Choices

Why do we work? The easy answer is money, but working has many purposes in our lives. It gives us a sense of accomplishment, gives us a place to meet new people, it allows us to be creative, it gives us the opportunity to travel, and it gives us the chance to benefit others. Above all factors (even money), the importance of a job with fulfilling work has become increasingly prominent amongst the desires of modern employee.

The notion of finding fulfilling work is relatively new. When Samuel Johnson published “A Dictionary of the English Language” in 1755, “fulfillment” was not among the 42,773 words found in it. Johnson did write the entire work by himself over a period of nine years, so perhaps he forgot to include it; nevertheless, happiness and fulfilling work was not a regular part of our vocabulary in the 18th century. Happiness was seen a luxury afforded to the few belonging to the wealthy aristocratic class, and the majority of the population viewed their existence in a much more functional way. Another word that was present in Johnson’s dictionary but not commonly associated with employment was concept of choice.

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Before the mid 19th century, the number of occupations was far smaller: a typical pre-Industrial era commoner could expect to pursue one of a few dozen different roles. Today, the number of possible careers is estimated at almost half a million. Confusion about what type of work to pursue in order to make ourselves feel fulfilled is one of the greatest problems facing new graduates. You would think that more choice is a good thing – variety is the spice of life, right? Well, it’s not that simple.

Before the 19th century, you weren’t concerned as much with happiness and fulfilling work as you were with simply surviving the winter and keeping your Lord or local magistrate off your case by doing your duty to whichever aristocracy you lived in. Today, citizens of developed countries have more choice and freedom than ever, but in a paradoxical twist, these excellent living conditions have caused widespread career choice paralysis and status anxiety.

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A sample of the types of jobs available pre-Industrial Revolution.

We have a seemingly unlimited number of career options and a large amount of confusion has arisen as a result of this situation. In the past your choice was simple: if your father were a blacksmith or a farmer, you were likely destined for the same career. If your father were the King of Denmark, you were destined to eventually succeed him except in the event of a Shakespearean-level tragedy. We do not have the same luxury in our present day. If your father is a physician, who’s to say you can’t be an artist, an accountant, or a heavy equipment mechanic? The abundance of choice is an intense anesthetic for our decision-making process.

A popular narrative spoken today is to abandon the traditional North American corporate world and live the life that you deserve as a young twenty-something. We are bombarded with personal accounts of how people gave up their boring 9-5 job, went traveling instead to find themselves, and now they couldn’t be happier. While the motivation behind this narrative is certainly a noble one, there are numerous flaws with following this path, not to mention the people who hold this view may have a sense of entitlement.

For example, a lucrative salary is an especially high motivator for a new graduate if they did not come from a wealthy family. If you desire to earn a high income upon graduation, do not feel as if you are making a poor decision despite what other people may tell you. They may have been raised in a wealthier family, so the motivation to earn a higher salary may not resonate on the same level with them as it does with you.

The same goes for the desire to own a large home, have a certain number of (or any) children, own an exotic sports car, be a prominent and influential member of your community, or travel and work in numerous foreign places. These certainly can contribute to happiness, but happiness is only universal in our shared desire to pursue it, not by the process in which we achieve it. Choice, therefore, becomes all the more confounding as we progress through life. We may think that we know what will make us happy, but what if we are basing our assumption on what makes others happy? What we may have been unaware of during our decision-making process is the fact that happiness is relative.

Once you begin to understand and recognize that happiness is relative, you can start to think about what things in life, specifically related to your career and lifestyle, will bring you the most happiness. Some people will genuinely enjoy making a lot of money more than others will; same goes for those who want to drive an exotic sports car, live a simple life in a rural area, live a nomadic life working abroad, or be a reclusive author in a log cabin in the middle of the woods. Choice functions as both an enabler and a disabler in our quest for happiness, so it is paramount that we learn to discern between what choices are correct for our own fulfillment and what path are best left to others.

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Choice has also affected another important part of our lives: relationships. As of 2014, 87% of North Americans aged 18-29 had a Facebook account and 56% had an Instagram account, which increased from 2013 totals of 84% and 37%, respectively. Most of us browse one or both of those accounts each day, and almost half of us browse them the moment we wake up. This means that the first images in our brain are of people we know or follow, whether they’re selfies, a picture of them at the beach, or a photo with other people we may also know.

Source: Pew Media (2014)

Source: Pew Media (2014)

Every day, our limits for commitment are being tested as we are constantly being reminded of how many available partners are out there; choice is really screwing with our heads. The rampancy of dating apps like Tinder is also indicative of our addiction to and dissatisfaction with the amount of choice we have when it comes to our options for a relationship partner. The question of “what if?” is an all too common one. If we commit to one person, then we could be sabotaging our chances of meeting our soulmate on our iPhone next week!

As mentioned before, choice is paradoxical in nature. While the number of romantic partners that we are aware of and can choose from has increased drastically from even a decade ago, our mental and emotional capacity to effectively handle them has not. We don’t evolve at the same rate that technology does. While the prospect of meeting a greatly increased number of people is enticing, we as humans are a monogamous species at our core. We live longer, have better overall health, and are generally happier if we are in a committed relationship. This is has been supported time and time again by psychological research.

Many of us are so worried about making a high salary and dating a model to impress our friends that we forget that those things are actually defensive in nature; they’re based on underlying competitive motives to seek external validation from people who already like us for who we are. If we aren’t living up to our potential or dating someone who is making us unhappy, then our friends might be unimpressed, but neither of those are directly related to your annual salary or how hot your girlfriend is.

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As a result of the amount of choice we have available, another problem known as performance bias has creeped into our culture. When you try really hard to impress people, whether that validation is sought from a high-paying job or an attractive partner, you are positioning yourself for a risky fallout. As a result of the increased visibility many of our lives now have, a situation where we have been put on stage to perform for our social media audience has been formed. Now we feel the need to omit all failures from our lives and only broadcast our best and brightest moments.

At surface level, that’s encouraging; failure doesn’t sell or spread, and even if it gives us a twinge of envy, we do enjoy seeing our friends share their successes with the world. The notion of performing for our respective audiences is partly responsible for what motivates us to be choosy; what we end up choosing has to be perfect so it can impress as many people as possible, even if deep down it is actually making us miserable. If we aren’t living a life worth broadcasting to our audience, we run the risk of fading into the background, and eventually, drifting offstage left to watch others star in tonight’s performance of life.

While it ultimately doesn’t matter whether or not we’re prominent in the performance, it can be a haunting notion for many of us to no longer be admired by the audience we created. What we need to remember is that this audience, like our performance we have crafted for them, is entirely illusory.

Our lives on social media are a performance for an audience; both are illusory in nature.

Our lives on social media are a performance for an audience; both are illusory in nature.

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In his 2005 book The Paradox of Choice, psychologist Barry Schwartz concludes that the amount of choice, freedom, and autonomy present for North Americans is encouraging, but interestingly, these liberties have actually been harmful from a psychological perspective. Picture yourself standing in a large dark room with many exits present. If you live in a world with little choice, your path is dimly lit in a single direction towards a door. You’re not sure if this is the right path for you, but it’s the only one that you have available. If you live in a world with an abundance of choice, the entire room is lit up and you’re not sure where you can go. Perhaps the doors are different colours or sizes, but even then you would still have a tough time deciding where to exit, and would likely encounter more anxiety throughout your decision process than the single outcome situation in the first scenario.

This is what it’s like to live in our world today. It’s so difficult today to choose between a career, a partner, or what side to order with your burger that we are often struck with a case of analysis paralysis. Schwartz notes that we often feel sad after making decisions because of missed opportunities. We have cases of FOMO and envy relating to what our peers are doing, but we need to understand that we can’t have it all.

No choice is perfect, so as long as you understand yourself fairly well and have a good idea about what career is right for you or what constitutes a healthy relationship, you shouldn’t be doubtful of your decision. Take note of expert consensus, not anecdotal evidence. According to Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, our imaginations are actually poor predictors of what will make us happy. Relying on the informed opinion of experts or their reported experiences related to a decision you’re evaluating is far better than simply taking one person’s word for it. Being flexible as it relates to goals is also crucial for positive outcomes of decision making.

A thorough and concrete understanding of one’s self and honest reflection throughout the process are the keys to determining what sort of career or partner is best for you. Additionally, remember that happiness is relative. Humans are adept at finding happiness no matter what their environment, so choose the one that’s best suited to your tastes. Trying hard to impress an artificial audience with an illusory portrayal of your life will only induce more anxiety, not curb it. Above all else, recognize the paradox of choice and remain organized and focused throughout your decision-making process; you’ll thank yourself for it years later knowing you made the correct choice for yourself.

 

Further reading

“The Paradox of Choice” by Dr. Barry Schwartz

“How to Find Fulfilling Work” by Dr. Roman Krznaric

“Stumbling on Happiness” by Dr. Daniel Gilbert

“The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlment” by Jean M. Twenge & W. Keith Campbell

The Tinder Gamble: The Problems with Swiping Right

An early personals print ad.

An early personals print ad.

When the first printed newspapers appeared in the 1600’s, it wasn’t long before matrimonial services found their way into print circulation. At this point in history, young adults were all expected to be wed before they started into their 20s, so taking out a personal advertisement in a circulated newspaper was a necessary measure to take for some young adults at the time. Conceptually speaking, this was the first inception of what would eventually evolve into online dating.

Since the website Myspace.com was founded in 2003 after the dot.com bust of 2001-2002, social networking has been the most popular form of internet leisure in the world. Despite the fact that MySpace, Facebook, and other social networking sites are not designed specifically for the purpose of online dating, they paved the way for a mass adoption and cultural acceptance of the online personal advertisement.

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Online dating is, at the core, an online personal advertisement, and the only difference between social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook and online dating sites like Match.com or OkCupid is the focus. Both types of websites are social networking sites in their purpose of advertising carefully constructed versions of ourselves for those who we interact with, but an online dating site is more direct in advertising their users’ desire for a relationship. Even the early iterations of Facebook had online dating-esque features like an “interested in” section of your profile and widespread use of the “poke” feature, which was essentially a flirting button. The most recent evolution in online dating is not even a website, but an app, and unless you’ve been living under a rock for past two years, you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to: Tinder.

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The Tinder dating app has revolutionized how people interact. Tinder has succeeded in removing the social stigma of online dating, which used to be thought of as a weird practice only reserved for awkward, anti-social individuals, and packaged it in an easy-to-use platform. With widespread mainstream media coverage of the app, Tinder has essentially made online dating omnipresent in the 18-27 demographic, and much of this has been achieved by a mockery of the app itself. Tinder is often discussed under a guise of irony or satire, with entire websites or blogs dedicated to funny or awful experiences users have experienced using the app. Yet, despite all of the mockery, the app has surged in popularity in the past two years, and Tinder was purchased by Interactive Media Corp. (IAC), who also own Expedia.ca, Collegehumor.com, and online dating giants Match.com and OkCupid. Clearly, the industry believes in the earning potential of Tinder.

