Many of you know that I’ve been stuck at the townhouse over the last few days. Our floor is being installed and trust me, while I’m starting to feel penned in-I’m SO grateful to see something other than concrete!! Hopefully the project will be completed today.
Yesterday while under “den arrest” upstairs, I read a short book by Dr. Paul Kalanithi titled “When Breath Becomes Air.” It is a haunting, deeply thought provoking, story of a life cut short by an aggressive lung cancer; in this case-his own. Paul was stricken right as he was approaching the conclusion of his grueling residency in neurosurgery.
In the book, this Stanford, Yale and Cambridge graduate grapples with the meaning of life and his complicated feelings about facing his own untimely death right at the starting line of what was to be a promising career. He was married and also had a new baby daughter.
Of course I’m upstairs reading Paul’s profoundly moving story of unrealized dreams while Juan is downstairs tapping and sawing away at our flooring- hour after hour after hour. I wondered what HIS goals and dreams for the future were. I also wondered if Paul’s story would be any less tragic if he wasn’t looking ahead to, and diligently training for, this brilliant surgical career that so few among us would be capable of mastering.
What I eventually came to I realize as I got further into the book was that the depth of his terrible misfortune wasn’t meant to be measured by the greatness of a future that wouldn’t materialize, it was hidden in the nightmarish possibility that too much of his life had been deferred in pursuit of this now unattainable dream.
You certainly don’t have to be a physician in training to make this mistake.
The conclusion I came to after reading this book (and tossing and turning all night) was that while it is truly important to have aspirations, develop our God given talent and realize our calling, it is equally important not to ignore the significance and worthiness of the precious days that cumulatively pave that path to achievement. When Paul came to realize that his life would be cruelly cut short, he reflected on the value of what he had been able to accomplish in his 37 years. He had a loving family, good friends and had positively impacted the lives of others. In this regard, what really mattered most to the doctor at the end of his life would probably be what matters most to everyone else.. no matter when the end comes.
Yes, there was so much potential, so much left to give, but he was ultimately satisfied that his short life had had a purpose..and that included writing this book.
#1 The FDA allows an average of 30 or more insect fragments and one or more rodent hairs per 100 grams of peanut butter.- (well, doesn’t this give chunky a whole new meaning.. 😷)
#2 Many cheeses are non-vegan, made with animal rennet, an enzyme that comes from the stomachs of animals like cows and goats. Parmigiano Reggiano, Gruyere, Emmenthaler, Pecorino Romano, Gorgonzola and Grana Padano among them.
SORRY – I’m just the messenger here!
#3 “Natural” vanilla, strawberry, and raspberry flavoring comes from a beaver’s anal gland.
The actual FDA approved additive is called castoreum, which is the excrement from a beaver’s castor sacs. It’s not just used in some ice creams, it’s also an additive in ice tea, yogurt, gelatin, fruit-flavored drinks, and candy.
Simple question… Who was the first person? I mean who was sitting around making ice cream one afternoon saying “you know what Mabel, I think this would taste so much better if we added some anal gland excrement…”
So the odds of my diet being successful just improved by a strong 67%…
One of my guilty pleasures is the Sunday New York Times…guilty, because it is so expensive! A favorite section I often share with my daughter is the one that deals with ethical and moral dilemmas like the one below. (By the way, I totally agree with their solution to the problem!- Reminds me of the old saying, “Do you want to be right or do you want to have peace?”)
Social Qs by Philip Galanes
Before my mother died, she handed me two decorative objects and said (in the presence of others), “I love you and want you to have these.” It turns out she had left them to her grandsons (my nephews) in her will, along with large cash gifts. Because my mother gave them to me with her love, these objects hold special value. A lawyer confirmed that small items that are sold or given away before death are no longer part of an estate. But my nephews are not speaking to me. What should I do?
I am sorry for your loss — and even sorrier to play King Solomon. But your mother is dead, and her (clearly changeable) ideas about decorative objects aren’t as important as your relationship with your nephews. In my experience, loving feelings for my late mother can be conjured as easily by her old potholders as her fanciest china.
