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How Social Networking is Ruining Your Sex Life



Foursquare buttons


I’m currently reading Gary Shteyngart’s hit novel A Super Sad True Love Story, a dystopian tale about some future time in New York. America is a place where people gather in crowds only to stream live on their personal devices, compulsively producing a blather of titillating talk that can differentiate them. Most conversation is just fodder for personal broadcasting, designed to pull an audience. (Also, as an aside, the sexual mores are even more outrageous, with women typically wearing Onionskin jeans, totally transparent pants under which they are naked, and Total Surrender panties, which fly off at the press of a button. The book is very funny, I recommend it.) What comes through all the frenetic networking is a profound sense of disconnection and loneliness. The characters are always in touch, constantly informed, but thoroughly isolated emotionally.

Is Social Media actually making us lonely?

Last week I attended a lecture by Eric Clemons, a Wharton professor of Information Strategy who researches monetization of the web. In his talk Monetizing the Net: Creating Profits Through Anything But Advertising he focused on the macro trends, describing what he called “one and a half blockbuster revenue generation models” currently dominating online revenue streams. The first is the third party payer business model, where one party provides something that a second party (customer) needs to reach a third (seller). Google is the obvious example, but there are others, including hotels.com, opentable.com, groupon.com, etc.

What I found really interesting was his description of the other “half model,” one that is rapidly growing. That is the social networks/gaming axis and Clemons is particularly interested in the rapid profit growth in the area of virtual and social game experiences. Virtual goods are expected to hit $1.6 billion this year in the U.S. ($4 billion worldwide). Social gaming startups, all new in the last three years, will account for $835 million of that. (Source)

First we have the behemoths of online gaming, several years old now:

Second Life

19.2 million users

1st Quarter 2010 User Transaction revenue: $160 million

59% male, 41% female

World of Warcraft

11.5 million subscribers

$800 million in revenue/year from North America and Europe

80% male, 20% female

Both of these games are highly competitive. WOW is blatantly so – a game in the pure sense. People pay a subscription fee to play, and there’s also a black market in virtual goods like gold. In Second Life, revenues are generated by users who craft an alternate identity and invest in their avatar’s success. Large sums are spent not only on virtual material goods, but also on special synchronizers that give an avatar smooth dance moves, or even extraordinary sexual technique, for example. The Second Life economy is sophisticated enough to have had bankruptcies, lawsuits, etc., all over virtual goods.

FarmVille

Within the last couple of years, new applications have generated enormous buzz. FarmVille, like Mafia Wars before it, is a game accessed via Facebook.

78 million monthly members

est. $600 million in revenue per year

Typical user age:  18-35

40% male, 60% female

If you’ve managed to miss playing FarmVille, you’ve probably seen friends’ updates come across your Facebook feed. I’ve been repeatedly asked to help women in their 50s get the last nail they need for their chicken coop, or some similarly goofy request.  You may have seen the recent news story about a 22 year-old woman who shook her 3 month-old son to death after his crying interrupted her while she was playing FarmVille.

Zynga, the company that makes FarmVille, generates revenue by getting addicted players to pony up for the virtual goods needed to build a farm. Many have incurred debt to acquire virtual goods in FarmVille. Professor Clemons admitted that he couldn’t quite grasp the benefit – he likened buying virtual goods in order to win a game to paying a friend to throw a chess match your way. Where is the sport?

A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz, an instructor in the Media Study Department at SUNY Buffalo, suggested that it’s not about play, it’s about social pressure.

“The secret to Farmville’s popularity is neither gameplay nor aesthetics. Farmville is popular because in entangles users in a web of social obligations. When users log into Facebook, they are reminded that their neighbors have sent them gifts, posted bonuses on their walls, and helped with each others’ farms. In turn, they are obligated to return the courtesies. As the French sociologist Marcel Mauss tells us, gifts are never free: they bind the giver and receiver in a loop of reciprocity. It is rude to refuse a gift, and ruder still to not return the kindness. We play Farmville, then, because we are trying to be good to one another. We play Farmville because we are polite, cultivated people.”

Jerry Langton of MSN Tech and Gadgets believes that people get caught up in the stress of fearing failure on FarmVille. He says, “Part of the reason FarmVille is so addictive is because if crops are not tended to at the right time, they can die, making all of the farmer’s previous work in vain. The desire to prevent such a huge loss keeps players coming back regularly. “At times it’s almost psychotic because you think, I have to get home and milk the cows or they’ll explode,” said Robert Prowse, a television producer in Toronto who plays FarmVille every day.