Gregory R. Blatt, CEO of IAC corp.

Gregory R. Blatt, CEO of IAC corp.

As is the case with most free services, the features available to users leave more to be desired, and this situation creates demand for a premium service to be made available. Tinder is no exception; the app will be rolling out a premium service in 2015 with a variety of new features like an undo button to prevent erroneous swiping and a passport feature to place your signal location in various cities around the world.

Despite Tinder’s widespread adoption and use, is the app’s popularity due to user success or merely the byproduct of the addicting premise of stress-free social interaction? And is the app even an effective tool considering how many people are using it? Let’s first deconstruct the premise and function of Tinder to determine the answer to these questions and more.

How to Meet Thousands of People by Swiping Right

The premise of Tinder is simple: users are able to view other users based on their location, and can control factors such as sexual orientation, age, and the proximity that the app searches for other users, which extends up to 100 miles (or 160km). Users have two options: they can like or dislike a user based on their profile, which includes up to 6 pictures, a brief bio, and a list of mutual friends and interests (as the app itself is tethered to Facebook).

imagesIf one user likes another user, Tinder’s algorithm is designed to bump the former user’s profile to appear near the top of the deck in order to facilitate faster matching. However, for users who abuse the like system and simply like every user to generate a higher number of potential matches, Tinder’s algorithm is designed to discriminate against such users, and the top-decking factor is lessened. Some users even take it one step further and employ the use of one of several “auto-liker” apps that can instantaneously “like” hundreds if not thousands of profiles with the touch of screen, but again, Tinder’s matching algorithm is actually designed to discriminate against this type of usage.

As is the case with any online dating site now, the first impression you get of someone is from their appearance. The difference with Tinder is that there is no hope in messaging another user unless they also find you physically attractive. While it may be a great mode of pre-selection when compared to other dating sites, it can also hinder many users’ experiences due to the differences men and women perceive physical attractiveness.

A study of OkCupid users found that men rated women in a normally distributed curve of attraction; essentially, there were small percentages of very attractive and unattractive female users, and most were clumped around the middle, in the “average” attractiveness category. Women, on the other hand, rated 80% of men in the study as below average in terms of physical attractiveness, and almost none were given a perfect score. In other words, women are a lot more choosy when it comes to physical appearance than men are. Much of this is supported by research on human behaviour that has demonstrated that men are more likely to engage in a casual relationship than women are, so their scrutiny for physical appearance may be less intense as a result. Based on this trend, one can already see a problem for a method of online dating like Tinder that is so heavily invested in the user’s appearance. In relative terms, males will be a lot more liberal in who they find attractive, but will not get that same relative lack of scrutiny in return.

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The Casual Paradox

One of Tinder’s greatest strengths is also one of it’s greatest weaknesses. The casual nature and simplicity of the app allows users to fly through hundreds of profiles just by swiping, but the problem with this design is that a match between users has no depth. Yes, you find each other attractive, but without any tangible topics or interests to talk about, the conversation will likely hit a snag very quickly.

Because of the casual nature, most users don’t invest that much time into a dating service that is essentially a game; the more invested individuals will likely go that extra mile and sign up for a legitimate dating site like Match.com or OkCupid. Therefore, it can be expected that the majority of users aren’t treating it all that seriously, and due to the sheer number of potential contacts, the app can be quite exhausting devoting that much time and energy towards, which is antithetical to the casual and simplistic nature of the app. Basically, because almost no one wants to put any effort in, most matches and interactions fall flat and fizzle out.

Communication Breakdown

Then we have the whole issue that plagues online dating in the first place: the jump from virtual to real. Even if you matched with someone you really like and they managed to peak your interest long enough to trust them with having your phone number, the interaction has to retain that level of interest in the real world as well. One of the common criticisms of online dating is the lack of real social skills put into practice during communication with other users.

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When you’re communicating with someone online, you can edit, filter, review, and even copy content to send to your crushes. The problem with this mode of communication is that real-life interaction isn’t like this at all, so the familiar situation of someone who is a great texter but a poor conversationalist comes into play. It’s more common nowadays because of how often we rely on texting and email for communication, and how we are fearful of using the phone or talking to someone in person. Due to the rampant fear of communicating with people in person that is prevalent in our society today thanks to the comfort that technology provides (especially in instances of potential sexual relationships), most interactions on Tinder are ultimately doomed to fail.

The Tinder Gamble

I would compare the addictive nature of Tinder to that of operating a slot machine. As is the case with all forms of gambling, a slot machine is statistically proven to provide the user with a net loss. The odds are stacked against a user, yet they continue to pump coins into the machine with the hope of winning. Hope is also what causes people to keep swiping right. Hope is what keeps us going out every Friday night despite the fact that the odds are stacked against you at a nightclub as well. Hope is “…the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”

Oddly enough, most Google image results for "people playing slot machines" were all high quality pictures of groups of attractive women having a blast playing the slots. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Oddly enough, most Google image results for “people playing slot machines” were all high quality pictures of groups of attractive women having a blast playing the slots. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

There are major parallels that exist between Tinder and gambling, specifically using a slot machine. Anderson and Brown (1984) describe compulsive gambling as the result of a combination of both positive and negative reinforcement; winning money is a form of positive reinforcement and the escape from negative emotional situations provided by playing the slots is a form of negative reinforcement.

Similar conclusions could be drawn from the main activities of Tinder. Getting a match is positive reinforcement and the “avoidance” of being lonely and single through use of the app is negative reinforcement.

McConaghy (1980) described the random ratio reinforcement schedule (RRRS) as being important for persistence in play. As per the RRRS, when an element of unpredictability exists related to whether or not the next trial will result in an award, persistence in play is maintained. Tinder operates under the same metric: you never know which user will appear next and if you’ll match with them, so an addicting situation of “just one more swipe” occurs. Many of the motivations to gamble – psychological arousal, avoidance of negative emotional states, altering one’s life, or overcoming boredom – are also common reasons people would use a dating app like Tinder.

The eventual result of most repetitive gambling.

The eventual result of most repetitive gambling.

So Tinder is addicting because it employs the same principles that slot machines do, but so what? After all, a successful app should be designed with addictive qualities to some degree; you do want people to use it after all. The problem is that for many people, using an app like Tinder is simply another form of avoidance. Instead of speaking to people in person and interacting with other potential partners in the classical sense, Tinder allows its users a form of escape and distraction. While many users may enjoy speaking to each other from the safety of their phones or iPad, the reality is, eventually the game has to end and you’ll need to meet up in real life, which is a scary notion for many people actively avoiding in-person social contact in the first place!

Misplaced Happiness

The online dating industry has continued to grow at an astonishing pace since the early 2000s due to many young peoples’ struggles with finding time to interact with strangers in person. Today more than ever, young, career-driven people can’t seem to meet strangers anywhere except at work or at a nightclub, which both present their own unique set of challenges. Our intimate relationships are ultimately rooted in our pursuit of happiness. All things we get out of them -whether it’s intimacy, sex, laughter, or learning- all provide us with some degree of fulfillment. As with almost everything, the more you invest in something, the more you stand to gain in terms of happiness or lose in terms of regret. The fact that the design of Tinder encourages a minimal input sets it up for failure; we simply don’t invest that much effort into the app, so any connection that results out of it is far less likely to provide us as much happiness as with a traditional interaction or even an online dating service that requires more user input and “work”.

Increasing the amount of sex in your life may not always be the clear cut answer to greater happiness, despite what society may lead you to believe.

Increasing the amount of sex in your life may not always be the clear cut answer to greater happiness, despite what society may lead you to believe.

Tinder’s focus on casual sex is also the reason why many of its users have a sense of misplaced happiness while using it. Simply put, we often mistakenly believe that an increased number sexual encounters correlates with an increase in happiness, not to mention that females experience a much higher rate of climaxing with a committed partner than with a casual one. One of the golden rules of statistics and data analysis is that correlation does not equal causation, and this scenario is no exception.

Many Tinder users are simply chasing an impossible reality: they use the app because they think sex will make them happy, but they aren’t having sex in the first place because of a host of other factors, and instead of addressing those parts of their life, they get stuck in the Tinder gamble. Much like gambling, you never really win unless you’re in the minority who can actually come out ahead, but the premise of instant success keeps you hooked. It’s like the people who invest way too much time in purchasing lottery tickets. Instead of recognizing that perhaps there are better ways to financial security and stability, they place their trust in a system that is designed to con them.

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No one wants to be told that they can’t accomplish something, but the fact of the matter is that, for the majority of users, Tinder is simply not an effective method of dating. Either you aren’t going to be rated attractive enough, you won’t be interesting or witty enough to keep a match’s attention based on the limiting context of the app, or you simply won’t care enough to keep up with your interactions because you’re simply treating the app like a game or form of gambling.

The reason that Tinder is rolling out a premium service is first and foremost to make money, but is also a result of user feedback that the app is becoming stagnant; people are starting to wise up to the “game” of Tinder and they’re growing tired of the app. If you’ve had luck on Tinder meeting someone who genuinely makes you happy, then that’s great! The purpose of this article was to caution those who keep using it despite minimal returns. One can only hope that in the future, we seek more intuitive ways to satisfy our relationship needs, no matter how casual or serious our desires are.

Stop Lamenting Over Hook Up Culture; Pt. III: Sex Beyond the Realm of the Physiological

In the previous two articles, explored why hook-up culture isn’t a unique phenomenon for our very selfish and egocentric Millennial generation, and what two factors drive our current situation. Part 3 examines the current situation caused by our evolving gender dichotomy, why finding someone compatible beyond a hook-up is more difficult today, and what we need to remember when it comes to approaching sex and satisfying more than just our basic physiological urges. Enjoy.

Ascending the Hierarchy of Needs

I enjoy pointing to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for many examples, and this situation is no exception. At the bottom are the basic physiological needs; this includes sex. If you are in the 20% bracket, your sexual appetite is satisfied. It’s the same situation of rarely being hungry because you have an ample supply of food in your house. Those constantly chasing sexual encounters need to ascend further up the pyramid or risk facing a depressing life due to a lack of personal development. Maslows-Hierarchy-of-Needs

If you track further up the hierarchy, you will see that love, friendship, and sexual intimacy are at about the halfway point. The idea that one can only achieve these attributes through a monogamous, committed relationship is why opposition to hook-up culture exists. Individuals can still find love and acceptance through their friends and sexual intimacy through a casual partner. Perhaps they are further up the hierarchy, constantly engaged in creative works or problem solving, and as a result have their other needs satisfied.

The difference today is that instead of one gender being able to pursue these dreams of self-actualization, we now have both performing the same task. Imagine that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a mountain that you need to regularly summit in order to realize your full potential and be your happiest. All people in the world are mountaineers tasked with scaling the peak. In the past, it was primarily men who were given the freedom and the opportunity to scale the mountain all the way to the top; they had more O2 tanks and better gear.

The lower you are on the mountain, the more people you have the chance of meeting, and everyone at the bottom is looking to have sex to satisfy their most basic, physiological needs. Meeting someone further up at a level of intimacy or body security could be the grounds for a relationship, but meeting someone at the top when you are both engaged in your highest order practices provides the best chance that you will both be a great match.