I bet these two objects are not the only things your mother left you. I also suspect that if she were alive, and knew that her Venini vases or Lalique paperweights were causing a rift between you and her grandsons, she would sooner put them out with the garbage. Give them to your nephews and tell them they mean more to you than stuff.
By LAURA ZIGMANJUNE 27, 2015 in the New York Times–
I’m sorry, but Brian Williams has one job: to speak words. And yet his struggle to say two simple but very important ones created a lot of drama for the now former anchor of “NBC Nightly News.”
As Mr. Williams reflected recently in an interview with Matt Lauer of “Today,” “Why is it, when we’re trying to say ‘I’m sorry,’ that we can’t come out and say, ‘I’m sorry?’ ”
Good question, Brian, and thank you for asking!
I, too, am a terrible nonapologizer who truly wishes to be the kind of person who easily and gracefully takes responsibility for her actions and behaviors, but I am sorry to say that I am not.
I, too, would like to know why I’m so apology challenged and see problematic situations as ones that involve me but that aren’t necessarily my fault.
Like the sea of half-finished bottles of water in the refrigerator (“Sorry if the portion sizes are bigger than my thirst!’’). And forgetting to put gas in the car before my husband finds it on empty (“Sorry that I’m not as obsessed with the fuel gauge as you are!”).
I don’t say “sorry,” but I do on occasion feel sorry, like for my husband.
There’s a humblebraggy hashtag for all this (#sorrynotsorry), and this is pretty much what every withholding, haughtily outraged, blame-reverser like me thinks before unfurling another big, fat, self-serving, nonapology apology.
We atone with fake apologies full of ifs, buts, sarcastic hashtags, flimsy rationales and all manner of responsibility-avoidant language and parenthetically dependent clauses that make the “sorry” virtually impossible to find (which is the intention).
These apathetic apologies are so embarrassing, you would think those of us who utter them would become so repulsed by our infantile behavior and lack of character that we’d have to stop in the middle of one and immediately (perhaps even sincerely) express shame and regret.
Sorry, but that’s not how we roll. Instead, every second of every day, members of my tribe of fauxpologists try to escape an uncomfortable truth about themselves or a difficult situation of their own making by making things worse with egregiously florid not-me mea culpas.
Many psychologists, like Harriet Lerner, author of “The Dance of Anger,” believe nonapologizers are made, not born.
“If we’ve been shamed as children, we may have an especially difficult time tolerating the adult experience of being wrong,” Dr. Lerner told me. “Simply acknowledging a mistake can boot us back to the unbearable experience of childhood shame.”
This explanation makes me want to do a Jules-Feifferian dance of joy because it makes my not ever being at fault someone else’s fault. Like all non-sorry-sayers, I prefer explanations (and excuses) to apologies: I grew up in the ’70s, when love meant never having to even say #sorrynotsorry.
But in our family, the buzz phrase from “Love Story” had a different twist: While my parents never apologized for anything (to be fair to them, back then being a parent was more about the adults than the children), I always seemed to be apologizing for something (“I’m sorry I sat on my bedspread with my shoes on”; “I’m sorry for always complaining about Hebrew school”; “I’m sorry I refuse to drink powdered milk even though you say it tastes the same as regular milk”).
Having mastered the forced apology at such a tender age, it’s no wonder I grew up to have apology issues.
It’s probably also why after college I accidentally ended up as a professional apologist, also known as a book publicist. This gig required constant apologies for things that weren’t my fault (“I’m sorry your hotel has a slow elevator”; “I’m sorry your limo was white”; “I’m sorry someone else also just published a biography of Benjamin Franklin and that everyone loves his and hates yours”).
Blurting a quick “My bad” is way easier and less shaming than expressing a heartfelt apology. And at some point, that morphed into my becoming an unapologetic nonapologizer.
Guy Winch, a psychologist and author of “Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts,” explained lack of remorse to me this way: “Apologies involve an admission of wrongdoing, and people with fragile self-esteem — like narcissists whose self-esteem is high but also brittle — can be highly resistant to apologizing as they feel it is threatening to their egos.” (I’m sorry, am I the narcissist in this equation?)