And FarmVille players keep coming back — even when they might not feel like gaming. “I generally look in once a day to make sure nothing’s ‘died,’ needs harvesting or to see if friends have gifted me anything,” said one woman. “It’s momentum that’s propelling me at this point; I feel like I’ve started something I have to maintain.”

Foursquare

Another phenomenon is Foursquare, a mobile social game that has generated incredible buzz.

4 million users in first year

Not yet monetized

Urbanites aged 24-35

Of course, the developers haven’t figured out how to monetize it yet, having rejected the obvious strategy of embedding ads in the game. Like Twitter and other new social media apps, the philosophy is “If we build it, the money will come.”

Foursquare has been called “an evolutionary leap for loyalty programs.” The idea behind Foursquare is to build loyalty to businesses by providing incentives for people to visit those businesses. For example, when you go to your local Starbucks you “check in” via GPS on your smartphone, and your Foursquare “friends” are notified of your location. I’m not sure how this promotes friendship – am I supposed to drop everything and join you for a caramel latte?

In any case, if you have the most checkins per month of anyone at that Starbucks, you get to be Mayor, and you get a virtual badge for that honor. You’ve got to stay on top of it, though. If someone else checks in more than you do, they can steal your mayoral badge away. One young man described his experience being mayor of a popular ice cream store for a month. He was “checking in” 20+ times a month, buying himself an ice cream each time, only to be deposed by another Foursquare competitor. He spent about $70 and gained 5 lbs. each month for his efforts. Starbucks is reportedly preparing to offer its local “mayors” $1 off on a frappucino. Wow, who benefits here? Not Foursquare, who isn’t taking a cut.

Laura Vogel, a young woman who was sent to Canada for an employee training program, found that she missed her Foursquare check-ins terribly. What does she love about it? Her enthusiasm is obvious:

“Badges range from the easy to acheive (you get one – Newbie! – for your very first check in) to the elusive (the Swarm badge – earned by being in a location where 50+ other foursquare users have checked in at the same time).  No bragging, but I have both. The Gym Rat badge (10 check-ins at your gym in a 30-day span) remains out of reach, however.”

As an event planner, she thinks Foursquare is a great way to connect with customers:

“Relating to them on a personal level can only deepen your professional relationship (“I ordered Thai for our lunchtime pitch because I saw you checked in at that new trendy Thai place and remarked how much you loved it!”).”

Gawker’s Valleywag ran a piece called If You Use Foursquare, You Are an Annoying Jackass:

“It tells everyone in your network that “Joe is at Best Buy on 61st Street and Broadway” or wherever the hell you are. The person who checks in the most at a certain place is deemed the “mayor” and has all the responsibility that comes along with absolutely zero power.The competitions for mayorhood and other badges have already become tedious. According to the Wall Street Journal, patrons of the Buttermilk Bar in Brooklyn are pissed because the bartender is the mayor.

“Joe is at Taco Bell.” “Joe is at Wal-Mart.” “Joe is at Tian’an Men Massage Parlor.” Shut the fuck up, Joe. We don’t care where you are! And if we did, we would text or call or email and say “Where are you?” Is that so hard? Even worse is if you’re with Joe on a night out, and he’s too preoccupied with earning his badges and seeing where everyone else is to actually talk to you. Hey, Joe. We’re right fucking here trying to have fun in real life.”

Professor Clemons points out another potential problem with Foursquare. At what point do players stop being customers and become loiterers? He offered the example of checking in at a men’s clothing store. How many purchases can one make per month? Does Urban Outfitters really want swarms of 250 people who don’t really need anything? At what point does the Mayor of the local bookstore become a total pain?

It’s very difficult to measure the impact of new technologies, even as they dramatically alter social behavior. Yesterday Ben Zimmer’s On Language article in the New York Times described the recent dramatic increase in the use of judgmental, rejecting slang. Connie Eble, a linguist at UNC, has noted an increase in terms meant to describe “unfamiliar, suspicious or anxiety-producing outsiders.” Looking at her research, Zimmer noted,  “I kept spotting a familiar pattern: along with rando, there are nouns like creepersketcher and sketchball and adjectives like dubiousgrimy,sketchysketch and skeazy. Zimmer wonders why such terms are increasingly prevalent on college campuses.

