Romance in the Tinder age: the paradox of choice

I have had many conversations with my friends about the uninspiring treadmill that is the dating scene. In London it seems to be particularly atrocious though it can be hard to pinpoint exactly why this is.

London is a city with a population of over 8 million people. Reports indicate that in 2014 25% of people living in Inner London and 16% in Outer London were aged 25 to 34. What this shows is that there are a lot of young adults living in London. I don’t know exactly how many of these people are single but my guess is that the dating pool of unattached singletons should be vast. Maybe that is where the problem lies.

A couple of years ago I read a fantastic book called The Paradox Of Choice, which argues that excessive choice can paralyse our ability to make decisions and leave us less satisfied with the choices we do make.

When applied to dating it would seem that having all those young people on the dating scene doesn’t necessarily make things easier. In fact, it would suggest that the more fish there are in the sea, the harder it is to catch one.

That may be because there are plenty of other fish that catch your attention all at the same time, which creates paralysis and reluctance to stick with just the one fish. Or once a fish has been chosen there is less contentment with that choice, leaving fears that better options could be out there ready to be caught. Okay, enough with the fishing analogies!

Dating apps don’t exactly make things easier. In fact I think that they exacerbate the problem. In the past people would traditionally have met their partners through friends, or work, or some kind of social activity and the pool of people available to date would have seemed to be relatively small.

With dating apps the options appear to be limitless. On Tinder you may match with hundreds of people all living within a 5 mile radius of you. While this may seem great, for one reason or another many guys then go on to waste away most of the matches they get by sending monosyllabic messages, ignoring them or sending them a lewd message that is only hilarious in hindsight once posted to the Tinder Nightmares feed. In fairness, I am sure some women do this too (I just don’t know about them).

When dates do get arranged many have a one date mentality, which consists of going on a date and if there is no immediate connection, moving on to the next, and then the next, until you have had 20 dates with different people in a one month period.

So what is the answer? I think there is something to be said for going on a date with someone and giving them a chance if there is even a glimmer of a spark which might develop over multiple dates. First impressions may not be the best indicator of a person’s true qualities, especially when first date nerves are also involved.

What we can take from all of this is that dating in London is hard. Perhaps it is time to start giving people second (and third and fourth) dates so that you can narrow those choices down and invest more in people. Hopefully that will eventually lead you to someone you really connect with, which will save you from that nasty paradox of choice!

Romantic realism: get rid of your “perfect man” checklist

Most single women I know have a list in some form or another of qualities their ideal partner should have. This list may be extensive or it may be short but either way it summarises a lifetime of accumulated hopes, dreams and desires about the kind of person they think and believe they would fall in love with.

Whilst I have never had a defined list per se, I am guilty of having some vague ideas of the kind of qualities I have looked for in a partner: number one being a sense of humour and a great personality (though doesn’t everyone say that?).

Seeing as there are billions of people on this planet I don’t think there is anything wrong with having some kind of filter which will help you to sort through the masses of people that pass us by everyday. Those filters exist everywhere in online dating sites and apps – they might be geographical, by height, interests, age – and they may be genuinely useful.

At the same time we should all remain open-minded about the fact that people can surprise us. Someone that we wouldn’t ordinary look twice at if we were to follow our ‘lists’ may have qualities that complement us perfectly.

When we connect with someone romantically there is something intangible that happens, it is chemical and it defies comprehension or description. For that reason we can’t expect to be able to find the person that connects with our body and soul through a long list of very specific qualities.

For us to be truly open to finding love, there needs to be room for discovery, for people to click with us in ways we weren’t expecting, and to realize that the person on your list, that ‘Mr. Perfect’, may not exist. Even if there is someone out there who meets that criteria, he may not be someone you click with romantically.

So next time you are on the look out for love, give someone new and different a chance. Try swiping right on someone out of the ordinary or engaging in a conversation with someone who may not be your exact type. You never know if someone might just surprise you.

Is romance dead? A woman’s insight into the seduction community

In what feels like a lifetime ago I was a documentary production student looking for an idea for my masters thesis film. I knew that it had to be something that would sustain my interest for an entire year otherwise it would not be worth doing.

One fateful evening I was speaking to a friend of a friend and he mentioned that he had been getting lessons in love from a so-called local ‘guru’ who had introduced him to the book ‘The Game’ and the seduction community.

My first question was, “What do you mean by guru? Is this anything like Hitch?” He replied, “Not technically. You should read ‘The Game,’ it will tell you everything you need to know’.

Not really knowing how I would explore this subject matter I managed to push the idea aside until I was browsing my local library a few weeks later and came across a book that was bound like the Bible with decidedly un-biblical figures of the female form on the spine. Low and behold it was ‘The Game’.

I snapped up the book and spent the next few days immersed in it, reading the glossary first of all and oscillating between reactions of laughter, horror and mortification at some of the terminology used to describe the techniques that men in the seduction community deploy to attract and bed the fairer sex.

‘Close’ was the term used to describe how far you were able to get with a woman, as in ‘number close’ or ‘kiss close’. ‘Neg’ was a back-handed compliment used to show active disinterest in the girl being targeted. ‘BAFC’ was an acronym (of which there are many) for Below Average Frustrated Chump, who for all intents and purposes appeared to be the core market for these kinds of teachings. ‘HB’ was a Hot Babe, which was often used in the context of a ratings system, as in HB8, or as a descriptor, as in HB Redhead.

