Sunday, February 17, 2008

Illusion of Control

I had a conversation the other day about online dating. Specifically, why do it?

There was a whole lot of subtext to that question - assumptions about the kinds of people who sign up for an online dating site and about their motivations.

Of course, it's easy to think that people who put themselves out there using that venue not only need help in some way (meaning they, for whatever reason, have trouble meeting people in more "traditional" ways), but also that they are motivated by a strong desire to be in a relationship.

No doubt that is very often true.

But there is another side to it. The best, funniest statement I ever heard about online dating was this: "Sometimes it's fun to spend uncommitted time at my computer seeing all the boys who want me but can't have me."

It's a way of having the satisfaction and enjoyment of taking action, without incurring the obligation and effort of actually doing do.

I read an article once about how happiness is derived from a sense of control over oneself and one's environment. Doing things, no matter how trivial, can provide a sense of momentary control which is, in turn, a "good enough" facsimile of happiness. For example, washing the dishes, finishing chores, completing a spreadsheet, getting a manicure/pedicure. The article did further state that such feelings of control are pure illusion, but that the illusion can sometimes be enough.

Washing the dishes certainly doesn't mean that one actually does have control over one's life, but no one can deny the feeling of satisfaction gained from looking at a clean kitchen where once there was only the chaos of dirty dishes.

It is much the same with signing onto a dating site and exerting a small measure of control of whom you "reject" online, and whom you might actually meet for a drink with your favorite bartender hovering protectively nearby.

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