While listening to the podcast, How to Build a Happy Life (presented by The Atlantic), I was intrigued by a premise posed by the host, Harvard professor, Arthur Brooks.

Brooks presents an interesting irony when it comes to online dating.

In a world where we can get anything we want with a few keystrokes, why is it so hard to find a partner in the same medium – through a dating app?

Dating apps are a form of social media and these tools are designed to solve complicated problems, not complex ones.

Let me explain.

A complicated problem is one that is hard to solve but once you solve it, the solution can be replicated over and over again. 

Like a toaster – it may take time to build one and work out all the kinks, but once you’ve figured it out, making toast is easy.

But we’re not toasters.

We’re more like cats. 

Cats want warmth and the occasional kibble but they’re also hard to understand.  We don’t know what they’re going to do in any given moment – they’re complex.

Finding a life partner is also complex because it’s a problem you can’t simulate.

When it comes to dating, we need cats, but Big Tech keeps giving us toasters.

The process of swiping through pictures and profiles forces us to take on an objectifying screening process where we look mostly for similarities.

Yet social psychology research suggests that relationship success also comes from finding a partner who is different from us – who complements us.

But we don’t look for those complementary traits when using a dating app.

We look for similarities.

Or defects – traits that disqualify someone quickly.  After all, there’s hundreds, or even thousands, of profiles we must wade through.

On top of that, it’s impossible to discern whether someone is supportive, compassionate or secure – all constructive qualities for relationship building.

What recommendations did Brooks and his guests present?

Get off social media.

And have real-life interactions with people.

Instead of pursuing some “one” on an app. Pursue some “thing” in life.

Whether it’s a rock-climbing group or a chess club, go join.

As Brooks points out, “Perfect friendships come from a useless third thing”.

Go find your thing. You’ll be surprised who you meet along the way.

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