I was chatting with someone the other day about online dating and we came up with an analogy (or is it a metaphor?) that was pretty much on point and addresses some of the major problems for people who, like me, are using digital tools to help them meet people.
Online dating is like going shopping for something at a major mall or shopping centre. You think in advance about what you want and then head out to find it. You arrive, go into one of the first shops you see and find exactly – EXACTLY – what you’ve been looking for within minutes. If you were really just looking to buy that thing then you’d pick it up and go home with a smile on your face, mission accomplished.
Only FOMO kicks in. FOMO, for the normal people out there, is Fear Of Missing Out. Essentially, in this story that means you sort of know it’s the right thing for you, but there are so many other options out there that you feel like you owe it to yourself to look in a few more shops, to browse and compare a little before making a decision. After all, there could be an even better option just around the corner.
You then have a few options:
- Buy the first thing anyway and go home. What more could you possibly be looking for? Stop regretting potential opportunities and remember that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
- Buy the first one, but keep the receipt and browse a little more anyway. That way you don’t miss out on that deal, but if something else catches your eye you’ve not missed out and can return the other one within 30 days without problem as long as it’s still in a sellable condition.
- Buy the first one and then buy a second one if it catches your eye. Perhaps a third too. As long as you’ve got space for them you can buy as many as you want, use them and decide which one to keep later.
- Leave it on the shelf at first and then compare every single other one not against your original requirements but against that first example. It was really good, after all, though this will mean you are never really happy with another option which actually could’ve met your actual needs far better.
- Pop a load of options in your trolley at the same time without committing to any of them and wait for a later date to make a decision. As far as you’re concerned there’s no problem having so much in the trolley, as long as you’re not telling the shop you’re committing to any one option just yet.
- See loads of more than suitable options all over the place, but as none of them is 100% perfect against your original criteria leave them all on the shelf despite them being 99% perfect.
It’s moves like these which give online dating a bad name. Call it what you will, but it does lead to the idea that there is always something better just around the corner so you shouldn’t settle right now. With thousands upon thousands of people looking for love around you at this very second, that perfect option could be just a swipe (or 153 swipes) away, waiting with their key to you own personal love lock.
Only, they probably aren’t. With online dating being so superficial at times, there’s a good chance that even if they were out there that they wouldn’t swipe right, or even if they did that they wouldn’t message, or that you’d be caught in a sea of attention from your competitors, or that there will be one single thing about you (or four in my case) which will put them off before they get to know you, or they might have switched into “only dating” mode, or; well, the list goes on.
If you are reading this and online dating, ask yourself where are you really at right now and what would you really do if you came across the perfect option in the very first shop you visited. Would you really abandon your shopping trip tomorrow with so many stores yet to be wandered around? So many treasures yet to uncover?
There’s no right or wrong answer to that, but knowing where you’re really at is fairer both on you and your date. If you are happy to keep browsing for now and simply enjoying the shopping experience that’s fine; just know that and be honest. If you really are looking for that perfect combination of factors which you’ll know as soon as you see them and be happy to snap up, great.
Just be careful that if you do end up with multiple options in mind that you don’t mess with the packaging too much (to stretch this analogy a little further). If goods aren’t in a saleable condition when you try to return them then there’ll be nothing but arguments and accusations when it comes to trying to give them back so others could buy them. No-one will care that another option better suits your needs; each potential purchase will be judged on its own merits.
And if you do find something you like then for heaven’s sake stop browsing! No good EVER comes of that. You’ll no doubt find another option that may or may not meet your needs better and you’ll either take it up, ruining your original investment in the process, or you’ll spend your whole life regretting not doing so.
Turns out I feel all of this about real life shopping too. Thank goodness for online shopping instead.