Is more less when it comes to dating?

Remember when choices were as simple as “regular latte” or “skinny latte”? These days it’s more like “decaf latte, double shot, caramel syrup, half-soy, half-oat, 180-degrees, no-foam, with a sprinkle of chocolate powder on top”. Let me tell you something… the online dating landscape is not too dissimilar! The challenge these days for many singletons, particularly where dating apps are concerned, is not just about dishonesty, but decision-making as well.

Once upon a time I found dating apps fun and interesting but after using them for a few months, the novelty quickly wore off. Now I merely see them as tedious and exhausting… it’s like an endless stream of “potentials” along with endless swiping (left), every time I open the apps. While the barrage of choice should make connections easier, it also makes us more picky. Whether we’re looking for something better or just completely overlooking, do we miss a good opportunity when it’s presented right in front of our eyes?

The paradox of choice

“Maximising” is a term coined by Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore College and author of “The Paradox of Choice”. Briefly summarised, “maximisers” are those who believe the grass is always greener on the other side. This particular pool of people treat dating and relationships very much like clothing. They might try a few options before committing to the right item, perhaps they’ll stay on the look out “just in case” or if they really can’t decide, it’s possible they’ll end up with two similar garments and flit between them. The only difference is, there’s no refunds or exchanges in the dating world! Have you ever found yourself in this type of situation? I know I have… and I’m talking metaphorically and literally.

I once dated two guys at the same time… whilst also lightly entertaining three others potentials just because I could. Normally I’m someone that likes to stick with one person, at least that way they can have my full attention plus it means less faffing around. But for the sake of trying out a new strategy, I decided to run an A/B split test.

The subjects

Although the two had very different personalities, I found them equally attractive. Guy #1 was the extrovert. In a nutshell I’d describe him as extremely social, well dressed, nicely built, perfect height, super chatty, great fun, hilarious, confident but not cocky. Guy #2 was quite the opposite. Totally introverted. Had a whole lot less to say but any time he opened his mouth, there was good, intellectual substance behind his words. Slightly more mature in the mind which was a nice change in comparison to other men I’ve dated previously! A little on the short side( though that didn’t bug me too much), kinda geeky, generous, thoughtful, well put together and also had a great build!

Activity

After a couple months in, I realised it was getting a bit too much! Multi-dating is honestly so mentally and physically draining. It’s the constant upkeep of texting back and forth trying to maintain several conversations at once, managing dates to ensure there’s no clashes, getting paranoid in case one guy would see me with the other, the effort of getting dressed up to actually go out on these dates (between 3-4 times a week!) …all of this while you’re still trying to suss them out. And that’s just the dating side of my life! Your mind is always in a pickle about which one to eventually kick to the curb, not to mention date requests coming in from the other potentials! This was a mess. It was time to optimise the strategy.

Results

So I ended up getting rid of both guys… and deleted all apps from my phone. Sometimes that’s the way it needs to be. Truthfully I was getting bored and felt overwhelmed with the whole dating palaver. I couldn’t be arsed to make a choice and I definitely couldn’t be bothered to go on any more new dates. It was all unnecessary drama that I didn’t need in my life.

What I found particularly interesting about the “A/B test” was the correlation between my handling of the situation and one of the studies discussed in Schwartz’s book. It concluded that while having increased options can be beneficial to a certain point, giving people too much choice would likely cause poor decision making, feelings of dissatisfaction, regret, or we become exhausted and make no decision at all!

If you think about it, it’s not just dating where we might experience over-abundance of options. It happens in everyday life. At restaurants when looking at a menu, down each aisle during grocery shopping, choosing a Netflix film to watch, figuring out which stocks to invest in, etc. Dating apps are great in bringing you closer to someone compatible, but if you’re hitting it off with one person and still have another 78 others waiting for you to match with them; is it worth having a look through? Or do we focus on this one person and keep those as part of an “emergency stash”?
In my opinion, if you’re someone who is actually serious about making a real, long term connection then the approach needs to be adjusted to fit your objective. Here are a few of my suggestions/thoughts:

1. If you have multiple dating apps, why not stick with your preferred one? At least this will cut down your swipes and choices.