Apologizing isn’t fun. But neither was kale, until some brilliant publicist/food gentrifier got a hold of it.
“People are open to improving their health and what will benefit them,” Oberon Sinclair, the founder of a Manhattan public relations firm, My Young Auntie, wrote in an email. So to make apologizing more palatable, maybe people like me should focus on the health benefits sincere apologies have on others, which include “lowered tension in the frown muscles of the face.” In other words: more sorry, less Botox.
A first big step toward my own rehabilitation came when I learned that even people who are paid to give advice on how to make amends struggle as I do.
“Here’s how I apologize,” Amy Dickinson, who writes the “Ask Amy” syndicated column, told me. “After a conflict, I just let things simmer down. Then I give a nudge. A little poke. Basically I telegraph to the other person that I’m fine now. I’m no longer in that bad place. It’s time to move on. If, after my charm offensive, the other person still has a problem with me, I’ll say, ‘I’m sorry you’re upset.’ ”
But how do we stop being so resistant to being sorry? See it as a higher calling, said Marjorie Ingall, who founded the website Sorrywatch.comwith Susan McCarthy. There, the two analyze and deconstruct public apologies with late-night talk-show humor and Talmudic precision.
“Think of apologizing as an act of menschiness and bravery, because it is,” Ms. Ingall said. “You have to take a deep breath and leap, just as if you were diving off the high board for the first time at age 11. It is like that every time.”
Her advice for delivering your sorries? “Face-to-face is best, phone is second best, email is third best,” she said. “Do. Not. Text.”
The best way to start an apology is by forcing your mouth to say the words.
“A long time ago, well before SorryWatch, I noticed that it was hard for me to admit mistakes,” Ms. McCarthy said. “I practiced saying, ‘I was wrong, and you were right’ in actual situations. It was sort of fun, and got easier to say.”
“The fact that pets don’t expect an apology makes it easy to do since lots of times I don’t apologize because I feel it’s been coerced and or extorted out of me,” she said. “It’s the feeling that it’s expected that makes me clam up. With animals, they don’t expect it and don’t insist on it, and don’t give a damn, obviously. So it’s just so easy to say I’m sorry.”
The problem with not apologizing, though, is that you deprive yourself of being forgiven. When another forgives you, you can forgive yourself and what better feeling is there than that?
Perhaps I will start soon, but start small. When I get home tonight maybe I’ll apologize to my husband for leaving the half-and-half out all night, forcing him to drink his coffee black. But first I’ll talk to my dog about it.
As a relative “newbie” to the blogging world, I have been struck by the number of fellow bloggers who are struggling with depression and anxiety. The following article from the New York Times caught my eye this week-end with it’s report about online cognitive behavioral therapy. The data seems to indicate that this method is actually quite promising, although some within the field still have doubts about such a non-traditional approach.
I’m not a doctor, but I personally don’t see anything wrong with adding one more tool to the kit of those trying to build happier and more stable lives.
Elle is a mess. She’s actually talented, attractive and good at her job, but she feels like a fraud — convinced that today’s the day she’ll flunk a test, lose a job, mess up a relationship. Her colleague Moody also sabotages himself. He’s a hardworking, nice person, but loses friends because he’s grumpy, oversensitive and gets angry for no reason.
If you suffer from depression or anxiety as Elle and Moody do, spending time with them could help. They are characters in a free online program of cognitive behavioral therapy called MoodGYM, which leads users through quizzes and exercises — therapy without the therapist.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a commonly used treatment for depression, anxiety and other conditions. With it, the therapist doesn’t ask you about your mother — or look at the past at all.
Instead, a cognitive behavioral therapist aims to give patients the skills to manage their moods by helping them identify unhelpful thoughts like “I’m worthless,” “I’ll always fail” or “people will always let me down.” Patients learn to analyze them and replace them with constructive thoughts that are more accurate or precise. For example, a patient could replace “I fail at everything” with “I succeed at things when I’m motivated and I try hard.” That new thought in turn changes feelings and behaviors.
