F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and the Economics of Modern Dating

ECONOMICS OF MODERN DATING | One of my COVID-19 lockdown activities included binge-watching the classic Friends sitcom.

Rewatching the TV’s most well loved TV series in 2020 was a wave of nostalgia. It was the first American TV show I have watched, and it’s still friggin’ hilarious. I am impressed by the timelessness of Friends.

Sure, there were a few scenes and storylines where you can feel the age of the series.

I mused at how F.R.I.E.N.D.S. would be so different if it was produced in the 2000s. The cast, who are all white and good-looking, would be more diverse.

Joey would be on Tinder all the time, Chandler would have a Twitter account, Rachel would be an Instagram influencer, and Phoebe would be posting her song compositions on her YouTube Channel (Subscribe now).

They would probably still live with parents. Or stuck living with an ex because rent in New York is too damn expensive.

From the Friends reruns, it seemed like dating in the nineties was much, much simpler. People actually approach people in a coffee shop or a bar. Friends aren’t the names on your social media list–they were ones you actually talk to. in person. on a regular basis.

Fast forward to 2020, modern dating has become an inexhaustible spectrum revolving heavily around apps:casually dating, “just hanging out,” laissez-faire, FWBs, cuddle buddies, hotline blings, one-sided relationships, on-again, off-again, zip code affairs.

But are these innovations a good thing?

The Economics of Modern Dating

Never in history have we had more choices–in where we’ll live, in what we’ll do for a living, in beliefs we will prescribe to, and in life partners we will be with.

Now we have more freedom to choose what we want. There are now several dating apps and websites; and an endless pool of dates within a 10-km radius to kill time with.

1. Paradox of Choice

A 2000 behavioral economics study was conducted where they displayed 24 jam varieties vs. 6 jam varieties in different tables (HBR). Results show that shoppers were more stressed out in making buying decisions with 24 varieties versus just six, and it showed in the sales: the 24 samples drew in a larger crowd, but only 3% of shoppers actually purchased the jam, while in the table with 6 jams, 30% of shoppers did.

The study proves that choice makes us more miserable. More options are overwhelming, and psychologists have a term for it: the famous ‘paradox of choice’, resulting in choice paralysis.

How many times have we scanned movie titles on Netflix, only to declare: ‘UGH, There’s nothing to watch!‘

Nowadays, our FOMO has made us constantly look over our shoulders for a better thing. This is exacerbated by the fact that Instagram is filled with gorgeous men and women who seems to live better lives than ours.

Modern dating has now become a seemingly endless conveyor belt of choice. On the other hand, has it made us better decision-makers? The supply has become too vast and the incentive to make one choice has become too small.

2. Buyer’s Remorse

Let’s say we find someone we do like, match with them, hit it off well in chat, and finally, decide to go on an actual date.

Another issue modern daters face is being hit with ‘buyer’s remorse’…even if the date did end up really well. In modern dating, everyone is aware that there are a lot of options in queue.

People often end up thinking: ‘Sure, X seems great. But what if I find Y or Z to be better, hotter, or richer? Maybe I should check Tinder again and find him!’

The problem goes both ways. We might find ourselves thinking: “our great date is such a great catch, maybe they have a lot of options, not just myself!!! I must beat them to it, and date other people too!”

3. Social Capital and Verified Checks

How do we verify a person’s social capital, if you haven’t met or interacted with them yet?

Simple–online due diligence, honey. A few quick searches and a glance on their social media profile will give us all the information we need.

Social capital has now come in the form of: number of followers, photo quality, and that blue check badge.

Who cares if this person was a bit of a racist? He has a blue verified tick on Instagram! He’s basically a celebrity!

People now barter selfies (and nudes)–it no longer matters if there is some form of relationship involved. The pics are not the main medium; rather, it is the attention is the commodity exchanged here.

4. Technology as a Blanket of Security

In the digital age, manners have gone out the window. People are treated as commodities, and you can dump them regardless of feelings.

Technology provides a blanket of security for people; the internet has given the impression that we are safe behind the screen to hurt people.

This is why ‘ghosting’ has become a popular phenomenon, because honestly, in-person confrontation can get ugly and messy.

He or she was just a Tinder match, anyway–one can always find a new one and open the app while commuting on the way back home.

What then?

In the lens of the economics of modern dating, more isn’t always better.

Our grandparents are still together for 60 years, they lived in the same village. They didn’t have our problems.

Human society has changed so much but our brains haven’t evolved that fast to be capable of processing a vast array of choices. Evolution likes to take its time There’s just too much clutter out there, too much baggage from others that you have to handle.

Quality over quantity. Be guided with Marie Kondo’s cleaning philosophy: Simplify. Keep only the ones that spark joy in your life.

Throw out contacts you don’t need. (don’t recycle!!!!)

I’m not telling you to devolve–if you did that, I would probably curse you to a life of celibacy. Adapt to the times, but be mindful and frugal of who you spend it with.

Love is a very expensive investment. You’re required to spend a lot of your resources (time, effort, and money) with that one person, and expect nothing in return.

Be savvy in your spending, and be just as savvy with who you trust your heart to.

This article also appeared on Medium. Follow me there! I talk about travel, life, business and finance.

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