than actually receiving a text or winning a round of cards. Scientists call this the progress principle, where we are more highly rewarded chemically for moving towards a goal than actually achieving the desired outcome.
In fact, studies by psychiatrist Michael Liebowitz at the New York State Psychiatric Institute demonstrate that during the infatuation stage your brain produces PEA, phenylethylamine, a naturally occurring amphetamine in the body that produces feelings of elation, euphoria, and exhilaration, which dwindles the longer you stay with a person. She presents brain research indicating the passionate stage of a relationship feels similar to being on low doses of meth, while the long-term companion stage feels more like having a glass of wine.
Evolution likes to keep it this way, so that in the beginning stages of a relationship, we have sex more often, increasing our chances of procreation. This may all seem very depressing for the lifespan of a relationship and lead one to question the merits of monogamy as many have and continue to do.
But evolution has also given our species the biochemical oxytocin to make sure we stay together long enough to give our offspring a fighting chance. For others who do spend time with each other in the physical sense, technology presents another set of problems. Fisher advises people to trust their noggins. This strategy may actually be superior to any online dating site, as people are consistently unaware of what they actually desire in a partner, at least according to Match. People may write in their profile they desire someone who is blonde, has a college degree, and loves hiking, but then end up dating someone who is a brunette, dropped out of high school, and binge watches Netflix.
This discrepancy may be due in part to a phenomenon called the self-verification theory, where people choose partners that conform to a love they are familiar with or witnessed growing up. The attention of others in the digital world can be addicting and intoxicating, but if our primary point of contact is through telephones and not touch, our relationships will suffer. Dating apps and smartphones promised us predictability and control over our interactions, but often this leads us to start viewing our partners as products for our consumption instead of people with feelings.
Relationships with real humans are messy and complicated and that may be why Americans opt to spend an average of 7. In the past, people married partners from their neighborhood or from work, mainly finding love where they spent the majority of their time.
However, as people opt to find love online, they risk spending more time becoming closer to their machines than to each other, forgetting that technology should be viewed as a tool not a talisman that can fulfill your every wish. Oftentimes with craned necks and dead eyes, we hide from each other behind airbrushed versions of ourselves swiping our way through life in a fog of visual noise, missing out on the genuine laughter and vulnerable euphoria that comes with building a story together in real life relationships.