“Eble points out that the words are typically used by women…Compared with past generations, Eble said, “female students are putting themselves into more dangerous situations than they did in my day,” especially when it comes to dating and partying. Terms like creeper, rando and sketchball come in handy as women deal with men who may try to give them unwanted attention.

In interviews I conducted with Eble’s students, one recurring theme that emerged was the impact of technology and social media on the need to patrol social boundaries. “With Facebook and texting,” Natasha Duarte said, “it’s easier to contact someone you’re interested in, even if you only met them once and don’t really know them. To the person receiving them, these texts and Facebook friend requests or wall posts can seem premature and unwarranted, or sketchy.”

In a culture where we’re physically disconnected, how do we go about the business of mating and dating? Someone has to make the first move and it’s generally the male. Guys often express that they like using Facebook and texting to communicate, as the risk of rejection is remote rather than face to face. But perhaps these modes of communication actually increase the risk of rejection. Since women value numerous traits in men in addition to good looks, limiting men to communicating with nothing to display but a photo carries an enormous opportunity cost, potentially.

We engage with others tangentially from the blue-white glow of our computer screens, creating social obligations, expressing appreciation, clumsily initiating the mating dance, but the nature of the interaction is impersonal. Instead of learning something real about another person, we learn how their virtual crops are faring. We learn what dry cleaner they use. In our isolation we reach out for even more pseudo interaction, spending endless hours alone that we can never get back.

Unplug to stop the insanity.

Seek face-to-face interaction.

Be a participant rather than a winner.

Risk rejection.

Smile at a stranger.

Invite people over.

Give more, get less.

Make something real happen.

Take your dreams off the back burner!

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  • DF

    The great social commentator Theodore Dalrymple:

    Quote”

    I think that the thinning of the way in which we account for the psyche (not just in America but elsewhere) is paralleled by the thinning of the psyche itself.

    …First let me say something about the thinning of the psyche, or the character, or the personality. We seem to live in highly individualistic societies, but societies without much individuality. (Individualism and individuality are very different.) No doubt there are many reasons for this. One of the things that strikes me about people nowadays is how little they like to be alone, at least alone without any stimulation from electronic apparatus. We cannot be in a bar, an airport, a store, a railway station, and in some cases a bus or train without having stimuli poured into us as if we were too fragile for our own thoughts and had to be entertained 100 per cent of the time. A high proportion of homes have televisions or computers constantly illuminated, often several at once. Young people now cannot bear silence; it makes them nervous, confronting them with their own thoughts. But a capacity to bear silence, and even a desire for it, are necessary for concentration, contemplation, reflection and probably for creativity.

    Social pressures to conform to demotic tastes are, paradoxically in an age of mass bohemianisation, very strong, much stronger than, say, 50 years ago, which is thought to have been an age of conformity. In the name of diversity and the freedom of the individual, uniformity develops. That is why the spread of tattooing is an interesting phenomenon. People try to establish themselves as individuals by having a tattoo of a butterfly on, say, their left buttock. ..

    …As to our demand for constant stimulation, I think it is more an attempt to fill a vacuum than to drown out too complex or ‘noisy’ an inner life, as schizophrenics sometimes try to drown out their hallucinations, but I cannot prove this…
    ……I wanted in my last contribution to mention something that I have noticed in my clinic: the lack of genuine love in our society (I’m talking now of Britain), which leads to children being simultaneously over-indulged and neglected. Many parents would come to me and say ‘Why has Johnny turned out so horrible? We gave him everything.’ By everything, they usually mean a television in his room and the latest fashionable footwear (fantastically expensive). But they have not given him time or attention. It is a fact that far more British children live with a television in their room than with a biological father in the household. This strikes me as truly appalling. It is hardly surprising in the circumstances that children come to regard material objects as indicators of well-being, from which the more intelligent of them will deduce that a lack of equality in material objects is a sign of great injustice.

    I also believe, though I cannot prove, that people require or at least crave a sense of transcendence. It can come from several sources: religion, culture, family, knowledge, science, art, etc…
    ….So the ultimate problem, I suppose, is the absence of love in people’s lives. I have been very struck by how girls who get pregnant early say they want someone to love and to love them. It is a terrible way to achieve this end, and it almost never works, but it is understandable. The middle classes and well-educated have causes as their teenage pregnancy substitutes.