The success of cognitive behavioral therapy is well known; many people consider it the most effective therapy for depression. What is not widely known, at least in the United States, is that you don’t need a therapist to do it. Scores of studies have found that online C.B.T. works as well as conventional face-to-face cognitive behavioral therapy – as long a there is occasional human support or coaching. “For common mental disorders like anxiety and depression, there is no evidence Internet-based treatment is less effective than face-to-face therapy,” said Pim Cuijpers, professor of clinical psychology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and a leading researcher on computer C.B.T.
MoodGYM, the pioneer, was developed by Australian psychologists in 2001. Now there are several similar programs in wide use and with good evidence behind them (and lots of junk programs that are completely ineffective).
MoodGYM and its kin are important because untreated mental illness is a huge global problem. Depression is the leading cause of disability for women worldwide, and the second-leading cause for men. If medical care is hard to come by in much of the world — in rural Indiana as well as rural India — mental health care is often impossible to get. In the United States, at least half of major depression goes untreated, and in very poor countries the figure is close to 100 percent.
Why don’t people get treated? Many don’t know they have a treatable disease, or don’t believe that treatment will help them. Some know they have a problem, but the stigma of mental illness keeps them from facing it and seeking help.
Online therapy can’t do much about those barriers. But it can help people who stay sick because there are no therapists nearby, who fear being judged or embarrassed in therapy, who can’t take time off from work, or for whom the cost of treatment is too high. It allows people to carry therapy around in their pockets, use it at 2 a.m., and pay nothing or nearly nothing.
In the late 1990s, Helen Christensen, a mental health researcher at the Australian National University in Canberra, and her colleague Kathleen Griffiths worked with local designers to create MoodGYM, which was adopted by Australia’s national health system six years ago. Christensen is now the chief scientist at the mood-disorder research Black Dog Institute (named after Winston Churchill’s famous term for his own depression), where she researches and designs more online programs. Among these are BiteBack for teenagers and MyCompass, which aims to treat anxiety, stress and depression in mature adults (MoodGYM is pitched younger, although older people use it, too). MyCompass is designed in small chunks, “something you can do at the bus stop on your mobile phone,” said Christensen. Both are available to anyone with a computer worldwide.
MoodGYM was controversial when it first came out. “People did feel threatened,” said Christensen. “They said it’s unethical, harmful – you’re doing damage and you don’t know it. Or you’re stopping people from getting the real help they need.”
But MoodGYM has been widely successful, without the predicted consequences. About 100,000 Australians use it each year, as do people in 200 countries.
Australia is ground zero, but other online cognitive behavioral therapy programs are also widely used in the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain. In 2007, the British National Health Service began covering a program called FearFighter for phobias and anxiety, and another program, Beating the Blues, for depression. Both can be used for no cost through participating National Health Service doctors, or bought to use alone. Beating the Blues costs the equivalent of $237. FearFighter is $154, or $313 if you want telephone support from clinicians.
In a medical setting, most doctors use online therapy in what’s called a stepped model. Patients with mild to moderate problems start with the computer program, checking in every so often with a therapist or case manager. Those who don’t get better are then treated face to face by a therapist and, if that doesn’t work, by a specialist. (Patients with very serious issues start with in-person therapy.)
Online therapy is effective against an astonishing variety of disorders. A Swedish survey of studies found that online C.B.T. has been tested for 25 different ones. It was most effective for depression, anxiety disorders, severe health anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, female sexual dysfunction, eating disorders, cannabis use and pathological gambling. “Comparison to conventional C.B.T. showed that [online] C.B.T. produces equivalent effects,” the researchers concluded.
Cuijpers said there were fewer studies of online therapy to treat insomnia, pain and alcohol abuse, but what’s been done has shown good effects. (Last week the Upshot published one contributor’s story of his success using online C.B.T. for insomnia.)
MoodGYM, like some other programs, can be completely self-guided. People who use these programs alone tend to see a small but significant effect — the program helps, but not as much as the same program with occasional human contact. That could be check-ins with a therapist, but it doesn’t have to be. The human could be a case manager or possibly a peer. Encouragement and support are what count, not expertise.