The book details Neil Strauss’s journey into the world of the LA seduction community as he gradually learns the techniques and becomes a master of seduction in his own right. He has brushes with Courtney Love and Paris Hilton and details countless tales of dalliances with women who he apparently bedded through the techniques he learns and adapts from ‘Mystery,’ who would later go on to star in the TV series ‘The Pick Up Artist’.

I was intrigued by the book and knew that if I was able to meet with anyone in this community and get them to agree to be in my documentary I would have landed on the perfect topic for my film.

So I set about researching the idea. I came across websites from all over the world of guys involved in the community and countless ‘bootcamps’ and conferences that men would spend up to thousands of dollars on to get access to the teachings of certain pick-up ‘gurus’.

It was clear that not only was this a community, it was also an industry in which some guys were making a lot of money teaching these BAFCs, and in many instances were making a full-time career out of it. The idea of ‘Pick up artist’ appearing on a Linkedin profile seems absurd but to these men it was as legit a job as any.

Through my research I also discovered that the seduction community teachings were rooted in a mish-mash of ideologies and techniques, from roots in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) espoused by of the community’s founding father Ross Jefferies (who was the basis of Tom Cruise’s character in Magnolia), the psychology of influence and evolutionary biology.

Suitably intrigued by this point, I got back in touch with the friend who had introduced me to the idea to begin with and got the details of the ‘guru’ he had been in touch with. I sent him a message outlining what I wanted to do only to be met with complete silence.

I thought that may be the beginning of the end, until I found the local ‘lair,’ the online community which was at the heart of every seduction community worldwide, allowing men to chat about their experiences and organize meet ups and ‘sarging’ sessions.

I decided that I had nothing to lose and contacted the administrator of the community, detailing my interest in making a film and asking whether I had any hope of getting access to these guys and convincing them to share their stories on camera.

To my surprise I got a response and it was fairly positive. The administrator was willing to meet and mentioned one of the younger members of the community who was already filming himself on nights out and presumably would not have an aversion to being on camera.

After a failed attempt at meeting this guy, I managed to get hold of him and whilst he was not willing to be filmed, he suggested posting on the community boards detailing what I was attempting to do and asking for those with an interest in speaking to me to come forward.

I followed his advice and had several responses, some from guys who were willing to talk to me but not willing to be filmed, and some from guys who were willing to take the step of putting themselves on camera to talk about their involvement in the community and what they got out of it.

I am always amazed that people are willing to put themselves out there to be filmed as it is not something that I would ever be inclined to do myself. But I was incredibly grateful that I had happened upon people who were willing to talk openly about their experiences and why they had become involved in the teachings of this community.

I managed to get a good cross section of people in the community – a newbie, a guy using it to elevate his game and his judo skills, a pick up bootcamp instructor and a few regular guys who had happened on the community and wanted to use the techniques to improve their success rate with women or even improve their communication skills in the workplace.

So what did I learn? From what I could gather the community broke down like this.

First there were the AFCs (Average Frustrated Chumps) and BAFCs who were getting no traction as far as women were concerned and really needed the help to get out there and get some level of success in their interactions and attempts to ‘pick up’ women. Some of these men had struggled; maybe they had been computer nerds or mathematicians and had a more technical mind which required a formula and a structure to follow to make their interactions with women easier, to break down their barriers and gradually build their confidence. Most of the men in the community appeared to fall into this category.

There also appeared to be a few regular Joes who hadn’t necessarily struggled with women but were interested in getting involved with the community and were interested in some of the techniques to enhance their social skills and maybe to even improve their skills in the workplace. To these guys seduction could be applied anywhere from clubs to the shop floor to the boardroom, it made no difference.

Sadly there were also tales posted by misogynistic types who had some atrocious ways of talking about women. I read the views of these men in disturbing forum posts and watched them spew their hateful point-of-view on a video of a conference one of the guys gave me. Their descriptions of women were derogative, demeaning and offensive. It was clear that these men had either been burnt by women in the past or had no success at all and this translated into a deep-seated misogyny. In their view women were disposable; if they struggled with engaging one woman there were hundreds around the corner.

Whilst I was sympathetic to the plight of many of the men in the community, I couldn’t help but feel that at the core of the subculture the ideologies were deeply flawed. Many of the techniques and dynamics were structured around creating an alpha-male persona and putting the woman you were interested in on the back foot. Men were taught not to cling to rejections as failures, but to move on to the wealth of other options that lay ahead of them. These views were in the service of building the confidence of these men, of ensuring they didn’t cling to negative outcomes. But what they gained in confidence they often lost in humanity.

It has been nine years since I made my thesis documentary and I do wonder what happened to the guys who I met along the way. It is my hope that they took the techniques they learnt from the seduction community and applied them in a productive way to their lives. I would like to believe that they didn’t get caught up in the more misogynistic aspects and ideas and that they have gone on to development meaningful relationships with women.

As a woman, I have always been curious about the male perspective. My insight in the seduction community taught me that as humans we are all seeking human connection in some form or another, whether it is through forming a community with likeminded men or women who provide advice, guidance and support, or through the romantic and sexual relationships that we form.

The desire for connection is natural, I just hope that men still using these teachings are viewing the women they connect with as complex human beings and not disposable targets to practice their skills on and abandon.