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For example, let’s say two rocket scientists exist in the same proximity. If they meet at the bottom of the pyramid, it’s safe to assume that they met at someplace like a bar where the only thing filtering their meeting was the fact that they wanted to get laid. Designing rockets is hard, lonely work, so sometimes you just need that stress release.

If they met further up, say at the love/belonging level, the two rocket scientists are likely more compatible because they fulfill the need the other is seeking, but it is not necessarily an ideal match. They’ve gone on a few dates, they feel comfortable with the other, but something may be lacking. When you meet someone in a situation on the level of self-actualization, like working on a complex project together, or solving a problem in tandem, that will produce the strongest match possible because the criteria are so specific and other needs are already fulfilled.

The constant flux up and down the summit provides a dynamic flow of individuals to meet.   People would not stay on the same level indefinitely; they would constantly be moving depending on their needs, and those who decided to commit to each other would make the ascent together. In order to meet a more ideal partner, you would have to find them at one of the more specialized, higher levels, which is more difficult due to the smaller area (time) available for you to do so.

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Fast forward to today, and now the climb to the top is a much more equalized scenario. For the first time, women can now ascend further up towards the summit as a result of entering the work force en masse, attending university in greater numbers than men, and having equal rights. Women sometimes meet men at the level of self-actualization, but because of the smaller base of this section of the mountain, these individuals cannot stay for long to search for a partner. As a result of the increased number of climbers moving up and down the mountain, meeting the right person has become increasingly difficult, and many resort to short-lived relationships at this level.

For those brave souls who dare to ascend the summit, they must eventually return to base camp to restock on their supplies to fulfill their most basic needs, which means there simply isn’t enough time available to build a long-term relationship for those driven by their careers.

At the base of the summit, there are far more people due to the amount of space available. Unfortunately, finding a partner in this sea of people who are united by the most basic of needs is incredibly difficult. Those who are driven by a higher purpose must ascend the peak to have a higher chance of finding a more suitable match.

This situation creates a rather incredible paradox: if you reach for the summit, you have a higher chance of finding a suitable partner, but with each step up the mountain, you also have less time available with which to find them. As someone advances further in their career and acquiring basic resources becomes an easier task, they can remain at the higher levels for longer, which creates more time to find an ideal partner. For those just starting out in their careers, time is incredibly limited.

Thinking About Sex Beyond the Realm of the Physiological

As a result of time being the limiting factor in this scenario, online dating apps have surged in popularity, giving those summit ascending self-actualizers a more efficient method to find a suitable mate, especially in those years of career establishment. The impact of time has been reduced. Those who are most efficient at gathering basic needs at the base of the pyramid and above will be able to spend more time at the summit searching for potential mates. If you are attractive, affluent, or a combination of the two, you will have no problem providing yourself with enough food, shelter, and sex to promptly begin the next trip to the top.

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The reason why online dating apps have become so popular is the 80/20 scenario presented before: obtaining sex is a physiological deficiency for 80% of the population. This is why in North America, where food, shelter, and other basic needs are so widely available, we place such an importance on obtaining sex through a variety of means; sex is the one thing holding many of us back from starting that ascent to the top. It is also why pornography and other means of obtaining the basic physiological parts of sex have become so popular in the past few decades, but these methods fail to provide us with the intimate levels of need that a real sexual encounter can.

Despite what we might convince ourselves, the basis for starting a relationship is physical attraction with the goal of having sex. What we forget is that despite it being listed at the physiological level first, sex is also present further up as intimacy, achievement (especially if you have a threesome with two supermodels), and confidence. When we only treat it as a one-dimensional act, we are dooming ourselves to a vacant state of mind void of true fulfillment.

Is hook-up culture ruining relationships as we know it? Not necessarily.

What is ruining relationships is people treating sex as one-dimensional in a transactional manner and failing to satisfy their higher order needs as a human being. Without a sense of confidence, intimacy, or achievement, no amount of sex will cure those conditions; they need to think about their sexual needs in a transcendental manner. Those who are comfortable with hook-up culture are more often than not also comfortable with themselves.

Let’s entertain a little thought experiment: Who is happier?

The guy that hooks up with a new girl every weekend? The girl in a committed relationship of over three years? The guy who is a 25 year old virgin? The girl who can’t seem to remain in a relationship longer than a month?

That guy who hooks up with a new girl every weekend could seem like “the man” to the guys, but perhaps he’s simply lashing out at the world because he was a loser in high school and still has major self-esteem and image issues. He tries to compensate by having a high number of sexual partners, which he equated to being popular based on what he grew up admiring in high school. Or perhaps he’s a genuinely awesome guy who just doesn’t have time to commit to a relationship and as a by-product of his awesomeness, girls throw themselves at him.

The girl in a committed relationship of over three years may love her partner unconditionally and be very happy. Or she may feel trapped, bored, and desire a change, which could lead to her cheating on her partner or simply breaking up with them. She could also be scared of meeting new people because she’s so used to the same partner, so she is socially withdrawn and anxious.

The 25 year-old virgin could be in a committed relationship where he has chosen to abstain from sex for religious reasons or personal beliefs, yet he may still be happy because he has other passions in life that outweigh those of the sexual nature. He could be someone who achieves happiness through his work or hobbies. Or he could be miserable, socially awkward, and so desperate for female contact that he is considering hiring a prostitute.

The girl who can’t remain in a relationship for over a month may seem distant, uncommitted, and frustrate all the men she has relationships with. Her parents and friends may worry about her inability to hold on to a partner for more than a month. She may have commitment issues because of things that happened in her past. She may get bored of men easily and lack maturity and self-control. Or she’s an incredibly busy and driven medical student and doesn’t have time to commit to a relationship, or simply hasn’t found her match yet, but she’s clearly content with how her life is proceeding.

So who is happiest? Impossible to say. Someone’s sexual history or habits is not necessarily indicative of their overall happiness and sense of self-worth.

To build on this model of thinking, we also need to stop raising men to think that their worth as males should be based on the number of sexual encounters they have. This type of behaviour is driving a lot of men to be very depressed because they are constantly seeking validation from an empty purpose. Your self worth as a male should not be based around whether or not you got laid last night; it should be based on what you’re doing with your life.

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It’s a juvenile mode of thinking to treat sexual encounters as the single most important thing you should be doing as a young adult male. Once this attitude spreads, violence against women will decrease, violence against other men will decrease, and more attractive lifestyles will be created.

How many times have you seen a guy at a bar get overly aggressive towards a girl because he’s desperate to get laid? How many times have you seen a guy punch another guy out because of aggression caused by competition or interference when it came to hooking up with someone? A lot of bar fights between men are caused – either directly or indirectly – by the fact that one guy didn’t get laid and he’s angry about it because of how he pedestalizes sexual encounters. As a photographer at a nightclub, part my job is to observe people, and I’ve witnessed this happen hundreds of times even before I held that position.

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Our boys need to be raised to be quality individuals and realize that they should care about developing themselves as people first, and realizing that quality relationships or those sexual encounters they desire will happen as a result of building an attractive lifestyle. It’s like using cheat codes for a video game just so can get the prize at the end. You’ll never be as satisfied beating the game that way as you would be going through the motions and improving until your skills and practice paid off. That’s why game designers create games in a specific way.

When hook-up culture is criticized, it is evident that those doing so are looking at the situation through a narrow scope. They’re viewing it simply by the numbers. So much more factors into happiness than sexual encounters, and while these may contribute to them, humans are sentient beings, and we operate on a level beyond that of the simply physiological.

We all derive happiness through a variety of activities, so it is time we stop judging others for their choices when it comes to relationships. The key is to stop trying to be happy, but instead live a life where happiness is the byproduct of your achievements and goals, instead of the lone goal. We lose sight of what makes us happy, and instead simply try to be happy.

Stop Lamenting Over Hook Up Culture; Pt. II: Time and Happiness Drive Hook Up Culture

The Driving Forces: Time & Happiness

If you think about the driving factor behind hook-up culture, it is not an attitude of lack of commitment, but it is simply an absence of time.

Psychologist Dr. Denis Waitley states that:  “Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent more hours.”

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Time is the most valuable commodity we have, and in their twenties, many people would rather invest their time to secure a stable future for themselves than invest in a relationship. The people complaining about hook-up culture are those who value outdated relationship metrics or who are simply not hooking up with anyone and are just bitter about it. In other words, they sense a lack of happiness in others or themselves as a result of their perception about the role of sex within relationships. Happiness is one of the most important things we experience as humans, but we often go about achieving happiness the wrong way.

A common point made against hook up culture is that it is eroding relationships. One could point to divorce rates being at an all-time high and marriage rates being at an all time low, but are those indicative of overall happiness? Marriage was a sacred thing for thousands of years, but did its sacred nature also breed happiness within it? Who’s to say that people are happier married than they are divorced? Remember that for hundreds of years, people viewed marriage as a necessity to life in their blind devotion to the Church, ignoring their own feelings or rights as a person.

Louis C.K. put it best: “Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true…because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce … That would be sad. If two people were married and they were really happy and they just had a great thing and then they got divorced, that would be really sad. But that has happened literally zero times.”

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So as long as you’re happy, who’s to say what is the best relationship state for you?

Today, we feel the pressures of marriage and stable relationships more and more thanks to the glorification of it. TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress and other shows centred around weddings will always be a source of fascination for many women and what their future wedding will be like. Pinterest is full of wedding ideas and photos that are being viewed by millions of people, some planning a real wedding, while others are just wishfully thinking ahead. I’d almost hazard a guess that because marriage rates are dropping, more and more  television shows are being created to glorify the process by those in the industry to help bump sales up.

Marriage is being glorified more than ever before. Could this be a desperate response from the wedding industry?

Marriage is being glorified more than ever before. Could this be a desperate response from the wedding industry?

Facebook during wedding season is a nightmare for some people. Seeing the constant stream of beautiful wedding photos of perfect couples can really bother some people and make them depressed. But why should it? Why should being married be this one magical thing that will solve all the problems in your life? This isn’t to say that marriage is a sham, but the material act of getting married to someone does not create happiness; a good relationship does. The idea of marriage is often what we’re sold, but the process is what’s more important.

We could go to other extreme and examine hook-up culture for this same reason: is simply casually dating someone the right move for you? If you think that simply hooking up with more people will make you happy and established as an adult, you’re wrong. Don’t be sold on the illusion that sex alone will be a fulfilling part of your life, because you may be left with a rather empty feeling afterwards. I’m sure I’m not alone here when I say that after a one-night stand, I’m sure we’ve all felt a pang of regret at some point. Some of us have also felt fantastic after one, and that’s what’s so fascinating about relationships, whether they last hours, months, or years.

The Illusion of Happiness Through Sex

One danger of hook-up culture is believing that only sex will make you happy and leave you fulfilled as a human being. I have previously spoken about how in any given statistically relevant population, 80% of the sexual activity is done by 20% of the people, which adheres to the Pareto Principle, a widely applicable economics principle.