The main reason self-guided C.B.T. doesn’t work as well is that people tend to stop using it. The human touch encourages people to stick with it. One study of adolescents found that almost 60 percent of users stopped MoodGYM after the first module when they were working unsupported on their own. When the same program was used with monitoring and support, only 10 percent stopped.
“Well, it’s called Mood Gym,” said Marcia Valenstein, a psychiatrist at the University of Michigan Medical School who is researching online C.B.T. with peer support among veterans at the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System. “Even the gym gym people are enthusiastic and go for a day or so — and then they stop.”
Michigan is one of the few places in America working with cognitive behavioral therapy online. Others are Kaiser Permanente in Oakland and the University of Pittsburgh. (The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is a co-owner of the American version of Beating the Blues.)
Why so few? One possible reason for America’s resistance is that doctors fear lawsuits; what if a patient whom a doctor starts with an online program commits a mass murder? (Perhaps wide access to online therapy plus gun control would be a good plan.)
Also, the American medical system likes to have testing done in the United States before it takes something seriously. The extensive research with Australian, British, Swedish and Dutch patients might not be persuasive here.
Perhaps most important is the lack of an influential champion. Ideas don’t spread by themselves. And just as important would be bringing online C.B.T. to the attention of the World Health Organization. Poor countries are where it’s needed most.
The reception for online cognitive behavioral therapy isn’t uniformly warm — and the dissenters are not just therapists worried about being put out of business (if only untreated depression were that scarce a commodity). One big issue is that someone seriously ill might waste time tootling around with an online program, not realizing he needs more help. Or he might use a program that isn’t right for him. It’s safer, of course, if a therapist sees the patient and then prescribes online therapy. That’s an efficient use of therapists — but it still requires a therapist, and that negates some of online C.B.T.’s advantages.
Over all, the benefits of online cognitive behavioral therapy are persuasive. It allows people who could not otherwise get therapy to get it — and can help psychotherapists and specialists focus on more complex cases. It saves money for patients and health systems. And the online clinic never closes. When you can’t sleep for worry and it’s 3 a.m., your therapist is there for you
Customization is another benefit. Bruce L. Rollman, an internist who is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is studying an online program tailored for patients with heart failure — a group in which depression is common. Depression can kill in many ways. One is by keeping you from dealing with other illnesses; people who are depressed are less likely to take their meds and do their exercises. So one way to treat heart disease is to treat any accompanying depression. “And if you apply depression treatment to high-cost patients, you are much more likely to save money,” said Rollman.
Ricardo Muñoz, a professor of clinical psychology at Palo Alto University, sees online C.B.T. as a tool for preventing depression. “We know that if a person develops a major depressive episode, the likelihood of another one goes to 50 percent, up from 17 percent,” he said. “After that, the likelihood of another goes to 70 and then 90 percent. Obviously, we need to be preventing the first one.”
Face-to-face cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches people skills they can use to improve their mood, is well-suited for prevention of depression. But the health insurance system is not. No one will pay for face-to-face therapy for someone who doesn’t yet have a disorder. There is a clear need here for the online version.
Why stop there? Muñoz envisions translating and adapting the basic therapy to tailor it to different syndromes, co-illnesses and languages: a Swahili-speaking kidney dialysis patient with depression could get exactly the right program. “I dream of systematically filling in a grid in which columns are health issues (smoking, depression, anxiety, obesity, pain, alcohol and other substance abuse and so on) and the rows are languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, etc.),” he wrote in an email. “This is totally within our ability to do right now. We have the knowledge and the digital tools.”
My family and I moved to the US when I was sixteen years old. ( My dad and mom originally went to Germany with the Air Force and after my dad’s tour was over, they decided to stay- for over twenty years) One of the things I had to get accustomed to when we settled here was choice..so many choices.. especially at the grocery store! I can remember being blown away by shelf after shelf of different brands of cereal, bread, and yes, even toilet paper!
At first glance it was energizing to consider all of my options, but truthfully, it was all pretty overwhelming.
This is the problem many face with online dating. The concept is great, but just like with the bounty of products available at mega-markets, too many choices can be paralyzing, and once you do make your selection, you can’t help but wonder if you made the best choice- because 12 brand new choices just popped up!
