Dilettante 42: Singles night

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In the past two decades since I wrote this column about a singles’ meet-and-greet night in the Bay Area, computer life has turned dating into another avenue for addiction, at least for some.

Date or don’t date whoever you want but let’s all agree that positive interaction on social media causes dopamine to flood the system, and that intermittent variable rewards are the basic patterning for addiction.

Meaning, it’s good sometimes and bad sometimes, and it’s there sometimes and not there sometimes, and that’s how you get hooked. And with the advent of the World Wide Web, you can do this to yourself over and over and over.

Pushing and swiping those buttons creates a superhighway for the dopamine-challenged to contort themselves, and for those with preoccupied attachment and dismissive-avoidant attachment to find each other, so that the latter can torture groups of the former until everyone’s an emotionally imbalanced mess.

Or at least that’s what I’ve observed casually from outside the fray. Mainly my poor attitude toward online dating is about distrusting Facebook (and therefore Instagram and Tinder) entirely.

But don’t take my word for it; there’s Psychology Today’s article that says ”Tinder hijacks the brain’s system of reward learning to keep individuals hooked.” One study found that Tinder users have lower self-esteem than non-users.

Yes, the good side is having access to a larger pool of single people. It’s a revolutionary development in dating — as long as one can control oneself, behave ethically, and avoid ghosting because that’s terrible.

This refinery29.com article gets to the heart of the matter: Adrenaline. Online dating feels like a video game, and maybe that takes away some humanity in the equation somewhere.

Maybe that’s why barn dances used to be the thing to do and should be again. Seems to me you’d want to catch a whiff of someone’s pheromones, and check if they have shark eyes, and see who their friends are before giving them access to your life and information. But maybe I’m old-fashioned.

Click through to read “Fool for love,” originally published in the SF Bay Guardian on April 14, 1999.

This is the 42nd entry in my “twenty years ago this week” project from when I was a nightlife columnist at the Bay Guardian, once the country’s largest family-owned weekly newspaper. These “Dilettante” clips, compiled on my portfolio page, create a serial portrait of San Francisco culture at the turn of the century (1997-2001).

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