There are two-and-a-half points to this post. So for those of you in a hurry or with short attention spans (a.k.a. almost all of us all the time in the digital age), here they are:
Quantity gives a false sense of lack of quality. Just because you are at a big party, or have access to millions of profiles on a dating site, doesn’t mean that that night, or in that online search, you will find someone you like. Thus, the conclusion that there’s NO ONE for you is only temporarily, situationally true. Most people globalize this. Don’t. (Unless you LIKE being depressed and single. Then globalize like heck, baby.)
In any situation, there will be one best choice, at least, and then seemingly diminishing returns. (We will see how far I can push the french fry metaphor.)
Frito Misto vs. French Fries, or the buffet dilemma: Research has shown that if you have more variety, you are more likely to overeat, or at least not feel full as quickly. And the first taste of any new food is the most exciting.
Where you start to have power is when you notice your patterns (Mmmm! Crispy french fry!) and start to make conscious choices about how you interpret what you experience.
The long version…
Frequently, I find myself giving clients this pep talk about quantity. How the online dating experience can have you more depressed than old-fashioned dating (which I, at 46, am old enough to remember), simply because of the vast quantity of people you have access to, and who have access to you. The large number makes it FEEL more hopeless, but this is an illusion created by ACCESS.
Last night, my husband and I went to a party. Everyone there was very nice, super friendly. Several people spontaneously introduced themselves to us soon after we walked in. Like I said, SUPER friendly. They were all good looking and stylish, each in their own way, albeit the whole crowd had a slightly hippie flavor — many of them had ecstatic dance and/or spiritual communities in common, several were artists, all were roughly 40-60 years old.
We spent about an hour or so at the party, chatting with different people we’d never met (we knew the host but are not members of her communities).
At the end of the evening, I noted to my husband how this is the moment when people get hopeless. All these nice people and none of them “clicked.” Fear-based conclusions: There must be something wrong with me, or there is no one out there for me and never will be.
Without fear, the same situation can be described as: What a nice group of people. That was interesting. No one at that party is going to be my new best friend, and that’s fine.
I don’t know how you approach an order of french fries, but this is how I do it, how I’ve always done it. One time, I simply noticed that I had been doing this all along, since childhood, and then I noticed the metaphor…
I always start with the best french fry. The crispiest, most golden, almost translucent french fry in the pile. Once that one is gone, I find the next-most-perfect, crispiest, most golden… As I go along, one might say that there are diminishing returns. Although each fry is the best in that moment. Sometimes, you find a fry that exceeds the previous fry, but was initially hidden from view. Towards the bottom of the pile, there tends to be a kind of uniformity to what is left. Still satisfying, but less exciting. Or if they are too soggy, you move on.
You get where I am going with this? At a party, in a bar, after having entered your parameters in a search, you have a pile of french fries. Humans are a little more varied, but you start with what looks the best to you, and carry on from there. Sometimes, partway through, there’s a surprise. If you hit the point where all of your options are limp and soggy, you move on.
Some meals are better than others. When reflecting on the quality of the experience of that “restaurant,” you might realize that it isn’t a place you want to order fries from again. So you might try a different restaurant (community, party, search parameter set, online interface).
The Seeming Magic of Frito Misto
The problem with online dating, or really with dating in general, and it’s only a problem if your goal is a monogamous committed partnership, as is the case for many of my clients, is the variety.
Psychological/behavioral studies have shown that when you eat a meal, the first bite of any item in that meal is the best, most delicious, most satisfying. As you continue to eat the item, your satisfaction, that HIGH POINT of pleasure, diminishes. It’s still GOOD, it’s just not a peak bite. When you move on to a new item, you get to experience that peak again.
This is why at small plates/tapas restaurants, and at highly diverse buffets, you will have a tendency to overeat. You are so distracted by the delight in the diversity, that you don’t pay attention, or can’t notice, when you are full.
Online dating = infinite buffet
So, that plate of fries will fill you up far sooner than a mixed basket of fried vegetables or seafood.
Although the frito misto might be more fun.
What you order, how you choose to eat it, can (should?) be based on your goal. Being conscious about how each choice affects you, the mechanisms in our brains and bodies, can help you decide how to order, or/and how to interpret your dining (dating) experience.
Interestingly, people who practice polyamory, at least the ones who write and read books on the subject, stay deliberately conscious of what is known as “New Relationship Energy” — a physiological/chemical high one experiences in early dating that mirrors (or induces) temporary insanity and can last anywhere from months to about 2 years.
All of the excitement based on the diversity of choice in online dating is subject to these manic highs — and crashes.
Where you start to have power is when you notice your patterns (Mmmm! Crispy french fry!), and start to make conscious choices about how you interpret what you experience.