More and more our digital dating world keeps coming up with new terms for bad behavior. Thought it was just happening to millennials? Think again. My Happiness Hypothesis study found that it is happening across the globe to both men and women for millennials and GenX. Many are experiencing it, but don’t know there is a term for it. It is creating the paradox effect in dating: the illusion of having more social engagement, social capital, and popularity; but masking one’s true persona and intent. Since some are interfacing digitally more than physically it is much easier to emotionally manipulate others because they are reliant on what I call “Vanity Validation“. Their digital persona is constantly seeking more validation through electronic likes/swipes, not life experiences.
Social media creates global connectedness, sharing life events, dating ease; but it also can create lower self-esteem, obsessive social stalking, and “Vanity Validation”. Has social media facilitated suboptimal dating behaviors? Have we become too reliant on checking social? How has it impacted our dating lives? Has it become easier to ghost, bench, gaslight or breadcrumb in today’s digital world? Are we causing self-inflicted pain while dating? For the Happiness Hypothesis Study, I conducted in-depth interviews with men and women, ranging from ages 28-73, that are active online dating app users and found that:
- 80% reported it being easier to ghost, bench, gaslight or breadcrumb because of the lack of communication and face-to-face interaction
- 80% of millennials reported having experienced ghosting, benching, gaslighting or breadcrumbing firsthand
- 45% reported the average length of dates in between ghosting someone was 8
- 50% reported an average of at least 3 months before reaching out again to the person they ghosted
Meanwhile, the other person waits to hear back and wonder why they weren’t worth a response. These current dating trends are just an extension of how we use our social media. We’re treating people like we do our social media streams. The shiniest object is what we stop at, then move onto the next shiny object. But, there is a vicious cycle to these dating patterns. What fuels it? Social media! Being connected to the person that has ghosted, benched, gaslit or breadcrumbed can have detrimental effects on your self-esteem. When I asked how often do you check the social feeds of those that have expressed some form of interest in you? 90% said daily. Once they have had a ghosting, benching, gaslighting or breadcrumbing experience, it becomes weekly for 70%.
Are we creating a false reality? What is it doing to our sense of self? You’re a backup plan, but they text or reach out often enough to confuse you just in case their plan doesn’t work out. Are we becoming more narcissistic? Are we becoming more insecure? Has this behavior become normative? Is technology driving dating, sex and emotion?