Twenty percent of the population do 80% of the hooking up, which leaves 80% of the population to divide the remaining 20% of sex amongst themselves. Statistically speaking, that’s a lot of sexless people. This divide produces an interesting dynamic: 20% of the population is used to regular intervals of sexual encounters, leading to the expectation that sex is something that occurs regularly. The other 80% is left with more sexual desire than the sexually satiated 20% because they simply don’t get as much: the demand is far greater than the supply, so the market value for a sexual encounter is much higher in the 80% bracket.

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Because the 20% group experiences a regular occurrence of sex, it no longer becomes a factor solely on the physiological level and evolves into a performance that benefits higher order needs like intimacy or confidence rather than a simple physical transaction. A transaction occurs for the basic things in our life like food or shelter, but we can’t buy higher order factors like confidence or self-esteem (despite what many companies may lead you to believe). The 80% are very conscious of their relatively poor sex lives, so they believe that an increase in the frequency of sexual encounters will cure that. It is this psychological mindset that has often driven people into hook-up culture, but for all the wrong reasons.

Men are predisposed to mate with multiple partners because they are biologically driven to pass on their genes to produce as many progeny as possible. Women are biologically wired to seek a committed partner to provide resources for them and their offspring. This produces a paradoxical mating dynamic. High status, attractive men have far greater access to potential mates, and as a result, most males of this phenotype are grouped into the 20 percent. Sex is an expected part of their routine, as they rarely have to work hard to get it due to their inherent attractiveness, whether it be physical, social, economic, or a combination.

The remaining 80 percent of men pedestalize sexual encounters because these are not part of their weekly routine. Women are placed at a high priority, and many men have grown up thinking that they need to earn the company of a woman, and we reach a situation where men are treating sex and dating merely as a transaction. Unfortunately, other lifestyle factors such as career achievement, physical fitness, and intelligence are ignored in process. This phenomenon is what produced the Pick-Up Artist (PUA) movement of the 2000s, where legions of men who would normally be classified as “creeps” or “losers” by women started to learn the art of “pick-up” and their lives began to revolve around sexual encounters with women. The highlight of this movement was the book “The Game” by Neil Strauss.

The Game

If you’ve ever read “The Game”, you’ll remember that after the unlikely journey from being lonely online chatrooms to throwing parties in a Hollywood mansion, the whole scene sort of blew up because all of the PUAs involved reached a breaking point where they put too much emphasis on sexual encounters in the illusion that it created happiness.

What these men forgot was that in order to be happy, one must achieve and possess a variety of things, and once sexual encounters become a regular part of your life, there are more important things to worry about than going out to a club and hooking up with someone. These men failed to create an attractive lifestyle, and instead tried to “fake it till you make it”, which can only last for so long until a breaking point is reached.

The lesson to take away from this is that if you find yourself in the scenario where you are engaged in hook-up culture, you should not make your life revolve around directly creating sexual encounters. Hook-up culture should be a by-product of your lifestyle should you choose to engage in it, but it should not be all that you are. Creating a lifestyle solely around going out and hooking up with girls is not psychologically healthy, as you will eventually reach a point where you will feel empty; left searching for a higher means of fulfillment.

Part three will go into detail about why the absence of time and the evolving gender dichotomy of today’s world has made it increasingly difficult for “traditional” relationships to survive during your 20s. Part three will also describe the struggles that the majority of the population face when it comes to sexual encounters and relationships, in that many individuals feel pressured to have sex despite the fact that it provides merely the illusion of happiness. I will also go into detail about solutions to address this problem, and how we need to stop thinking about sex as a numbers game and producing negative judgements about others as a result. Stay tuned for part three.

Stop Lamenting Over Hook Up Culture; Pt. I: We are not a Unique Generation

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Hook up culture is one of the prevailing themes of relationships in the lives of young people today. Critics will argue that it’s ruining relationships for good, dating is dead, and so is chivalry. Men have no respect for women, women have no respect for themselves, and your twenties is doomed to be a string of failed hook-ups while establishing your career and asserting your independence. But is hook up culture really that bad? Or unique, for that matter?

I believe that the more important issue to address not a question of pursuing numerous partners, but how or why that is occurring. Is hook up culture ruining dating and relationships as we know it? Perhaps a little history lesson is in order first to see how we arrived at our current situation.

Before There was Tinder

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The Sexual Revolution that began in the 1960s was a radical shift in the structure and function of relationships shared in the Western world. No longer was it frowned upon to have pre-marital sex, experiment with a variety of partners, or worry about conceiving a child each time you had sex thanks to a few key innovations like the birth control pill. It was during this time that various social castes were discarded, and a much more casual attitude towards sex was first experienced. We are currently experiencing a new sexual revolution in the form of hook up culture.

Before the 1960s revolution, hundreds of years of Puritan influence repressed North Americans’ sexuality, treating all acts of the sort as taboo and impure. It was during this time that sex was treated with such high discretion that a husband was told to abstain from having sex with his wife unless it was necessary to conceive a child. Masturbation was viewed as a sinful and damaging practice – in fact, some of the top selling wares of the 1800’s were devices used to prevent humans from touching themselves (this is where the chastity belt first originated). It was also thought to cause blindness and insanity, which was later determined to only occur if your aim was poor.

Being a pilgrim really sucked.

Being a pilgrim really sucked.

As a result of this great cultural oppression, productivity in North America was incredibly high, and innovation flourished along with the economy. In fact, the modern 9-5 work day and the school year calendar originated from the schedules of farmers of this time period. If you wanted to do business, the hours of 9am to 5 pm were traditionally the most beneficial in for farmers in terms of productivity. The harvest ended in the fall, and that was the time when children could then be set free from a summer full of manual labour to pursue their studies. Summer vacation never used to exist; it was more like mandatory summer employment because school wasn’t in session.

All the while, North Americans were sexually repressed by Puritan influence in order to maintain this state of dull, repetitive work.

As Oscar Wilde once stated: “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.”

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Oscar Wilde.

By taking away sex from the masses, leaders in North America in the 1700s-1800s also took away the power of commoners. A steadfast devotion to God and his teachings kept citizens under control, as work was to be done as a duty to God, and sex and other “frivolous” acts were deemed sinful and unnecessary. In addition to the repression of commons, there was also repression of the cultural immigration that occurred when West African slaves arrived stateside.

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We rarely see slaves depicted in this sense, but if it weren’t for their cultural influence, North America would be boring and repressed, from an artistic and entertainment standpoint.

If it weren’t for the influence of African-American culture, we would not have Jazz, Blues, Rock N Roll, Rap, Hip-Hop, and a whole host of other forms of music, dance, and art. Jazz was initially treated with great fear, as was dancing to it, because of the perceived evil nature of sex imposed by the now-bygone Puritan rule. All subsequent forms of music created by African Americans were treated with the same hostility before being adopted into mainstream white culture.

Rock was called the devil’s music, Rap and Hip Hop were written off as the music that only petty thugs and criminals listened to, and all forms of dance and art associated with these forms of music were initially typecast as evil due to their prevalent forms of sexuality. The sexual themes were due to the cultural difference that African slaves brought with them to the United States.

West Africans were not governed by a sex-fearing religious body; therefore sex was not viewed as some evil, god-forsaking act, and various parts of their culture (including music) reflected that. Even the experimental, loose style of Jazz could be thought of as more overtly sexual than the more traditional, structured classical music that was popular with white folks for centuries.

The Influence is Still Present 

Today, two centuries of Puritan cultural influence is still present in our society. Sex is still viewed as a taboo subject, although far less evil than it was back in the 16th and 17th centuries. Our media is filtered through a lens of sexual appropriation, while forms of violence, both real and fictional, run rampant, despite the fact that increased exposure to both sex and violence has been shown to have negative consequences for human behaviour.

Which brings us to modern day hook up culture. This is a very polarizing issue: those who support “traditional” relationship constructs and morals can’t stand it, and those who have a less traditional view buy into it. The majority of media coverage about the hook-up culture is largely negative, with opinions on it ranging from “ruining dating forever”, to “creating a culture of people who are afraid of commitment”, or even “promoting promiscuity for both men and women.”

images-2All of these accusations speaking out against hook up culture are built upon a platform of “traditional” relationship metrics that have only existed for a few generations. What we think of dating today wasn’t what our ancestors thought of it in the 19th century. Before urbanization, humans didn’t really go out on “dates”. Most of humanity was agrarian, and the few that did live in the city were almost pre-determined to marry from a select pool of suitable mates from an equal social standing. Until the 20th century, most human relationships were essentially a pre-determined, classist dance that had been ongoing for thousands of years.

Farmers, and peasants before them, would have massive families in the hopes of breeding their workforce on site. Offspring mortality was much higher compared to today’s standards. For the children that survived and reached adulthood, the selection criteria for a partner was not so much physical or psychological like it predominantly is today; it was more of a geographical and economical based one. Due to this incompatibility, the incidence of domestic and sexual violence was also much higher.

Because of the repression of women’s rights and the overall sexual repression of humanity in 18th and 19th century North America, a very depressed state of being was in place for those in relationships. Rather than matching with a partner based on physical and psychological criteria like we do today in present day North America, a partner was viewed as more of a commodity; a means to an end, . Only in the upper class was the notion of “love” ever made present. Works such as “Romeo and Juliet” or “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” began to catch popularity with young couples and inspire them. It was at this time that women were pursued for emotional purposes, although sex was still oddly viewed as an abomination.

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Pretty typical party in the roaring 20’s

When the Roaring 20’s began, so too did the age of the automobile and urbanization. More young men began moving into the city to pursue lucrative work. The economy was booming, virtually every ambitious young man had a car, and jazz was in full swing. This was the beginning of modern “dating”. Taking a young gal out to dinner and then out dancing at a jazz club became a commonly practiced act, albeit largely opposed by the older generations. For the first time in history, a women’s family was not involved in her courtship like some kind of contractual obligation. Women started dressing more freely, cutting their hair short, and had a lot more fun than anyone could remember.

The Roaring 20s could be thought of as the first modern era of “hook-up culture”, as this decade presented a radical shift from the traditional relationship metrics of the past. The older generations thought everything that young people did during this time was immoral and wrong, and the same thing is occurring today with our modern “hook-up culture”. The Roaring 20s no doubt had its fair share of youthful critics who wanted to adhere to more “traditional” courtship, just as our modern day hook-up culture does.

It is said that history often repeats itself, and this is what is currently happening with hook-up culture: a radical shift in lifestyle (the existence of more career and education focused women than ever before) has contributed to a shift in relationship dynamics and made a bunch of people unhappy. In the Roaring 20s, it was a shift to the city, an abundance of money, and the geographical freedom created by the automobile that caused that culture’s relationship practices to be flipped on their head.