    End Quote”

    I will also add I have noticed the increase in exhibitionist sentimentalist behaviour, magnified by social media, becoming more prevalent e.g. the duke list affair. There appears to be a schism in personality, a strong but fragile public persona, that requires constant validation and maintenance by the many” hi”s and “whatcha doing” messages that rain down from the electronic heavens. While a private life that becomes thin and existentially disturbing.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      @DF
      Thanks for that great comment. Believe it or not, I had never heard of Theodore Dalrymple but dug around a bit. From Wikipedia, here are some of his basic tenets that resonated with me (I include these for the benefit of other readers who may not know his work):
      .
      1. The cause of much contemporary misery in Western countries – criminality, domestic violence, drug addiction, aggressive youths, hooliganism, broken families – is the nihilistic, decadent and/or self-destructive behaviour of people who do not know how to live. Both the smoothing over of this behaviour, and the medicalization of the problems that emerge as a corollary of this behaviour, are forms of indifference.
      .
      2. An attitude characterized by ‘gratefulness’ and ‘obligations towards others’ has been replaced, with awful consequences, by an awareness of rights, a sense of entitlement. The result is resentment as, naturally, those rights are violated by parents, authorities, bureaucracies and others in general.
      .
      3. Moral relativism can easily be a trick of an egotistical mind to silence the voice of conscience
      .
      4. The decline of civilised behaviour–such as: self-restraint, modesty, zeal, humility, irony, detachment–is a disaster for social and personal life.
      .
      I also find your mention of private life interesting – I’ve described a life of loneliness with no privacy. It’s a life with 1,000 Facebook “friends” but no one to go for a walk with. If I’m meeting a friend for coffee at Starbucks, the last thing I want is to broadcast that fact so that everyone I know can potentially crash our date. There’s a very noisy kind of desperation at work here.

  • bsg

    Minecraft is going to be huge

    http://www.minecraft.net/

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com david foster

    Maybe the fascination with games such as Farmville reflects something missing in people’s *work* lives at least as much as something missing in their *personal* lives:

    “Part of the reason FarmVille is so addictive is because if crops are not tended to at the right time, they can die, making all of the farmer’s previous work in vain. The desire to prevent such a huge loss keeps players coming back regularly.”

    In a well-run organization with intelligently-structured jobs, this kind of feedback exists in the *real* world.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      @david foster
      Good point! I recall that when my children were young, there was a toy that was all the rage for a while called the Tamagachi. This was a small little “robot” that simulated the needs of an infant. Soon teachers were forbidding them, as kids were distracted by feeding time for Tamagachi, diaper changing time, etc. For about a week, I agreed to “take care” of this toy while my daughter was in school. She was terrified that he Tamagachi would die from a missed feeding. Only by having it with me every minute and responding to its beeps/cries could I stay on top of it and keep it “alive.” After some ridiculous encounters where I needed to explain my distraction and apologize for my rudeness, I woke up to the inanity of the arrangement. Still, I felt somewhat compelled for a while there to keep things on track. I was a full-time mother at that point, indulging the whim of my child, and not getting real world feedback, perhaps. If I’d still been working as a consultant, I obviously would never have entered into such a scheme.

  • Hope

    World of Warcraft
    80% male, 20% female

    Wow (pun intended), where did this stat come from? It feels about right, but I’m still curious.

  • PJL
    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      Hey PJL! Wow, that’s quite a story. Oddly, she filed for divorce even though he had not “consummated” his affair with cyber sex. Sounds to me like she should have talked to her husband about why he felt the need to have friendly chats with a female avatar. I have heard about adulterous cybersex though – that’s a tough call. It can certainly be cheating, I think, if it’s a secret one is keeping from their spouse. I would definitely not want my husband dating or having sex in Second Life!

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com david foster

    G K Chesterton:

    “The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences of men. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized societies groups come into existence founded upon what is called sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery. There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing that is really narrow is the clique….The men of the clique live together because they have the same kind of soul, and their narrowness is a narrowness of spiritual coherence and contentment like that which exists in hell”

    Modern communications technology, especially wireless technology, tends to promote what Chesterton called the Clique at the expense of what he called the Clan.