But hey, this is the tool a growing percentage of people (including several of my kids) are using these days, so instead of rejecting this method, I guess it’s best to simply learn how to manage it more effectively.
How to Make Online Dating Work
By AZIZ ANSARI and ERIC KLINENBERG for the NYTimes. JUNE 13, 2015
WE turn to screens for nearly every decision. Where to eat. Where to vacation. Where to eat on vacation. Where to get treatment for the food poisoning you got at that restaurant where you ate on vacation. Where to write a negative review calling out the restaurant that gave you food poisoning and ruined your vacation. So it’s no surprise our screens are becoming the first place we turn to when looking for romance — because you need someone to take care of you when you get food poisoning on your vacation, right?
One of the most amazing social changes is the rise of online dating and the decline of other ways of meeting a romantic partner. In 1940, 24 percent of heterosexual romantic couples in the United States met through family, 21 percent through friends, 21 percent through school, 13 percent through neighbors, 13 percent through church, 12 percent at a bar or restaurant and 10 percent through co-workers. (Some categories overlapped.)
By 2009, half of all straight couples still met through friends or at a bar or restaurant, but 22 percent met online, and all other sources had shrunk. Remarkably, almost 70 percent of gay and lesbian couples met online, according to the Stanford sociologist Michael J. Rosenfeld, who compiled this data.
And Internet dating isn’t just about casual hookups. According to the University of Chicago psychologist John T. Cacioppo, more than one-third of couples who married in the United States from 2005 to 2012 met online.
Online dating generates a spectrum of reactions: exhilaration, fatigue, inspiration, fury. Many singles compare it to a second job, more duty than flirtation; the word “exhausting” came up constantly. These days, we seem to have unlimited options. And we marry later or, increasingly, not at all. The typical American spends more of her life single than married, which means she’s likely to invest ever more time searching for romance online. Is there a way to do it more effectively, with less stress? The evidence from our two years of study, which included interviews around the world, from Tokyo to Wichita, Kan., says yes.
TOO MUCH FILTERING The Internet offers a seemingly endless supply of people who are single and looking to date, as well as tools to filter and find exactly what you’re looking for. You can specify height, education, location and basically anything else. Are you trying to find a guy whose favorite book is “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and whose favorite sport is lacrosse? You’re just a few clicks away from this dream dude.
But we are horrible at knowing what we want. Scientists working with Match.com found that the kind of partner people said they wanted often didn’t match up with what they were actually interested in. People filter too much; they’d be better off vetting dates in person.
“Online dating is just a vehicle to meet more people,” says the author and dating consultant Laurie Davis. “It’s not the place to actually date.” The anthropologist Helen Fisher, who does work for Match.com, makes a similar argument: “It’s a misnomer that they call these things ‘dating services,’ ” she told us. “They should be called ‘introducing services.’ They enable you to go out and go and meet the person yourself.”
What about those search algorithms? When researchers analyzed characteristics of couples who’d met on OkCupid, they discovered that one-third had matching answers on three surprisingly important questions: “Do you like horror movies?” “Have you ever traveled around another country alone?” and “Wouldn’t it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?” OkCupid believes that answers to these questions may have some predictive value, presumably because they touch on deep, personal issues that matter to people more than they realize.
But what works well for predicting good first dates doesn’t tell us much about the long-term success of a couple. A recent study led by the Northwestern psychologist Eli J. Finkel argues that no mathematical algorithm can predict whether two people will make a good couple.
PICTURE PERFECT People put a huge amount of time into writing the perfect profile, but does all that effort pay off?
OkCupid started an app called Crazy Blind Date. It offered the minimal information people needed to have an in-person meeting. No lengthy profile, no back-and-forth chat, just a blurred photo. Afterward, users were asked to rate their satisfaction with the experience.
The responses were compared with data from the same users’ activity on OkCupid. As Christian Rudder, an OkCupid co-founder, tells it, women who were rated very attractive were unlikely to respond to men rated less attractive. But when they were matched on Crazy Blind Date, they had a good time. As Mr. Rudder puts it, “people appear to be heavily preselecting online for something that, once they sit down in person, doesn’t seem important to them.”