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What is happening today is not unique; it is simply the next dot on the evolutionary timeline of human relationships. By constantly backcasting and basing our relationship morals on what previous generations did, we are holding ourselves back from the natural evolution that is taking place as a result of our rapidly changing world. If we really want to get particular and base our relationship modes on what our ancestors did to be “proper”, why don’t we backtrack all the way back to pre-agricultural society where human tribes were essentially one big violent orgy? What sets humans apart from other species on this planet is our incredible ability to adapt to situations and figure out how to best play the cards that we are dealt.

To lament about the hook-up culture is to reverse the progress for women that has been made in today’s world. If we don’t want a string of casual relationships to dominate our twenties, than we might as well stop telling women to go to school and pursue a career outside being a housewife. It was this radical shift to a two-income household that drove the evolution of hook-up culture in North America. No longer were families solely dependent on the man of house providing for everyone while the woman stayed home, did the chores, and looked after the kids.

Today, more women than men are graduating from university and entering the workforce as the predominantly more educated gender. If a woman has lofty career goals, she may not have time to dedicate to a healthy, long-term relationship during her twenties. And that’s fine; neither do a lot of men who have the same aspirations. Eventually most people will settle down, and that age is being delayed more and more as people struggle to establish themselves their career at a current job or complete a lengthy term of graduate studies or professional school.

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Hook up culture is really a post-secondary student manufactured problem that only students or recently graduated students are complaining about. The fact is, post-secondary students are not having sex more often than those in the past. Millennials just love to constantly preach about how the world is so messed up because we think we’re the first generation to suffer underemployment and massive shifts in relationship culture, which, as I’ve just described, is not at all true.

Now that we’ve explored the historical context of hook up culture and sex in our present society, part two will investigate what motivates us to participate in hook up culture, and why there are negative connotations associated with it. As you will see, there are both positives and negatives to the current situation, but the take home point from this first part is that the current situation is not unique. As happens so often with Millennials, our perception that we’re unique and special is not remotely close to true. Stay tuned for part two.

My Rebuttal to: “Why Women Need to Start Asking Men Out…Because Men Have no Balls.”

Case Study: Analysis of a Typical Click Bait Article

Article: “Why Women Need to Start Asking Men Out…Because Men Have no Balls.” – published on Elite Daily on September 9th, 2014. 

This one surfaced a few days ago, and rightfully so generated a lot of controversy and traffic. 

Right from the title, this article aims to stir the pot. The title is a direct shot to the male ego, and nothing gets under a guy’s skin like questioning his manhood. For male readers, they’re likely to click on it because it angers them, and they want to read what the article is about so they can refute it internally or externally (just read the comments to see what I’m referring to). For female readers, the article can be quite polarizing. On one hand, the title is quite uplifting for the average female reader: it is empowering, it questions gender roles, indeed drawing from the very “hot” things with regards to gender-focused journalism of today. On the other hand, the title is quite sexist, and that might offend some female readers, which also helps generate traffic to the article.

Now let’s break down the article itself.

The first two paragraphs are rich with a sense of female entitlement. Essentially, the author equates that lack of proper dates that women are being taken on to the fact that men don’t know how to treat a women “properly”. But what is proper in terms of gender interactions? The metrics the author is using were only in place for a few generations previous. “Dating” has only been around for about a century, and before that, things were quite different. Women were married off as possessions in bartering deals between noblemen and their sons; kingdoms were united with the trade of a female body. Instances of violence against women were many times higher in the past than they are today.

Even the concept of chivalry is one of the most misused frameworks for male behaviour today. If you actually bothered to look up what chivalry actually means, you may be surprised: it was a code of conduct used by knights during medieval times. One of the stipulations of it was to treat noblewomen well, but chivalry is more heavily based in the codes of combat and behaviour towards one’s enemies. Chivalry basically suggests that you should show no mercy, crush your enemies, respect the church, and be nice to rich girls you want to bang. Chivalry has been adopted as a modern framework for male behaviour in the past century, but it ignores the incredible progress that has been made with regards to the role of women in society and the push for equality that has been made. These two conflicting frameworks are what is causing the rift the author is lamenting in her article.

The author’s next section describes how men are afraid of approaching women. Social anxiety has been present as long as humans have been alive, and as our brains evolved, so did our ability to doubt, to fear, and to analyze short-term and long-term consequences of a social miscue. Both men and women are affected by an inability to approach a complete stranger in a public place, so this is not simply a male centric problem.

The author also makes a point about TV “lying” to women about who men are as people. Television apparently portrays all men as dominant, romantic, infallible beings who are perfect constructs of the male ideal. If you examine the top 5 sitcoms on TV right now, you get the following list:

1. The Big Bang Theory

2. Modern Family

3. Community

4. New Girl

5. The Simpsons

The reason I chose sitcoms is because they are focused around day-to-day situations and interpersonal interactions. A list of the top 20 shows on TV is littered with NFL programs, reality TV/contestant-based shows, and crime dramas, which are not representative of average relationship constructs.

Look at the male protagonists in each series. The Big Bang Theory is the single most popular program on TV today, and it revolves around a group of 4 male characters whose appeal is rooted in their awkwardness around females and every day situations. Modern Family is a great show, but there is not a Don Draper or Harvey Specter to be found among the male characters. Community is a grab bag of characters, but aside from Jeff (portrayed by Joel McHale), there is no dominant male character to be found. New Girl isn’t focused on a male character, but the supporting cast are all bumbling idiots. Ditto for the appeal of Homer Simpson.

If you go back in time and think of the most popular sitcoms of the past decade, all the male characters who were the head of a family were portrayed as sweet, loveable characters who also happened to be oafish. Comedy is often based around self-depreciation, so it simply isn’t logical to state that TV has portrayed male characters as the author describes them when the inverse is actually true. Of course there are powerful male characters on TV, but those shows aren’t as popular. So if anything, TV is telling women that men are loveable idiots who get lots of laughs and still get the girl in the end, which is the opposite of what the author stated. 

The next paragraph places the blame on the single most important woman in a man’s life: his mother. She begins by making a sweeping generalization about how mothers babied their sons into class A narcissists, but then retreats on her point and states that only a few mothers didn’t teach their sons how to “properly” court a woman. This paragraph really has no substance, because there is nothing aside from weak anecdotal evidence backing up her point.

The fact is, more children are growing up in single parent households today than 30 years prior, so this has indeed had an effect on how boys are raised. Simply put, a mother can do many things, but be a father she cannot. The reason why men are supposedly lacking courage and the knowledge on how to properly court a woman isn’t because their mothers taught them the wrong way, but because an increasing number of guys grew up without the regular presence of their father to model their behaviour after.

The overarching issue with this article that is prevalent within the mother shaming paragraph is the “proper” way to court a woman. What Elite Daily’s staff often do when framing their argument around the decline of the dating scene is blame the “hookup culture” and lack of quality dates that people are going on nowadays. What their writing staff fail to recognize is that we are basing our “proper” dating constructs on outdated metrics and advice from our parents. A lot has changed in 30 years, and the way that a lot of couples interact has also changed.

For starters, more women than men are in university now. Indisputable fact. What this also equates to is a lot more women are pursuing successful careers than in the past. Awesome. What this also means is that finding time to get together for an actual date is becoming increasingly difficult as now both, not just one, of the people in a couple are working hard towards a successful career, and that puts limits on time. It also means that because of both genders pursuing careers instead of predominantly one in years past, both parties have a steady source of income. This changes the expectation for a lot of the financial responsibility with regards to dating.

In the past, men picked up the cheque because they made more money. As well they should; it’s only fair. Today, women make virtually the same salaries as men do, so there is no wage disparity between the average couple. If that last sentence set off an alarm bell about wage inequality, stop. There is no such thing – that 77 cents on the dollar statistic used by President Obama and countless other agencies has been proven as shaky at best. If you really want to read into it, click here. Even the Huffington Post, a very pro-feminist publication source, has an article that disputes it.

So with wages being similar and time, the most valuable commodity we have, being limited to couples, “proper” dating seems fairly difficult. Factor in that stable careers are becoming increasingly rare, and higher education is being pursued by more and more people, and you now have to factor in relocation into the equation of difficult dating.

Social media has also made dating increasingly difficult. Facebook and Instagram provide constant snapshots of couple’s lives together, but they also provide individuals with access to visual stimulation from external parties. Communication is easier than ever, and the prospect of meeting and having casual, short-lived relationships with multiple partners is increasingly appealing to the people in the Millennial generation. Add in dating apps like Tinder, Plenty of Fish, or OkCupid, and you have access to hundreds, if not thousands of potential partners literally at your fingertips. This never existed in the past, so why are we basing our metrics for “proper” dating in a time when the basis for these metrics no longer exists?

This ties into the author’s next paragraph: they think there’s always someone better. This goes for both genders, as not just men have access to Facebook, Instagram, Tinder and the like: we all do. Both genders are equally as guilty of potential social media infidelity. One gender is not more likely to cheat than the other. Studies have been published that suggest men cheat more, but just as many are published that suggest the opposite is true.

The author’s final paragraph that talks about men not growing up as quickly as women do is laughable at best. It draws on a “study” by Nickleodeon UK that was performed in anticipation of one of their new programs that is all about a childish bachelor who assumes legal guardianship over a very mature and intelligent 12 year old boy. Aside from the obvious alarm signals about the legitimacy of a study conducted by a TV network, the results of the study conveniently align with the theme of the show.

How the study went about determining what constituted being “grown up” was related to behaviours very stereotypical of males, but the sheer amateur nature of the study doesn’t really warrant much a response. If you’re supporting your points with “studies” done by TV networks, you really have no business being a writer, even if it’s for a click bait website.

To wrap-up, I believe that there is a good amount of data supporting that socially, we have changed in the way we deal and progress with relationships. Our world is not the same as our parents’ was, so we should stop using their dating stories as a social yardstick for our own. Live your life, be who you want to be with, and quit feeling pressured to go out on extravagant dates because its the “proper” thing to do. The point of a relationship isn’t to spend money or adhere to archaic social constructs; it’s to be with someone who challenges you to be better and who you enjoy learning from and spending time with. You cannot achieve happiness without a bit of struggle, and no amount of assumed chivalrous behaviour will achieve that.

What will is adapting to the times and realizing that the dating game has changed. Things are more challenging than ever now, so the key is to be adaptable and open to change, and to also encourage a more equality-centric approach to things, rather than feeling pressured to have storybook romance encouraged by mislead nostalgia. Don’t use money as your relationship currency; use your partner’s and your own personal growth and happiness.

Click Bait Websites and the Age of Misinformation

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve likely come across an article from a website like Buzzfeed, Thought Catalog, Elite Daily, Upworthy, Diply, or another similar website. These sites are all similar in their target market (Millennials), and their style of content is all the same. Catchy titles rich with hyperbole, easily digestible content, lists, short word counts, and plenty of pretty pictures. This new wave of content has taken hold with our generation because when we are browsing on a screen, our attention spans are shorter; this has been demonstrated in numerous neuroscience studies, so it makes sense that these websites take advantage of that. Looking at a screen simply affects your brain and eyes differently, and your mind becomes tired faster.

