Q: I’m a woman who’s both loving and seriously hating Tinder. Guys on this app mostly want to hook up, and even those who say they want a relationship are flaky, often disappearing after a single date. Sure, this sometimes happens with guys I meet in real life, but not at the rate of my Tinder dates.—Annoyed
A: Welcome to the Hookupatorium!
Tinder takes all the wait and effort out of speed dating. No need to put on pants—or pull them up, if you’re on the john. You just “swipe right” on your phone to match with somebody—and maybe even swipe ’em right into your bed 20 minutes later. Plus it’s fun—less like a dating site than a video game. “Call of Booty,” anyone?
However, for anyone seeking “happily ever after” instead of “hookupily,” Tinder can pose a problem, and that problem is too much choice. But … choice is a good thing, right? The more the better! It’s the principle behind those “endless options!” deli menus—you know, the ones with a page count that makes you forget whether you’re supposed to decide what to have for lunch or whether Ayn Rand was a bad writer.
Unfortunately, our psychological operating system evolved in an environment where the level of choice was more like, “Sir, can I bring you the grubs or the grubs?” So research finds that we’re easily overwhelmed by a slew of options—often choosing poorly and being bummed about it afterward or feeling too snowed to choose at all. Social psychologist Barry Schwartz explains that these problems with choosing are about protecting ourselves from regret—the pain of blaming ourselves for making the wrong choice. But having a lot of options isn’t necessarily unmanageable—if we have enough information to differentiate between them and narrow the field. However, on Tinder, there’s minimal info—only age, location, pics and a few lines about a person—making it an endless swipestream of “she’s hot” and “she’s hot in a slightly different way.”
Also consider that Tinder is not designed to help you find love (that lasts for more than a few sweaty hours); Tinder is designed to keep you Tindering. The psychological hook is “intermittent reinforcement.” Predictable “rewards”—like if you swiped and always got a match—quickly give us the yawnies. But Tinder’s unpredictable rewards—the random ding! “It’s a match!”—turn you into a coke-seeking lab rat, relentlessly swiping for your next high.
You may decide to keep nibbling at Tinder’s mobile-global man buffet, but dates that come out of real-life meetings are probably more likely to lead to second dates, and maybe more. At a party, you’re, say, one of eight single women, five of whom a guy isn’t that attracted to and one of whom he broke up with last year. And finally, there’s how face-to-face meetings come with behavioral constraints that Tinder convos lack. You should find it’s the rare guy at the coffee shop who immediately follows up, “That a soy latte?” with a casual, “Wanna see my dick?”
Q: My girlfriend has been feeling neglected and keeps worrying that I’m mad at her. I love her, but I have big business problems now, and I don’t want to burden her with them. Also, since we have a good thing, doesn’t it make sense to focus on the stuff that’s a mess?—Startup Guy
A: Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to outsource your relationship to some guy in the Philippines: “Please stay on the line. Your feelings are very important to us … ”
Men and women tend to deal with crisis in different ways. Women manage their emotions by expressing them; men just hope theirs will go away. Evolutionary psychologists Leda Cosmides and John Tooby explain that men evolved to be the defenders of the species, and in battle, it would have put them at a disadvantage to show their feelings—especially those reflecting vulnerability, like, “Yikes, I’m totally out of my league!”
Being predisposed to bury your feelings in the backyard doesn’t mean that you should—assuming you don’t want your next startup to be a new relationship. This isn’t to say that you need to blather on about everything, Oprah’s-couch style. You just need to share the bad as well as the good, even just by texting, “Tough day, babe.” You might even put reminders on your phone to send brief sweet messages a few times daily. Maybe that seems dumb and unromantic. What’s dumber and more unromantic is adding breakup problems to your business problems because you didn’t put in 46 seconds a day telling a woman that she matters. Sure, misery reportedly “loves company,” but let’s not be hasty in filling the flower vases and putting out the good towels.