    As is often the case with Chesterton, I think he identifies an important truth but overstates it. It is true that much is lost in modern society to the extent that people only associate with others like them. But it is also true that much is lost in traditional societies to the extent that people are denied the opportunity to seek out others of similar interests. And also, in traditional societies, the “fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences” of which Chesterton writes are often to a large extent mediated by standardized and ritualistic behavior.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      @david foster
      Your comment reminds me of something else I’ve read re large vs. small communities, and that is the paradox of choice. People in NYC can’t meet one another, but the smallest communities produce mating pairs. In addition, familiarity in this case breeds attraction, and that’s something much more easily achieved in a small community, whether that’s geographical, or something like a workplace.
      .
      It strikes me that people living in urban areas are more disconnected – foursquare for example is almost entirely an urban phenomenon. The idea of people in urban areas meeting up has some real potential – when I was in DC a year or so ago there was a huge (hundreds of people) scavenger hunt in the city for young people that started at Dupont Circle. Everyone was mixing it up, introducing themselves, etc. That’s worth a lot more, IMO, than an individual earning loyalty badges from a business owner, which doesn’t include a human connection at all.

  • PJL

    There’s a lot of ways to cheat. I think it’s just as execrable for a woman to use sex to gain to the upper hand in a relationship or to be emotionally distant as it is for a man to have an adulterous affair. It could very well be that the man was just a creep. But the first question should be–was she a good wife? If I had a wife who was warm and loving and generous, I”m not sure I’d have time for (a) second life.

  • Wookie wookie

    After years of successfully exploiting the female vanity demographic, capitalism has finally discovered how to achieve the same thing with men. It’s scary how valuable some things become in nerd culture. The big proof in my opinion would be the re-commercialization of a game called Team Fortress 2. The original Team Fortress was a fan-made modification of a game engine. The game engine developers saw the potential and hired those fans to turn the game into a retail product and have taken it even further with a recent update where players can buy fan-made items to distinguish their characters from others. The TF2 community has a strange fascination with hats and selling hats and other distinctive item have created ridiculous amounts of money for certain fans. The details can be found here: http://www.kotaku.com.au/2010/10/making-team-fortress-2-hats-turns-out-to-be-very-profitable/
    -
    Women buy items that enhance their appearance while men buy items that enhance their status within specific communities.
    -
    The games that my generation is enthralled with, and which I have difficulty quitting, are ultimately detrimental as you suggest but I’d describe the problem differently. Games are so enthralling because they allow us to feel satisfaction without the stressful uncertainty and without the painful permanence of our actions. It’s especially true nowadays for my generation of guys because there’s a feeling that we will never experience as much financial safety as our fathers / grandfathers did and the desire to feel success, no matter how hollow, is strong.
    -
    I don’t see how the gaming / gaming merchandise issue relates to dating though beyond the obvious lack of social interaction.
    -
    On the topic of social media, I disagree with most people in that I don’t think the changes in communication will dull people’s ability to relate or socialize but will merely result in new etiquettes and conventions. I’ve heard people complain that my generation doesn’t want to get to know their neighbors as much and I think it’s a result of over-exposure to the people out there. Before the internet it was harder to meet new people and people relished meeting someone new. My generation knows it’s easy to meet people but we’d like to solidify our inner circle of friends. We’re accustomed to talking to random folks on the internet but we no longer see the thrill in meeting someone new. Most humans are content to stay within their social spheres. It’s like an enlarged school setting.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      I don’t see how the gaming / gaming merchandise issue relates to dating though beyond the obvious lack of social interaction.

      Well, I think that’s it, really. It’s not very difficult to have a life filled with online friendships, whether they be fellow game competitors, Facebook friends feeding you status updates or people on Twitter in your industry. It’s very clear reading the Twitter stream that some people do little else but tweet for hours each day. It’s easy to get some companionship needs met without leaving home. With foursquare, people are out and about, which is an improvement, but it’s a solitary competition. If you meet someone attractive at Starbucks, they may well be the person trying to take your mayoralty away.
      .
      There’s nothing wrong with any of this technology, and it makes life easier and enjoyable in some ways. The problem as I see it arises when we substitute our online experiences for real face-to-face interaction.

  • Mike C

    If I’m meeting a friend for coffee at Starbucks, the last thing I want is to broadcast that fact so that everyone I know can potentially crash our date. There’s a very noisy kind of desperation at work here.

    I’ve wondered what the dynamic is here that motivates people to post trivial inanities non-stop on something like Facebook. I think it is the next step in the evolution from “reality TV”. Think about it. Long ago, to be famous, you had to be talented at something. With reality TV, any idiot could become famous for being famous. Look at the Jersey Shore crew. Now with something like Facebook, everyone can be the “star” of their own never ending sitcom/drama.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      @Mike C

      Now with something like Facebook, everyone can be the “star” of their own never ending sitcom/drama.