The Click Bait Model

News and other content online used to be written by educated, self-respecting journalists employed by various publications who had a history of excellent research and integrity. Enter all of the aforementioned “click bait” websites. A quick browse of their home pages will bring a few things to light:

1) There is a constant stream of content being produced

2) A lot of it was lifted from other websites

3) 90% of the contents are just rehashed thoughts or Sparks Notes of current events

4) A lot of “content” is just a paragraph description of a video on YouTube

5) Almost all of the content is opinion-based with little-to-no research done to back up the author’s points.

6) There are a lot of lists (irony intended)

The virality of this style of content can’t be denied; it’s a simple question of giving the people what they want. Hats off to the creators of click bait websites for recognizing this trend and pouncing on it.

The problem with these websites is that they are jamming content down our throats akin to what our diets used to be back in the 90’s and early 2000’s: full of processed junk food that was slowly killing us. Today, consumer tastes have changed, and now we are demanding greater access to healthier food free of preservatives. We became more conscious of what we were eating thanks to medical research, and our diets as a whole have slowly started improving, although obesity is still an epidemic in North America. The click bait websites of today are the junk food of content, and I believe that a similar evolution will happen with regards to our appetite for quality content as we realize the lack of value and substance these websites are providing us with.

I would also argue that the business model that these websites operate under is not sustainable. The entire reason for existence of these websites is not to educate, foster debate, or evoke thought; it’s to sell advertising space through demonstrated traffic. The problem with these websites is that to sell an ad, you need a target market. If your website is a fustercluck of content with no clear direction or purpose, you cannot accurately define your audience and promise directed ads without the help of a tech giant like Google or Facebook. Compare that to a website like Cosmopolitan: equally as crappy content, but a much more streamlined audience. They have a much easier time securing advertising revenue because companies know exactly who is reading the content.

The Age of Misinformation

Click bait websites are notorious for spreading misinformation and creating controversy in the name of generating hits. Poor research and the demand for a constant stream of content is what creates a lot of the misinformation conveyed in many articles found on click bait sites.

For example, let’s say there’s an article that talks about how intelligent people generally stay up much later at night. Because the vast majority of the audience doesn’t understand that correlation does not equal causation, legions of people will start to think that because they stay up late, they must be intelligent. No one likes to think of themselves as stupid, so naturally this situation results in a lot of unintelligent people thinking that their habits are contributing to something they do not in fact possess; in essence, it’s a mild placebo effect.

The problem with click bait websites’ approach to writing is rooted in their business model. Most of their staff writers are paid next to nothing or contribute volunteer pieces simply for the exposure. The lack of credibility, experience, and talent of most of their staff warrants a lower wage, but the amount of people reading this shoddy journalism versus quality work displayed in major news publications is alarming. As Millennials, and every generation before us, a time will come when we have to run the world, and if we’re getting most of our “information” from our peers, we are breaking the traditional cycle of imparted wisdom. Many of these writers’ opinions are no more educated or well thought out than our own, but because it is packaged up on a flashy website, many Millennials are taking these words as gospel.

Perhaps if the authors had credibility, life experience, and some sort of professional training in the subjects that they are writing about, click bait websites might actually be responsible for some good in the world. But the reality is that these websites keep churning out junk food, and we keep feeding on it.

Eventually, a paradigm shift needs to happen, and quality content or quantitative content needs to reign supreme again. Part of the problem is the severely budget cuts many publications have undergone due to a shift in industry standards and the availability of information, but much of it stems from our changing cultural attitude to the currency of information. We want things immediately, and we will take short cuts in order to get there, often ignoring key details and facts. We neglect to check our sources and often believe exactly what someone with little knowledge or credibility on the subject says.

Case Study: Analysis of a Typical Click Bait Article

Article: “Why Women Need to Start Asking Men Out…Because Men Have no Balls.” – published on Elite Daily on September 9th, 2014. 

I’m going to finish this article with an analysis of a typical click bait article. This one surfaced a few days ago, and rightfully so generated a lot of controversy and traffic. 

Right from the title, this article aims to stir the pot. The title is a direct shot to the male ego, and nothing gets under a guy’s skin like questioning his manhood. For male readers, they’re likely to click on it because it angers them, and they want to read what the article is about so they can refute it internally or externally (just read the comments to see what I’m referring to). For female readers, the article can be quite polarizing. On one hand, the title is quite uplifting for the average female reader: it is empowering, it questions gender roles, indeed drawing from the very “hot” things with regards to gender-focused journalism of today. One the other hand, the title is quite sexist, and that might offend some female readers, which also helps generate traffic to the article.

Now let’s break down the article itself.

The first two paragraphs are rich with a sense of female entitlement. Essentially, the author equates that lack of proper dates that women are being taken on to the fact that men don’t know how to treat a women “properly”. But what is proper in terms of gender interactions? The metrics the author is using were only in place for a few generations previous. “Dating” has only been around for about a century, and before that, things were quite different. Women were married off as possessions in bartering deals between noblemen and their sons; kingdoms were united with the trade of a female body. Instances of violence against women were many times higher in the past than they are today.

Even the concept of chivalry is one of the most misused frameworks for male behaviour today. If you actually bothered to look up what chivalry actually means, you may be surprised: it was a code of conduct used by knights during medieval times. One of the stipulations of it was to treat noblewomen well, but chivalry is more heavily based in the codes of combat and behaviour towards one’s enemies. Chivalry basically suggests that you should show no mercy, crush your enemies, respect the church, and be nice to rich girls. Chivalry has been adopted as a modern framework for male behaviour in the past century, but it ignores the incredible progress that has been made with regards to the role of women in society and the push for equality that has been made. These two conflicting frameworks are what is causing the rift the author is lamenting in her article.

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The author’s next section describes how men are afraid of approaching women. Social anxiety has been present as long as humans have been alive, and as our brains evolved, so did our ability to doubt, to fear, and to analyze short-term and long-term consequences of a social miscue. Both men and women are affected by an inability to approach a complete stranger in a public place, so this is not simply a male centric problem.

The author also makes a point about TV “lying” to women about who men are as people. Television apparently portrays all men as dominant, romantic, infallible beings who are perfect constructs of the male ideal. If you examine the top 5 sitcoms on TV right now, you get the following list:

1. The Big Bang Theory

2. Modern Family

3. Community

4. New Girl

5. The Simpsons

The reason I chose sitcoms is because they are focused around day-to-day situations and interpersonal interactions. A list of the top 20 shows on TV is littered with NFL programs, reality TV/contestant-based shows, and crime dramas, which are not representative of average relationship constructs.

Look at the male protagonists in each series. The Big Bang Theory is the single most popular program on TV today, and it revolves around a group of 4 male characters whose appeal is rooted in their awkwardness around females and every day situations. Modern Family is a great show, but there is not a Don Draper or Harvey Specter to be found among the male characters. Community is a grab bag of characters, but aside from Jeff (portrayed by Joel McHale), there is no dominant male character to be found. New Girl isn’t focused on a male character, but the supporting cast are all bumbling idiots. Ditto for the appeal of Homer Simpson.

If you go back in time and think of the most popular sitcoms of the past decade, all the male characters who were the head of a family were portrayed as sweet, loveable characters who also happened to be oafish. Comedy is often based around self-depreciation, so it simply isn’t logical to state that TV has portrayed male characters as the author describes them when the inverse is actually true. Of course there are powerful male characters on TV, but those shows aren’t as popular. So if anything, TV is telling women that men are loveable idiots who get lots of laughs and still get the girl in the end, which is the opposite of what the author stated. 

The next paragraph places the blame on the single most important woman in a man’s life: his mother. She begins by making a sweeping generalization about how mothers babied their sons into class A narcissists, but then retreats on her point and states that only a few mothers didn’t teach their sons how to “properly” court a woman. This paragraph really has no substance, because there is nothing aside from weak anecdotal evidence backing up her point.

The fact is, more children are growing up in single parent households today than 30 years prior, so this has indeed had an effect on how boys are raised. Simply put, a mother can do many things, but be a father she cannot. The reason why men are supposedly lacking courage and the knowledge on how to properly court a woman isn’t because their mothers taught them the wrong way, but because an increasing number of guys grew up without the regular presence of their father to model their behaviour after.

The overarching issue with this article that is prevalent within the mother shaming paragraph is the “proper” way to court a woman. What Elite Daily’s staff often do when framing their argument around the decline of the dating scene is blame the “hookup culture” and lack of quality dates that people are going on nowadays. What their writing staff fail to recognize is that we are basing our “proper” dating constructs on outdated metrics and advice from our parents. A lot has changed in 30 years, and the way that a lot of couples interact has also changed.

For starters, more women than men are in university now. Indisputable fact. What this also equates to is a lot more women are pursuing successful careers than in the past. Awesome. What this also means is that finding time to get together for an actual date is becoming increasingly difficult as now both, not just one, of the people in a couple are working hard towards a successful career, and that puts limits on time. It also means that because of both genders pursuing careers instead of predominantly one in years past, both parties have a steady source of income. This changes the expectation for a lot of the financial responsibility with regards to dating.

In the past, men picked up the cheque because they made more money. As well they should; it’s only fair. Today, women make virtually the same salaries as men do, so there is no wage disparity between the average couple. If that last sentence set off an alarm bell about wage inequality, stop. There is no such thing – that 77 cents on the dollar statistic used by President Obama and countless other agencies has been proven as shaky at best. If you really want to read into it, click here. Even the Huffington Post, a very pro-feminist publication source, has an article that disputes it.

So with wages being similar and time, the most valuable commodity we have, being limited to couples, “proper” dating seems fairly difficult. Factor in that stable careers are becoming increasingly rare, and higher education is being pursued by more and more people, and you now have to factor in relocation into the equation of difficult dating.

Social media has also made dating increasingly difficult. Facebook and Instagram provide constant snapshots of couple’s lives together, but they also provide individuals with access to visual stimulation from external parties. Communication is easier than ever, and the prospect of meeting and having casual, short-lived relationships with multiple partners is increasingly appealing to the people in the Millennial generation. Add in dating apps like Tinder, Plenty of Fish, or OkCupid, and you have access to hundreds, if not thousands of potential partners literally at your fingertips. This never existed in the past, so why are we basing our metrics for “proper” dating in a time when the basis for these metrics no longer exists?

This ties into the author’s next paragraph: they think there’s always someone better. This goes for both genders, as not just men have access to Facebook, Instagram, Tinder and the like: we all do. Both genders are equally as guilty of potential social media infidelity. One gender is not more likely to cheat than the other. Studies have been published that suggest men cheat more, but just as many are published that suggest the opposite is true.

The author’s final paragraph that talks about men not growing up as quickly as women do is laughable at best. It draws on a “study” by Nickleodeon UK that was performed in anticipation of one of their new programs that is all about a childish bachelor who assumes legal guardianship over a very mature and intelligent 12 year old boy. Aside from the obvious alarm signals about the legitimacy of a study conducted by a TV network, the results of the study conveniently align with the theme of the show.

