Many out there are claiming that having all the possibilities online dating gives you is counterproductive. For example, Barry Schwartz, in his book, “The Paradox of Choice,” claims that “we receive less value in each option we have as the number of options grows.”
As you will see, Mr. Schwartz, brilliant as it may be, got this entirely wrong.
What is the ‘choice’?
The choice is an abstract term we are using to explain the specific situation when our neuronal network is in dissonance because we are holding two or even more thought that has the same weight (importance).
In some way, even the simplest situation where we are presented with the ‘alternative’ can cause anxiety and even serious psychosis.
We all experienced this. A most common situation where you can see this in action is when you go to a restaurant and everything looks delicious. The waiter can become really agitated since you’re wasting his time because you can’t make up your mind what to eat. Imagine the table with 6 and you can understand why waiters sometimes seem pissed and hostile.
How do we restore the resonance? How do we choose?
We utilize yet another abstract term – the willpower.
Willpower is basically an attempt to restore the resonance and achieve the optimal frequency in the firing of our neurons.
Again, this is something familiar to all of us. Take the restaurant again as an example. After a couple of minutes of exhausting ‘choosing,’ you finally say to yourself, “ENOUGH! You’re gonna have this, period!”
That’s the power of will in its glory or the moment where you successfully forced the final decision.
You are again calm and happy. Neural network in your brain returned to the optimal frequency.
But what if you have only 1-3 meals on a menu?
You’ll never go back to that restaurant again! Even if there’s just one superior dish, you’ll have it once, twice, perhaps even one more time after that and you’ll change place.
When you consider Mr. Schwartz’ theory and the fact that ‘having multiple choices’ may, in fact, knock off your neuronal network from optimal frequency, it would only be reasonable to believe how the restaurant with only 3 dishes would be the most visited place on Earth.
Yet, we don’t see much of these restaurants…
It appears that something is wrong with the assumption that having too many options is bad for your mental health.
Otherwise, we would enjoy the store where there’s only one single product on the 30-meter shelf.
What’s the problem?
The problem is that many of the “theories” and “claims” are biased and subjective. In other words, authors are transferring their own beliefs to the general population. Those beliefs are commonly derived from the analysis of the single fragment taken out from the context.
Take the ordinary tomato for example.
When you analyze the composition, there’s nothing particularly strange about it. Water and usual macro and micronutrients. That’s it.
Yet, consuming large quantities of this juicy and refreshing vegetable (or fruit, depending on who you listen to), will do two things:
- It will reduce (normalize) your blood pressure,
- It will improve the activation of lipid drops (accumulated fat) in energy production.
Apparently, the mutual interaction between individual elements that make the tomato, works in a way we can’t fully understand. Disturb the inner balance of the elements that constitute a single tomato and you’ll eliminate these effects.
How can you disturb the tomato?
GMO is one way to do it because it will alter the sensitive balance of elements, rendering an ordinary tomato completely useless in the reduction of blood pressure and weight loss.
And you do that by taking one element and observe it out of the context. You analyze it. You modify it. When you put it back, it doesn’t work as it used to.
This is how the theories work. It’s their nature. Analysis of a single or few elements outside the global context. In reality, we enjoy restaurants where the waiter must spend the entire minute just to list daily specialties.
So why are they claiming that having too many dating options, the feature enabled through online dating sites, is bad for us?
Another of many Schwartz’ hypotheses is called “analysis paralysis” and I’m sure that he coined the term just because it sounds great.
It rhymes. And we like when it rhymes. The best marketing messages are those that rhyme. It’s because we like the order. We like everything to be assembled in a military fashion, otherwise, we are risking dissonance, whether we’ll admit it or not.
“Analysis paralysis” is actually a solid hypothesis because it’s the fact. Some people will undertake an extensive analysis of some business opportunities just to reject it. What they are ultimately doing is seeking for that one small detail that points to the danger of the entire endeavor and can be emphasized, allowing them to return to the safety of their comfort zones.
It’s on these grounds that the general term has been coined and then applied to many different aspects of our lives. was also included for the obvious reason: the massive number of viable dating choices!
Is it really that bad for our health?
Recall the restaurant and store shelf analogies. No, it’s not. Because, as the rule of thumb, you will always have those people who are not entirely sure whether to engage or not. In the outcome of their extensive “research,” they back down, rejecting the idea as invalid.
Now come the problem and the reason why some claim how online dating is counterproductive just because of that immense number of dating options.
To justify their reluctance and fear of the engagement, they will utilize one specific method – the spin.
It’s the method commonly used in politics and PR for example, where a skillful marketer, a behavioral specialist, will “spin” the facts, creating an illusion of how GMO is good for us because it allows harvests that are more fertile while using less of resources. He or she will deliberately avoid the fact that genetically manipulated tomato now lacks its natural healing properties.
Applied to everyday life, it sounds like this:
“Oh, you should not waste your time and resources on that. It’s the lost cause. Too fucking risky. Remember that incident…”
And then, they will start making stuff up.
It’s yet another feature in our minds we have as an advanced species. We will defend our beliefs and justify our actions and decisions with every mean necessary. If our central belief system is strong and not challenged in any way, our own brain will assist, assembling bits and pieces of different memory blocks, creating a legitimate (sound) story. Be a loud narrator and there’s a good chance that you’ll persuade others in whatever bullshit you came up with.