      Actually, in reading about narcissism, I’ve read that the narcissist sees himself as the star of his own movie. The whole world is set up around his story, his character, and many narcissists actually “watch” their lives in this way and find it gratifying. Perhaps this is all just a further step deeper into the narcissism epidemic that our culture has promoted.

  • DF

    Dalrymples books are definitely worth reading, especially Life at the bottom and Our culture whats left of it.

    “I also find your mention of private life interesting – I’ve described a life of loneliness with no privacy. It’s a life with 1,000 Facebook “friends” but no one to go for a walk with. If I’m meeting a friend for coffee at Starbucks, the last thing I want is to broadcast that fact so that everyone I know can potentially crash our date. There’s a very noisy kind of desperation at work here.”

    Distilled, it really is about quality of relationships over quantity. It takes time and patience to develop any quality relationship both platonic and Eros. Notice how people have to approach each other from perpendicular angles, the electronic media creating even more obtuseness. It seems that they want a relationship, but don’t know how to be forth right. A breakdown in social conventions is fundamentally to blame. If you read any 18th centaury letters or even the great literature of the time you’ll discern how forthright people expressed their interest and feelings toward one another, while never being emotionally dishonest.

    “Modern communications technology, especially wireless technology, tends to promote what Chesterton called the Clique at the expense of what he called the Clan.”

    Urbanisation has atomised society. Life is like a box of chocolate we can pick and choose, eat the ones with the nice caramel and throw the foul liquorice centre chocolates into the bin. Except, liquorice could be a hidden delicacy!
    Susan, returning to a previous post of yours discussing text communication, I opine that we should at the very least consider media communication as an inferior communication, there must be hierarchy. Let me explain, one cannot have the levels of tone, irony and complexity in the short sentences delivered over face book and text message. Emails could be an exception, but then again who writes comprehensive emails these days?

    Women have a far better sense of tonal change in communication and can deduce more than one message from a single content. Women, I believe have more to lose using these mediums of communication. One of the sly techniques of Game was to text vague laconic replies. These replies emptied of all communicative dimensions, would send her in to a paranoid tizzy, trying to work out his frame of mind, agenda, and whatever else. Evidently, his replies were designed deliberately for this very effect; it is his fog of war to manoeuvre within. This of course creates a profound sense of insecurity, once women lose the ability to survey conversation; they lose their intuitive edge and sense of proportion like our Jenna Wortham, to discern men. I would advise women to talk naturally to men.

    On a general society level, you cannot discuss real complex intimate topics with such a limited form of communications. One notes, the constant dramas facebook and etc, cause, because of misunderstood communication and an over reliance on assumptions. Because sometimes all you have to judge with is assumptions.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      If you read any 18th centaury letters or even the great literature of the time you’ll discern how forthright people expressed their interest and feelings toward one another, while never being emotionally dishonest.

      Of the successful relationships I see, especially among young people, there is almost always a history where one party stated up front from the start what they wanted. In fact, I’d say it tends to be the male indicating that he is interested in a relationship, assuring the woman from the outset that he is interested in more than sex. Such women are the envy of their peers, as you can imagine.
      .
      Even our instinctive ways of flirting have become diluted. When I write about the importance of eye contact, and how it must be accompanied by a smile to signal attraction, women are genuinely surprised to hear it. We’re losing not only relationship skills, but “getting into relationship” skills.

      One notes, the constant dramas facebook and etc, cause, because of misunderstood communication and an over reliance on assumptions.

      This is a serious problem. I think it manifests itself in two ways, primarily. The first is the opportunity cost of all the relationships that don’t get formed because people minimize or misinterpret the intent of text messages. Some women tend to read too little into them, especially when they’re from “dads.” A friendly text without a concrete suggestion for a plan is dismissed as meaningless or “random.” There are lots of people who never get together, because they’ve surmised a lack of interest from the other party based on texting alone. Of course, this doesn’t even take into account that some people don’t like texting, and are unlikely to express interest in that format.
      .
      The second way that women especially get off track is by doing the opposite, especially when the texts are from “cads.” Suddenly a command performance at 3 a.m. means he’s interested, that he cares. A text sent on a weekday becomes a marker for wanting to take a relationship to the next step, when in reality, a guy may simply be lining up his sex supply for the coming weekend. Or sending the same friendly, flirty texts to a whole group of women.
      .
      Compounding this is the dread young people feel at initiating “the talk.” Assumptions are often the only way a person can take a reading for months, and that wastes a great deal of energy and time when two people have been at cross purposes from the start.

