Modern Dating Is The Same It Has Ever Been Except For An Injection of Economics

One cannot scroll through any of the social media platforms these days and not come across single people espousing the horrors of the dating world. It seems at times that single people are so fed up with dating life one wonders how the species will continue to perpetuate. Too many times I have heard single people speak about how it is hopeless and how bad things have gotten. This comes from both sides of the gender aisle. I think I can offer some perspective to illustrate that the dating game is the same it has ever been, there have just been a few rule changes along the way that have impacted how outcomes are derived.

Every single major sport that exists has had its rules changed from time to time. Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey, Soccer, they have all been around for a very long time and have experienced numerous modifications to their rules, but the games have remained the same. Modern dating is no different in my opinion. There are components of the game of dating, and it is a game, that are exactly the same as they have always been and most of this rests in our cognitive tendencies and emotional patterns. What has changed is the amplitude of these components and our awareness to them.

As a single man, I have been single for eight years, who has been somewhat actively dating for three years or so, I have made keen observations to the changes in the game that have admittedly taken time for me to adjust to. For one I am of a different generation. I will turn fifty in two months which cements my status as a Gen Xer meaning, there was no sophisticated technology for most of my life that could be applied to dating. I had to summon up the courage to step out of my comfort zone to approach someone I found attractive and pray I wasn’t rejected. This was a skill. Modern dating may not necessitate this skill, but it requires other skills as the rules have changed.

The research is clear, when humans are presented with too many options we have a very difficult, almost possible time making a decision. Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University is a foremost expert on the psychology of choice and her research has shown that when we are given too many options we automatically go into FOMO (fear of missing out) mode and can’t make a choice. This is simply because we can’t help but think about what’s ‘out there’ instead of what we have. The research is also clear on entitlement within the human species. When things are too easy for us, we don’t appreciate those things we get. A certain level of work is necessary for us to appreciate and to continue to work for those things in order for us to stave off entitlement. Modern dating with all of its dating apps and forums compounds these two components in us exponentially. It is the default human setting. When this is added to our subjective emotional issues (which we all have and possess) that impact our impulse (approach) and instinct (avoidance) behaviors, we can be easily overwhelmed. I will give you an example. I was in a committed relationship from 2004 until 2014. The digital world experienced a quantum shift in that time. I didn’t get back into the dating world until 2018 which was equivalent to taking a frozen caveman and thawing him out into the modern world of dating. By my own humble admission, I have been blessed with a certain randomness in my life. I have never had a difficult time meeting women, women I find attractive. In this modern dating world I have access to more women from more walks of life than ever before. I have been on more first dates in three years than I have in my entire life combined times ten. I have been on a handful of second and third dates. But with this also comes an exponential amount of ghosting, last minute cancellations, no call no shows etc. I have never in my life experienced ghosting, no call no shows or last minute cancellations at the rate I now do. It is all part of the game but the infinite growth of the exposure makes it seems things are different, they aren’t. It is just that the amplitude has increased exponentially. From a purely economics perspective this easily can make one put less value on meeting people. If we don’t value people we meet we will not be compelled to work on anything with them. We must be mindful of the economics component involved when dating. The human brain evolved to get maximum results with the least amount of effort. Too many operate with this default setting with regard to modern dating. Think of modern dating as developing mastery and excellence at something. You must commit to it. It takes time, energy, effort and practice otherwise you will never get better at it.

Dating and finding the right person to be in a relationship with has always had a component of randomness and luck and that has not changed. What has changed are our expectations in experiencing that luck and randomness because of the ease of which we think we can get exposure to its potential. More than ever our own personal development and wellness is important because otherwise one will find themselves ‘chasing’ to no end. When you work on yourself, you then create something that you desire to share and this is a completely different space than looking for someone to give you something. More than ever this is the needed approach to dating because of the modern rules changes otherwise you will burn yourself out and find yourself discouraged and going cynical. More exposure to people means meeting more people things will not work out with, but it also means that at some point you will meet the right person for you. Stay in the game.


Elliot is a personal development author. His latest book, "The Bitter & The Sweet: Benefits of a Balanced Perspective in Life, and How to Achieve It" out now.

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