Are There Too Many Dating Choices? Another Theory Debunked
A 20ish woman was telling me some of her dating woes--and theories. I love the theories most of all.
She had been doing some dating on OKCupid, and had come to the conclusion that the problem with online dating was that "there were too many people on there."
What do you mean too many people? I mean, I could see if you were trying to date in the online stone age when there weren't ENOUGH people doing it and the digital pickins were slim. But that's hardly the issue now. Plenty of folks are on there looking. But saying there are too many people on there is like saying you can't buy a book because there are way too many titles being offered.
Why limit this argument to OKCupid, or Match, or any dating site for that matter? Why not just say there are too many people on the planet to date anyone?
As a dating and relationship coach, it’s my job to see through stories, theories, and excuses to the fear beneath. And I wasn't buying it. Plus: When was the last time you heard a single woman complain that there were just too many men to choose from? Unless you plan on reducing the world population to increase your dating potential, this is a non issue.
There was something else afoot. Then she said it.
"Well, since there are too many people on there, guys just keep looking."
Aha! So that's it. It's not a fear of surplus online profiles -- it's fear of competition, paired with a lack of confidence.
When I asked her if she felt a little threatened by the idea that a guy would go on a date with her and then keep looking, she balked. Of course not. "I mean, I have had ten dates with different guys, and I just don't want to waste my time if I don't get a vibe."
So she didn't like the idea of someone racking up dates with her and her fellow ladies...but yet she was doing the same thing. Right? Did she not see that? Or did she think she was dating defensively, clicking through date after date because she had this idea that men were doing the same?
Fear of Crowds
This is not a new fear, brought on by the surfeit of online dating options. This is an oldie but goodie in digital disguise: That there's someone out there better than us. That the same compulsion that causes a man to click through channel after channel without watching anything, is the same one that will cause him to pass us by. After all, if someone can keep up the virtual hunt, and click through thousands of profiles, why would someone choose her, she wonders.
Related: 6 Things Women Do That Scare Men Off
These fears work against your efforts to meet, connect with, and date new people. So let's get a few things straight.
More choices don't mean better ones. It's a quantity over quality issue here folks. The woman I spoke with intellectually knows that having too many options doesn't mean she can't find connections. But emotionally, it's another story. There's a lot of interesting research into the psychology of choice, and how too many options affects how satisfied we are with the choices we make. (For more on that, check out Barry Schwartz's The Paradox of Choice and Sheena Iyengar's The Art of Choosing, both fascinating reads.) And anyone who's spent any time online dating knows that more doesn't equal better. If you find some people you like, it's a lot more compelling to spend more time with them than to go back to the drawing board over and over again. Trust me on this one. But that doesn't mean people don't peek. It's not a dig against you, by any means.
Fearing other options puts you in a position of weakness. She said it herself: There are a lot of people out there. There will always be someone prettier or taller or thinner or younger. Doesn't matter. Attraction doesn't adhere to one set of rules. However, you have the power to ignite and stoke attraction simply by letting someone know you're attracted to them. You have more power than you think. You can't make other options cease to exist; you can, however, be one of the most appealing options--that is, if you even want to be. it's a two-way street. After all, if he isn't the most appealing option you have, why would YOU stop there? Exactly.
Stop trying to control his choices, and control your own. It's called dating for a reason: because you're out to meet people. If a man goes on a date with you, that doesn't mean he will now cease to look, talk to, or date anyone ever again. So embrace it. If you feel good about yourself, then what do you care if he looks around? Go right ahead, I say. If something doesn't click, I'm certainly not going to blame it on a population explosion. It's not because there's SO many other great things out there. It's because we didn't have a connection. Period. Next.
Related: What Men Really Want
Understand that men are novelty-seeking machines. This is how they're wired. It's no different from the fact (and it is a fact) that whether you just started dating someone or have been married 15 years, he's going to look at, admire, and think about other women. This isn't supposed to depress you. The sooner you learn this, the better. Use it to your advantage. A man in your sights, no matter where you met him, is in your thrall. And unless you're on a horrible dating show where you're all contending for the same man on the same date in the same hot tub, every moment you're with him you have the ability to be the only woman in the room he's aware of. That's power.
Don't wear your fear. There may be millions of single women out there (and in fact there are), but that doesn't change who you are. And there's only one of you. Believing that fewer women would make you more appealing is a pretty negative worldview--and when you believe it, it shows. It assumes your lovability is directly and inversely related to how many people are out there. But if you live in accordance with this fear, trust me, it will read that way. You wear your fear like a scarf soaked in lousy perfume--people see it, smell it, and respond to it (probably by moving away). As my late uncle, Rev. Robert Barone said to me many times, "Terri, don't be a desperate woman."
Sound advice indeed.
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