  • Aldonza

    Casual observation put WoW players at 25% women, 75% men. Interestingly enough, most women play female characters, but a substantial percentage of men play them too, so the online ratio of male characters to female is closer to 50:50.
    .
    Not every blond-haired, green-eyed blood elf is actually a blond-haired, green-eyed woman. But this one was. ;-)

  • Robson

    My social/sex life was nonexistent long before social networking was invented. The net actually kept me alive. It was a guy playing the same MUD game who invented me to my first New Year party. People from Usenet group were only one I met outside school/work. Girl met via online dating site was my first date.

    So the internet was a OPEN gate to real life, not CLOSED. And if that was good for me, it should be good for everyone; if they cannot embrace those possibilities having better potential than me, they are total SUCKERS and let them perish.

    R.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      @Robson
      That’s a good point – people who are naturally comfortable online can use it to establish connections, which they can then pursue offline. I do see the potential benefit as long as people make the effort to actually meet up.

  • Hope

    Thanks for those interesting links, Susan. I talked about them to my husband, and he says the stats sound about right. Incidentally he also plays female characters, although he plays male ones as well.

    Technologies are mere tools, and it’s up to us to determine how we use them. I’ve had a handful of serious LTRs begin online, and while the digital interactions initially replaced face-to-face, it wasn’t forever.

    But I am not a fan of online dating sites, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I prefer prolonged and meaningful interactions online, and I find that oftentimes the discussions I have with people online are deeper and more interesting than talking about the weather or work with “real” people. It’s a personality thing though.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      @Hope

      Technologies are mere tools, and it’s up to us to determine how we use them.

      Absolutely. Ha, the last thing I mean to suggest is that people should stay away from my blog! I think the problem arises when people use online relationships as a substitute for real communication. How can we “know” someone if we never hear their voice, see their face, or even inhale their scent? I recall Brendan saying that he met his gf via commenting on blogs. I love that, and I can absolutely see how one might develop an attraction that way. There’s actually been some flirting here from time to time :)

  • Jess

    Why would men pose as women in that format?
    I would understnad them pretending to be tall and handsome but to pretend to be a girl?
    If they want to interact with women then such a persona would exclude any amarous overtures wouldnt it?
    If its purely about war then wouldnt they want a male persona?
    And who do people even know this?

  • Aldonza

    Why would men pose as women in that format?
    .
    Because other players are nicer to female characters. And, as some guys have mentioned, when you’re watching your character run, fight, etc, it’s nicer to watch a nice female form.

  • Jess

    well ok i can kinda get the 1st point but do men really want to see a bunch of pixels moving on a screen? it cant be that realsitic surely?

  • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

    @Obs
    What on earth? I have read that whole comment thread at abagond, and I don’t get it. Surely it’s not simple to shut down a blog? Could this be some technical problem? Or has your blog been hacked? This doesn’t really seem to make sense – or am I just ridiculously naive?

  • Obsidian

    SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: We interrupt the usual conversation obtaining at Hooking Up Smart to report that The Obsidian Files has been taken down by WordPress, on the express orders of a few Haters of Obsidian. Yes, I’ve been given the Juan Williams’ Treatment.

    Read the whole thing here (in the comments):
    http://abagond.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/black-women-white-men/

    And here:
    http://glpiggy.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/obsidians-been-banned/

    Given Ms. Walsh’s own recent run-ins with certain voices on the (Feminist) Left, who also happen to be female, it behooves her to watch her back. By the way, I’ve already got myself back up and running: obsidianraw.bravenet.com.

    Freedom of Speech is among our most cherished values and beliefs that make us who we are as Americans. What has happened today, can just as easily happen to anyone reading these words. Spread the word.

    The Obsidian

  • Brendan

    It’s actually very simple to get one of these kinds of blogs shut down. Most of the hosts have content language that is very squirelly, and allows them to ban anything “offensive”. This is 2010, when virtually anything at all beyond commenting on the weather can be deemed to be “offensive” by a clever-enough advocate. The hosts (wordpress, blogger/google) tend to be reactive — they don’t enforce the content rules (vague as they are) unless they get complaints. But if you get 2-3 people to submit complaints with links to posts and comments that are not PC,*bam*, down you go. Not quite the Soviet Union, yet, but backing up into that.