Some of what we learned about effective photos on OkCupid was predictable: Women who flirt for the camera or show cleavage are quite successful. Some of what we learned was pretty weird: Men who look away and don’t smile do better than those who do; women holding animals don’t do well, but men holding animals do. Men did better when shown engaging in an interesting activity.
We recommend the following: If you are a woman, take a high-angle selfie, with cleavage, while you’re underwater near some buried treasure. If you are a guy, take a shot of yourself spelunking in a dark cave while holding your puppy and looking away from the camera, without smiling.
TOO MANY OPTIONS As research by Barry Schwartz and other psychologists has shown, having more options not only makes it harder to choose something, but also may make us less satisfied with our choices, because we can’t help wonder whether we erred.
Consider a study by the Columbia University psychologist Sheena S. Iyengar. She set up a table at an upscale food store and offered shoppers samples of jams. Sometimes, the researchers offered six types of jam, but other times they offered 24. When they offered 24, people were more likely to stop in and have a taste, but they were almost 10 times less likely to actually buy jam than people who had just six kinds to try.
See what’s happening? There’s too much jam out there. If you’re on a date with a certain jam, you can’t even focus because as soon as you go to the bathroom, three other jams have texted you. You go online, you see more jam.
One way to avoid this problem is to give each jam a fair chance. Remember: Although we are initially attracted to people by their physical appearance and traits we can quickly recognize, the things that make us fall for someone are their deeper, more personal qualities, which come out only during sustained interactions. Psychologists like Robert B. Zajonc have established the “mere exposure effect”: Repeated exposure to a stimulus tends to enhance one’s feelings toward it.
This isn’t just a theory. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the University of Texas psychologists Paul W. Eastwick and Lucy L. Hunt suggest that in dating contexts, a person’s looks, charisma and professional success may matter less for relationship success than other factors that we each value differently, such as tastes and preferences. In fact, they write, few people initiate romantic relationships based on first impressions. Instead they fall for each other gradually, until an unexpected or perhaps long-awaited spark transforms a friendship or acquaintance into something sexual and serious.
Think about it in terms of pop music. When a new song featuring Drake comes on the radio, you’re like, “What is this song? Oh another Drake song. Big deal. Heard this before. Next please!” Then you keep hearing it and you think, “Oh Drake, you’ve done it again!”
In a way, we are all like that Drake song: The more time you spend with us, the more likely we are to get stuck in your head.
No one wants to invest too much on a first date. After all, the odds are it won’t be a love connection. It’s hard to get excited about a new person while doing a résumé exchange over beer and a burger. So stack the deck in your favor and abide by what we called “The Monster Truck Rally Theory of Dating”: Don’t sit across from your date at a table, sipping a drink and talking about where you went to school. Do something adventurous, playful or stimulating instead, and see what kind of rapport you have.
SWIPE AWAY Apps like Tinder boil the dating experience down to assessing people’s images. Compared with stressing out over a questionnaire, swiping can be fun, even addictive. Within two years, Tinder was said to have about 50 million users and claimed responsibility for two billion matches.
As with all other new forms of dating, there’s a stigma around swipe apps. The biggest criticism is that they encourage increasing superficiality. But that’s too cynical. When you walk into a bar or party, often all you have to go by is faces, and that’s what you use to decide if you are going to gather the courage to talk to them. Isn’t a swipe app just a huge party full of faces?
In a world of infinite possibilities, perhaps the best thing new dating technologies can do is to reduce our options to people within reach. In a way they’re a throwback to a past age, when proximity was crucial. In 1932, the sociologist James H. S. Bossard examined 5,000 marriage licenses filed in Philadelphia. One-thirdof the couples had lived within a five-block radius of each other before they wed, one in six within a block, and one in eight at the same address!
Today’s apps make meeting people fun and efficient. Now comes the hard part: changing out of your sweatpants, meeting them in person, and trying for a connection so you can settle down and get right back into those sweatpants.