2. If you’re already dating/chatting to someone, spend the time to get to know them properly before jumping ship. Don’t be quick to judge and learn to give people the benefit of the doubt… no one is perfect!

3. We need to stop treating a people as if they’re disposable or some type of commodity. It’s only fair to base a person on his or her own merits and not in comparison to 3, 5 or 10 other people. If I’ve instantly clicked with someone and things have progressed to a second date then they definitely warrant 100% of my attention.

COVIDeo dating so far…

While we’re all practising social distancing, we’re certainly not disconnected. From what I’ve seen, read, heard and experienced so far, it’s quite obvious that people are feeling quite lonely, a little stir-crazy and rather lecherous (I think that’s an alternative for “horny” (?)<— sorry, I dislike that word).

Until further notice we’re all living under house arrest, we’re now finding ourselves in a situation that has prompted getting glam for the cam, FaceTime happy hours, virtual game nights, synced cooking and synced Netflix viewings. With that said, I think dating in isolation during a pandemic actually has some positives! When it all started kicking off, I was receiving less sleazy messages from guys that I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole, and more messages with collective concern and care (genuine or not… who knows!) But naturally because of what’s happening in the world right now, people are deeply connected and affected so we instantly have something in common to talk about. I’m finding that this topic (although I’m pretty much over it) has become an easy conversation starter, so you very quickly learn if someone is a pessimist or an optimist, what their hobbies are outside of the usual “Food, Travel, Skiing, Hiking, Exploring” 🙄 yawn! Even their political views to an extent.

Looking at the more humorous side of things; cheesy chat up lines will 99% of the time make me immediately swipe left (that is, after I’ve taken a screenshot and shared it with my friends!) People are evidently getting much more creative which I’ve found rather amusing. Yes, Coronavirus chat up lines have arrived in full force. Singletons, if you’re in need of inspiration, why don’t you try one of these for size…

“Are you Coronavirus? Because you are simply breathtaking!”
“If Coronavirus doesn’t take you out, can I?”
“You are way out of my league but I have spare toilet roll if that helps?”
“Wanna make plans together and cancel them?”
“I have rubbers… and I don’t just mean gloves.”


Before the pandemic, I had never even thought about a virtual date before. Of course my preferred route would be to meet up in person but I figured I may as well give it a go… I’m pretty open minded and realistically, what choice do we have right now?

Prior to COVIDeo date #1, I had a few reservations/concerns… like, “how does this shit actually work?”, “this is going to be weird and awkward!”, “is dressing up necessary?”, “what should I wear?”. In the end, I decided to treat it like a normal date as if I were going out (basically an opportunity for me wear something cute! Yay!)

Thankfully the guy was proper cool, and, similar to me… as in he was a total motormouth which kept the conversation flowing nicely. Surprisingly I felt comfortable straight away, we had a good laugh and there was absolutely no awkwardness… apart from the fact that I was very aware he was drinking wine and there’s me with a 1L bottle of Lucozade in my hand! Haha! …What can I say, it was a long week at work and I had minimal sleep! Overall it was a really pleasant date that lasted about 3 hours.

I’ve only had 3 COVIDeo dates so far which is not exactly a huge sample size but the thing that has stood out for me was the stripping back of the social environment you’d normally get in a bar/restaurant. Being able to simply enjoy talking to one another, having things to share despite the fact that there’s no physical element is a really good sign!

Some of you may want to put dating on hold until we’re out of this phase, which is fair enough. But for those of you who are still keen to date, I’d highly recommend giving virtual dating a go. I totally understand that it’s frustrating getting to know someone, creating a bond but not being able to see them in physical form. Nonetheless I think this temporary way of dating provides a chance for people to take things slow, get to know each other on a deeper level and build a connection. Can I add that it also helps expedite the process of weeding out time wasters.

I suppose the big “unknown” from all of this is whether the connection built in the virtual world will translate in real life. But if you’re being your authentic self, then I don’t see why it wouldn’t? We still have a good few weeks of lockdown ahead of us, so my advice is to just enjoy it for what it is. Let’s hope some of this new openness, attention and follow-through will stay with us when we finally re-emerge out of our homes and back out into the world.