Let’s see the advantage of having multiple choices, like on the online dating sites
One evening you dress up nicely, put some fancy perfume and go out. While you’re standing at the bar, drinking your cocktail, you spot an interesting face. Something is driving you to make the contact.
If all goes well, your night will turn out even better than you hoped.
After some stalling, you finally employ that willpower and make your move…just to end up rejected!
How do you feel now?
Depressed. Because your expression got rejected. Social rejection doesn’t reflect well on your mental state, as you already know.
How much time will pass before you get enough courage to try again?
A week? A month?
According to one research done by Pew Center, in some cases, it takes longer than 3 years to do it again.
But what if you deploy an alternative strategy?
Instead of spending an hour and a half on preparation, half an hour on commuting and another 30 minutes on surveying the environment for a potential target., you create an account on the online dating site.
A glass of wine in one hand, cigarette in the other, messed up hair and ruptured knee on your sweatpants – quite satisfying self-appearance for calling someone on a date.
In the next 30 minutes, you mark 6-8 interesting profiles and write your very first invitation/message.
You fire the second one.
Do you give up as you did in that bar at that time?
No. You send the third, the fourth and so on until you hook someone. It takes one hour max!
This right here speaks enough about the underlying advantage of multiple dating options (choices) we gained with the onset of online dating sites.
How’s that possible?
We won’t take any element out of the context and then observe it individually. Instead, will observe the context.
In reality, online rejection doesn’t have that dramatic negative impact on our mental state. Sure it hurts a bit but not even close to the situation where someone is looking directly in your eyes, standing 3 feet away, and tells you to buzz off. That shit hurts like hell. It can even cause physical pain.
Online, however, that traditional social contact doesn’t exist. We are in our safe havens at all times, operating through an invisible security wall, built between us and the world out there.
It’s all an illusion, but it works nevertheless.
But, if you pull even the smallest element out of the context and manipulate it before putting it back, you’ll destroy the illusion.
That’s why claiming that the shelf filled with the same product only in different packages is bad for us, is complete nonsense. We wouldn’t invent it in the first place if it wasn’t something interesting to us. Restaurants would have only one single meal. Nightclubs would only have one single hostess.
And yet, there are at least 6 of them in a medium-sized club.
They can claim whatever the hell they want but the fact is – we like having multiple choices and we like owning several of seemingly same products! It’s our thing.
Will it take time to choose?
Depends on how determined you are to pick one. It’s up to you and your willingness to date someone.
If your will is strong, and you want to date someone, you won’t even bother thinking about the time you’ve spent searching because that time will seem like time well spent. After all, it’s your time and you can do whatever the hell you want with it!
But there’s another, largely overseen benefit of multiple online dating options
And it is directly connected with our core nature. Again, it’s our affection toward multiple choices.
Have you heard some tragic news today? How about yesterday?
Most likely you’ve heard one that got your attention and it was most recently.
On how many different places have you read about that same incident? How many different internet portals have you visited just to read that same thing over and over again?
Did it feel like a waste of time?
No, it didn’t.
It takes more than one painting to satisfy your “thirst” for art when you visit a museum of modern arts. In some way, they are all same pictures, in the same, rectangular frames. Yet, you need to see more than one.
Let’s go out now.
We are in the nightclub.
How many people are there? Out of all, how many are attracting your immediate attention?
What do you do once you realize how there are more than a few viable options?
You take your time. You observe. You analyze. The thirst for more information is just overwhelming because if there’s something your brain loves more than anything else that’s the stimuli. More the merrier.
So you don’t stop at those initial options.
What happens now is that you are starting a familiar game of searching for additional “targets.” Now it’s not about choosing between 10 options anymore.
It’s about finding out how many options are there.
You are a naturally curious being and it’s something that gave us an edge on this planet.
There one over there. Another one over there. What about that one coming out of the toilet? Nah, look at that face. Only a mother could love something like that.
After a while you become tired. Immense stimuli on your brain drained out your mental energy. You are getting back to choosing between the 10 most promising options.
In just a few minutes, your brain narrowed the pool of choices to only 2-3. A bit more mental effort and a bit more time, and the target is picked.
It’s only now when you’re making your move!
Imagine that you walked into an empty nightclub and there’s only one person standing in the middle of the dance floor.
What would be your automatic decision/reaction?
To change the place.
You are immediately going to another club, desperately hoping that there will be more people (choices) there. It’s your (our) basic psychology. We, as a species, like to have options because we are curious and you really can’t be curious in an environment where there are no many options (choices), can you?
Will having multiple options turn out to be a pain in the butt from time to time? Definitely. But even with that in the equation, multiple dating choices beat a single-choice environment.
And that’s why online dating sites are quickly becoming a new normal in our mating rituals.
All of a sudden, we have an environment where we are not limited by the unknown factors or scarcity of choices. Wherever we look, there’s yet another face, willing to date. No guessing game anymore. No holding of those two thoughts of the same weight in our minds that are known to wreak havoc on our brains – is he/she willing/available to date or not?
Online dating sites successfully remove 2 major obstacles of the dating game and enable that 1 critical feature we all need – multiple choices! All in one take. It’s yet another brilliant thing we the humans created for ourselves.
In reality, there’s no need for philosophy or any kind of negativity because dating is that elemental human behavior that ensures our survival on this harsh planet!
Why constantly searching for the hair inside the egg? Why persistently trying to complicate even the simplest things.
Let’s just live! Let’s date and have fun!