How the study went about determining what constituted being “grown up” was related to behaviours very stereotypical of males, but the sheer amateur nature of the study doesn’t really warrant much a response. If you’re supporting your points with “studies” done by TV networks, you really have no business being a writer, even if it’s for a click bait website.

To wrap-up, I believe that there is a good amount of data supporting that socially, we have changed in the way we deal and progress with relationships. Our world is not the same as our parents’ was, so we should stop using their dating stories as a social yardstick for our own. Live your life, be who you want to be with, and quit feeling pressured to go out on extravagant dates because its the “proper” thing to do. The point of a relationship isn’t to spend money or adhere to archaic social constructs; it’s to be with someone who challenges you to be better and who you enjoy learning from and spending time with. You cannot achieve happiness without a bit of struggle, and no amount of assumed chivalrous behaviour will achieve that.

What will is adapting to the times and realizing that the dating game has changed. Things are more challenging than ever now, so the key is to be adaptable and open to change, and to also encourage a more equality-centric approach to things, rather than feeling pressured to have storybook romance encouraged by mislead nostalgia. Don’t use money as your relationship currency; use your partner’s and your own personal growth and happiness.

The Psychology of a Nightclub

 

Nightclubs are a pervasive part of our culture, and no matter where you go around the world, each country has adopted the nightclub as the benchmark of their nightlife. They are an excellent social venue and attractive to both genders, as they offer the promise of a wonderful experience on every visit. For women, nightclubs are a great place to dance with your friends and meet guys. The prospect of meeting attractive women is primarily what drives men to nightclubs, and the atmosphere and experience cultivated by a nightclub is designed with these factors in mind.

Yale Fox.

Yale Fox.

If you’ve seen this TED talk by Yale Fox, then you may have already had some exposure to dissecting the science of a nightclub. The problem with this talk is that it is full of a lot of confounding ideas, the talk itself doesn’t really arrive at a conclusion of any sorts, and a lot of the science isn’t correct. On Yale’s LinkedIn page, he describes himself as an “an expert in evolution at the Biological, Psychological and Sociological level”.

Mr. Fox has a B.Sc. from Queen’s in Biology, and 2 years of education from U of T in Sociology. For now, let’s ignore the the alarming number of red flags raised by someone with an undergrad degree and no further scientific training labelling themselves as an “expert” in evolution. But later in his biography, he goes on to arrogantly state that he “proved” that the state of the economy is linked to what is popular in music. Any self-respecting scientist knows that one study can not “prove” anything and correlation does not equal causation.

His talk does offer some interesting points and observations, but like most TED talks, it is nothing more than a half-baked theory packaged into a pretty powerpoint presentation. Since Mr. Fox’s TED talk is the foremost piece on nightclub psychology, I’m going to break it down, correct his mistakes, and then add a great deal more of my own research to it to form an actual conclusion.

In the first segment of the video, Mr. Fox talks about the effects of alcohol and how they enhance the more primitive drives of our brain: food, water, sex, and aggression. He incorrectly states that alcohol makes us crave greasy food because we evolved to consume carbohydrates in order to survive. As numerous studies have shown, the reason we eat such terrible food after we’ve been drinking is because alcohol inhibits our sense of feeling full, so we naturally are driven to foods that are going to be more filling. Additionally, a person’s past experiences with food also drive their choices, but nowhere to be found in any of the literature is the notion that evolution drives our drunken hunger.

Aside from food, Mr. Fox states that alcohol enhances our desire for sex and aggression, which is no mystery to anyone who’s ever had a drink in their life. Next, Mr. Fox describes music’s role in the production of oxytocin for listeners at a nightclub. While it is true that music elicits positive emotions and the resulting surge of oxytocin that comes along with that, oxytocin can also amplify fear and anxiety, which is what nightclubs simultaneously manufacture for their benefit.

For every elated person dancing in a nightclub, there is someone there who is afraid and anxious. Why would a nightclub want to make its patrons anxious and afraid? Doesn’t that defeat the message of providing a great experience? While it may seem counterintuitive given the advertised purpose of a nightclub, a great deal of their sales and revenue can be attributed to fear, which I’ve spoken about in previous article as being a powerful marketing tool. First let’s examine how nightclubs manufacture fear and anxiety.

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1) Nightclubs are dark.

I don’t know many adults that are afraid of the dark, but this mostly applies to when they’re in their own home. When you put a person into a room packed full of strangers and then turn off most of the lights, you’re going to increase the anxiety and fear of everyone in that room.

(c) Karl Larson, Powers Imagery

2) They’re crowded.

Most nightclubs pack in people as much as fire regulations allow, and the dance floor of a nightclub is prime sexual marketplace real estate, so this is where most of the patrons will be. When you’re in the dark and in a crowded place, your sense of personal comfort decreases and your anxiety increases.

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3) They’re loud.

The third way that nightclubs impact your comfort level. A loud atmosphere where you can’t hear anything but the music and a few random snippets of shouted conversation decreases your personal comfort level and increases your anxiety. The human ear was not designed to live in an environment as loud as a nightclub, so even though you might only be in a club for a few hours, this exposure is enough to put you on edge. A loud environment hampers our ability to communicate, which can frustrate us and cause further discomfort.

So, knowing that darkness, close quarters, and excessive noise contribute to fear for visitors at a nightclub, the question now becomes: why do you manufacture fear?

Alcohol.

Nightclubs create the problem and then sell you the solution.

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Girls go to nightclubs to dance and possibly meet guys. Guys go to nightclubs to meet girls and possibly dance. Since the onus is on guys to approach and meet girls, the pressure on them is much greater. Since alcohol reduces inhibitions, it is the natural choice to boost a guy’s courage towards interactions with the fairer sex.

In a situation where the three major anxiety and fear inducing factors are taken away, say at an outdoor barbecue, a guy may still need a few drinks to muster up the courage to speak to a hot girl. Factor in an environment of increased anxiety and discomfort, and you amplify the need for alcohol, which is why binge drinking has become so commonplace at nightclubs now. I won’t even begin to touch on the influx of MDMA, and now cocaine, in recent years, but essentially, music alone doesn’t produce enough of an emotional high, so many people are now pushing it to the extreme with these drugs.

In addition to providing alcohol, nightclubs first lure in male clientele with the premise of meeting beautiful women there. Promotional photos seen on the nightclub’s website or Facebook page are all filtered: the bulk of them are of attractive girls at the club, with a few pictures of groups of guys having fun or guys posing with the girls there.

Many nightclubs hire  attractive girls to influence male clientele to go to the nightclub and drive drink sales.

Many nightclubs hire attractive girls to influence male clientele to go to the nightclub and drive drink sales.

Higher profile nightclubs even hire attractive girls to simply go to the nightclubs to increase the quality of women there; these women are essentially plants in the crowd working to get guys there to purchase more drinks and drive drink sales by flirting with them. And it works wonders: no motivating factor sells more than sex does, but fear is a close second. Combine the two, and you have a potent combination, so it’s no wonder why the nightclub business is booming.

The reason why nightclubs are so successful is because of an economics principle I spoke of in an earlier article. The Pareto Principle (more commonly known as the 80/20 rule) is a tool that can be applied to a variety of large sample sizes. Essentially it boils down to this: 20% of x is responsible for 80% of y. For example, many businesses find that 20% of their customers are responsible for 80% of their business. Why do you think virtually every major retail or fast food company tries to push a loyalty program? They want to add you to their 20% of regular customers so that they maximize the amount of business they receive from you. This same principle can be applied to a nightclub, and more specifically, hookup culture.

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle

Think of your group of friends extended. Let’s say you’re moderately popular at school and have about 50 people you consider friends, or at least drinking buddies. How many of them routinely hook up with girls? How many occasionally do? How many almost never do? If you happen to roll with a group of guys who are all tall, handsome, and confident, your results may be skewed.  Now if you were to increase your sample size to a more statistically relevant level, say, your entire campus, you would actually find that 20% of the guys are responsible for 80% of the hookups. This means that the remaining 80% of guys on campus are left to scrap over 20% of the total hookups that will occur.

Quite a shocking revelation, but when you apply the math and put on your nightclub owner’s hat, it makes perfect sense. Eighty percent of your male clientele are likely lacking with their current sex lives, so 80% of the guys walking the streets at night are actively buying what you’re selling: a chance to hook up with an attractive girl. And due to the Pareto Principle, no amount of alcohol, cologne, or cheesy pick up lines is going to radically shift that, so the majority of the guys walking through your doors will also leave empty handed that night. Many will be bitter because of that, but sex is a powerful motivator, and most guys will be back next week to try again.

If you came here looking for secrets to hooking up with girls at nightclubs, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that simply is not my place in the world. Due to the explosion of hookup culture and the general acceptance of casual sex in the 18-35 demographic, the pickup artist industry is booming right now. Unfortunately, it’s gotten to the point where any guy who has read The Game now thinks he’s now an expert at picking up girls. Recently, a group of self-proclaimed “pickup-artists” stormed the Eaton Centre and started approaching girls there en masse, which prompted security to remove them from the premises. The industry and movement has become dishonest, abstract, and downright creepy.

The main characters in

The main characters in “The Game”. Neil Strauss, the author, is in the python print suit.

What most people forget is that there are hundreds of factors that go into successfully hooking up with someone, and most are not in your control. No matter what you read on the internet or whatever bro science/pseudo evolutionary biology jargon you come across (just like the aforementioned TED talk by Mr. Fox), remember that the best thing you can do is play the best hand with the cards you’re dealt. Despite what is being pitched to you by a lot of these pickup artist snake oil salesmen, the only thing that you can control is yourself.

There are more important things in life than sleeping with hot girls, and while we may place our sexual experiences on a pedestal when we’re young, over time we should grow to realize that we can find pleasure in simple things in life, too. For now, go out, enjoy your times out at the club, but don’t get drawn into the fear trap that these places create. Focus on having fun for yourself, and stop putting so much pressure on yourself to hook up with somebody. If it happens, great, if not, work to become emotionally mature enough that you can still go to sleep happy that night. Your value as a human should not solely based on your ability to hook up with somebody.

Isolation and the Dangers of The One Man Wolf Pack: Why Men Need Other Men

Unknown-2When Justin Bourque murdered 3 RCMP officers and wounded two more on June 4th, 2014, he was acting out of anger and hatred towards police and authority as a whole. He had a history of drug use, unemployment, and he spent a great deal of his time playing violent video games, but despite how the media spins it, these were not the causes of his outburst. This tragic event comes hot on the heels of the Isla Vista shootings perpetrated by Elliot Rodger. Similar to Mr. Rodger, who received accusations of being a mentally ill mysogynist, Mr. Bourque was accused of being gun-crazy, police-hating man who obsessed with violent video games and influenced by heavy metal bands such as Megadeth.

Megadeth: not the cause of a shooting rampage

Megadeth: not the cause of a shooting rampage

In situations of terror, which all mass shootings in essence are, we love to point the finger at surface problems. Hatred of women, hatred of police, violent video games, angry music, and mental health are frequently used as explanations for the behaviour of these individuals. These factors are not the cause of the main problem with the shooters: they are a result of the problem. People aren’t born hating women or police, they aren’t born being drawn to violent video games or angry music, and while they may be born with mental health issues, you cannot blame these individuals’ behaviour solely on the fact that they are mentally unwell.

This would attach an awful stereotype to those with Asperger’s, other forms of Autism, depression, and other mental health issues. Many people live healthy, violence-free lives with mental health disorders, and just because someone is mentally unwell, does not mean they have psychopathic, violent tendencies. Most violent crime is committed by people who are simply angry, in a compromised situation, or who have other issues completely unrelated to the chemistry imbalance in their brain.

When a terrorist attack occurs in the Middle East, why do we not immediately think these individuals performing these attacks are mentally unwell, violent video game playing psychopaths? Aside from being overtly racist or ignorant, we fail to understand what an act of terror is at its core: acts of terrorism are a cry for attention; for glory, even if the individual will forever live on in infamy. But what is the root of all of this violent behaviour?

Steven Pinker: violence has declined

Steven Pinker: violence has declined

We have, as a whole, become increasingly less violent as a species. Even since the end of the Cold War in 1989, there have been marked decreases in violence worldwide, despite what the news will lead you to believe. Ancient times were full of torture, murder, rape, and other violent acts, and many of these are present in the most published book of all time: The Bible. Despite the reverence and immense reach that The Bible has worldwide, humans are not heavily influenced by the violent chapters of the Old Testament. Human societies changed to prize commerce, cosmopolitanism, and we have embraced ideals that are more respectful of the female viewpoint. We have grown to value a more civilized world over millennia, but with our increasingly connected society, one new cause of violent behaviour has reared its head: isolation.

If you examine the personal histories of each major public shooter, you will find a trend of loneliness and isolation among these individuals. Isolation could be caused by a multitude of factors: Justin Bourque was from a large family that was home-schooled, so socially he was lacking in basic skills. Elliot Rodger did have Asperger’s, but his youth was plagued with issues of isolation, loneliness, and bullying. Seung-Hui Cho, the student who carried out the 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre, was isolated from a very young age due to selective mutism, a social anxiety disorder that hindered his speech. Cho was also bullied repeatedly during high school, furthering his isolation.

This is not to say that home-schooling breeds psychopathic killers, or everyone with Asperger’s is a lonely, misogynistic killer in the making, but these factors all created a situation of extreme loneliness and mental anguish for the perpetrators. The one factor that ties all these examples and more together is isolation. Even if you consider the case of many suicide bombers and other terrorists, many are alone, isolated, and afraid. When you are in this situation, you are more prone to influence, especially from a source that promises security and glory. This does not mean that these individuals are stupid – quite the opposite, in fact.

A high level of intelligence often equates to a strong desire to search for answers and new information. This is normally a very positive thing; curiosity fostered by high levels of intellect is a fantastic thing to harness. In a situation of isolation, individuals possessing a high level of intelligence and a great degree of curiosity can be lead down a dangerous path. Their brain is constantly problem-solving and searching for answers to their problems. Because of their lack of social IQ,  violence is often the only logical solution they can think of.

These attacks are not planned by dumb people: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (of Columbine infamy) were both straight-A students,Cho was an exceptionally talented student in mathematics, and Rodger’s manifesto, although disturbing and twisted, was eloquent and well-written. These individuals knew what they were doing: months and even years of planning went into these attacks. All that these violent outbursts were was a dramatic cry for attention; unfortunately, no one listened.

Isolation can warp even the brightest minds, and a great deal psychological research has detailed the dangers of being alone in the world. Many adverse health conditions such as cardiac disease, chronic anxiety, and stress occur at increased levels if an individual leads an isolated life.

Elliot Rodger thought very highly of himself, but he was still depressed.

Elliot Rodger thought very highly of himself, but he was still depressed.

Relationship status is paramount for men in the world, and it was reported that a man’s self-esteem is more heavily influenced by his relationship status than a woman’s, yet men do not stake as much energy in their self-worth when it comes to relationships. So while a single man can think very highly of himself, he may still be depressed. Look no further than Elliot Rodger for an example of this. He thought very highly of himself, was a pathological narcissist, yet he was miserable. Depression is chronically underreported by men, as a result of the view men hold that seeking help is a form of weakness. Even men in relationships were less likely than their female counterparts to share their feelings.

If isolation and loneliness is the problem, what is the solution? There are many factors to control for when trying to assess and repair the damage many of these individuals have suffered, but I believe at the core, it comes down reconnecting with the world, specifically with the company of other men.

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If you’ll recall a famous example, in the movie The Hangover, Alan makes his famous “Wolfpack” speech, to the surprise of Doug, Stu, and Phil. Alan is clearly socially inept and lonely, but he is overjoyed that he gets to spend a weekend in Las Vegas with 3 regular guys. It gives him a sense of belonging and confidence he had never felt before, and it is what makes his transformation over the trilogy believable. If these gunmen had a more supportive network and friends and were themselves motivated to connect with others, their stress, anxiety, and resulting violent behaviour could have been reduced.

A group of guys look out for one another, help each other with their problems, and above all, are brutally honest with each one another. Honesty is a powerful tool in addressing problems, as it can often hurt in the short term, but in the long term in can help a man recognize his problems and correct them, knowing in his heart that his friends are simply looking out for his best interests. Men challenge each other: in sport, on opinions, or with competing for the attention of women. We feed off each other’s strengths, and address each other’s weaknesses.

Many men today are isolated and alone, although they may not think that. Due to more careers being isolating desk jobs rather than farm or factory work, humans in general are less able to interact on the job. As a result, many humans resort to the Internet as a source of social interaction, but this can be harmful.

As I spoke of in a previous article, escapism is a damaging habit if not controlled. It can give the illusion of community through online forums, of which almost every infamous gunmen was a prominent member. These fora provide a place for discussion with like-minded individuals, and while many are excellent resources for information as well as sources of community, some forums exist and propagate angry, harmful ideas. Real human interaction is what was lacking, but due to the presence of these online communities, the gunmen felt that they belonged somewhere and were accepted, despite the fact that none of the “friends” they were interacting with had ever seen them face-to-face.

A study of Swedish teenagers in 2008 reported that male teenagers placed a higher value in same-gender relationships; hanging out with the guys was really important to their self-esteem and well-being. Despite the belief that the world was evil and everyone deserved to be hated that was shared by many of these gunmen, what they failed to realize was that people were precisely what they needed to heal themselves.

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Bullying will continue to be a problem as long as humans continue to be born different from one another, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot halt this isolation that is increasing for both boys and girls. One of the best gifts someone can give a child is confidence in themselves, and it is paramount that we do not abandon children at an early age because they are different. As a former camp counsellor, I personally witnessed the growth and development of hundreds of children, many of whom first walked in looking terrified of their new environment.

What we need to remember is that people never stop growing. High school and university are especially critical periods of growth, but adulthood can be just as precarious for a human. For those of you who are still in university, don’t cut ties with your group of friends even if you move far away for a job. Plan reunions, stay in touch, and keep that contact with each other as a regular part of your life. For those of you who fear they may be isolated: reach out in your community, volunteer, approach your co-workers about going out together. Find a source of human interaction available to you that is comfortable, but try to push beyond that level of comfort bit by bit.

For those of you who are fortunate to have a core group of friends close by: hang on to them, they provide more value to your life than you can ever know. Do not be afraid to reach out to those who may be feeling isolated. You could make a profound difference in their life and change their path forever.

It is impossible to predict these events with perfect certainty, but what we should be striving for is to reduce the chance that they ever occur again. It won’t end with stricter gun control, it won’t end by banning violent video games, and it won’t end by stricter policies on bullying. It ends with identifying those who are isolated and helping them connect with others as a fellow human being.

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When I was a camp counsellor, we had an acronym to remember when were greeting our campers, especially first-timers, on the opening day of a session: WESTI.

W – Wide Smile
E – Eye Contact
S – Stoop to their level
T – Tell them about yourself
I – Introduce them to others

No anti-gun law can stand to achieve what a simple introduction can.

Date a Girl.

This is my tongue-in-cheek response to all of the “Date a girl who _____” articles that have been popping up lately. I refuse to categorize. Let’s just keep it simple.

Date a girl.

You can do stuff together. Go traveling, or not. Maybe you hate trying new things, and if she does too, I suppose a night in with wine and Netflix will be right for you two. Your girl could be scared of flying, scared of the jungle, or scared of being alone. But as long as you’re dating a girl, just make sure she likes to bone. She might not care about seeing the Taj Mahal, or even Katmandu, and that’s great news if you don’t, too. But maybe she wants to see the world, feel like she’s been changed for the better, and if you’re ok with her leaving, I’d say let her! And if you want to tag along because adventure gives you excitement- go! You’re dating a girl, after all; you can still do that from inside a tent.

Date a girl. You get to impress her with your fancy car or your large collection of books. She could impress you with how smart she is, and how she garners other men’s looks. If you date a girl, you get to spend money on her! New dresses, new shoes, or a new coat made of fur. Perhaps she hates materialism and trying to bought. Or maybe it was that time you cheated and she had you caught. Your girl could like to read classic novels, cook gourmet meals, or knit her friends ugly headbands. Maybe she likes vintage wine, vodka, or just doing keg stands.

Date a girl. She could be a doctor, a lawyer, or a teacher. She could sell real estate, or do research, but I doubt she’s a preacher. Your girl could have a great job, a stressful one, or even no job at all. Regardless of her situation, she’s got you by the balls. The other girls at work could be mean or her boss could be an asshole. Just sit there, pretend to listen to her, and then remind her that the glass is half-full.

Date a girl. Tell her she’s beautiful, she’s not fat, and that you totally want to go with her to hot yoga. Encourage her to try pole-dancing, belly-dancing, and then try find any excuse you can to ensure that you never go to hot yoga. Run or cycle together; get out there and enjoy the beautiful sights that the world has to offer. If that’s not you or your girl’s thing, that’s fine; but at least make it a challenge for your girl to get you off of her.

Date a girl. She’ll tell you that you’re rude, tell you how to dress, and nag you enough about everything to put you in a state of duress. Try your best to put up with it – she does put with you, after all – but remember to put your foot down when she won’t let you watch football. You’ll argue over the toilet seat’s position, who does the dishes, and how many pillows are on the bed. But seriously, who cares about that shit? She’s about to give you head!

Date a girl. She’s probably read Twilight, Harry Potter, and 50 Shades of Grey. So if you head back to her house and she wants to tie you up and whip you, start running. Run far, far away. But if you and her are both into that stuff, then I’m really happy that you both share a hobby. Just never bring it up in public; I don’t give a shit how kinky your sex is, Robbie! Find a girl who respects you for who you are, and loves the little things that make you tick. But above all, find a total animal in the sheets, who wants nothing more than your dick.

Date a girl. Any type, any size, any race, any kind; it shouldn’t matter to you. Whatever the things are that your girl likes to do, she’s a girl, and you’re dating her. Lucky, lucky you.