    Obsidian, I hope your blog gets restored.

  • http://singleagainonlinediary.blogspot.com Yvette Francino

    As usual, a very interesting post, Susan!

    Though I agree that playing games like Farmville don’t offer much opportunity for intimacy, I do think that virtual friendships can develop into intimate friendships. Blogs, for example, allow for sharing of one’s deep emotions and often can strike a chord with someone else. Then, the virtual friends may get to know each other more through personal email, phone calls, and possibly meet some day.

    When you open yourself up via social media by engaging in conversations about topics you’re passionate about, you may very well form a real relationship with someone.

  • Obsidian

    Hi Ms. Walsh,
    No, there’s nothing wrong with your tv set. WP put the kabosh on me after my tangles with the loyal opposition, LOL. Please pardon my indulgence, as I’m still working the kinks out wrt my new blog, but the below should work to answer any questions you and/or your readers (Hi Nova!) may have:

    The Day I Got “Juan Williams’d”: A Wake-Up Call To Bloggers Everywhere – Especially Brotha Bloggers

    We all have particular dates on the calendar that mark watershed moments in our lives. For me, one of those dates is Wed, Nov 3, 2010. Why this date and not say, the date I founded my blog, The Obsidian Files – which had just celebrated one year old on Halloween?

    Because, more than the founding of my blog, it was the day that it was taken down, that looms the largest for me. And its a date others reading along should do well to remember.

    Because its a date that follows on the heels of another important date for the body politic – it was barely two weeks after veteran journalist and avowed Liberal Juan Williams, was summarily fired from his job of more than a decade, NPR, for daring to speak his mind and do so with those on the Right. There’s a great deal of similarity between Williams and myself – we both do what we love, which is to write and to give our take on the great issues of our time. To be sure, he’s been at it a lot longer than myself, and he gets paid for what he does to boot – something I don’t mind, because I never set out to do this blogging thing to make money (although that just might change, if my guess is right…). But perhaps the biggest thing we both have in common, is that we’re both Black Men.

    But not only are we both Black Men, we’re supposed to fit into some kind of pre-defined box – we all know the drill by now. Black Men aren’t supposed to think for themselves. They’re supposed to be for Leftist causes and issues, come Hell or Highwater – and if we don’t, if we question them, on any level whatsoever, then we’re “Juan Williams’d” – meaning, thrown under the bus, tossed overboard, kicked to the curb. You get the idea.

    Williams has said, in the days following his firing by NPR, that a lot of his assumptions came tumbling down – he was a Liberal because he thought that Liberals were tolerant, open minded folk. He found out the hard way – and I’m quoting him now – that this assumption simply wasn’t true, and that if anything, it was those on the Right, who had proven to him far and away more tolerant. he ought to know – after all, he sat among the Rightest of the Right, for years. And they weren’t the ones who cast him out, like a leper. It was NPR – bastion of Leftwing points of view.

    The parallel for me could not have been more striking – for it wasn’t rabid, raving, foaming at the mouth White racists in the form of “HBDers”, storming the WordPress gates and clamoring for my head on a platter – it was my own “people”, in the form of Black Women, who did it. The very same Black Women, I would bet a dollar to a donut, who consider themselves progressive, open minded tolerant and “Liberal”. The same Black Women who have pulled the level for the “D” column in virtually every election since they could vote. The same Black Women who claim to be for the rights of the minority – except “minorities” they don’t like. Like Brothas who speak their minds for example, about issues that actually matter. What are those issues, Obsidian? Sexual Politics, that’s what.

    Earlier this year, during my tenure at the online Men’s magazine The Spearhead, I ran into a buzzsaw of contention for merely pointing out some things about my White brothers than they didn’t like. a veritable shitstorm was started, much gnashing of teeth, this, that…but I wasn’t banned or “fired” from The Spearhead; and no one called for my blog to be taken down. Those who have known me for any length of time know that I’ve had epic battles with many on the HBD side of the ledger – again, no one called for my voice to be shutdown. True, I’ve been more or less banned from participating at certain blogs; but that’s a far cry different from wanting to shut another person’s blog down.

    That only happened when Women, in this case they happened to be Black, did so.

    And, let’s be clear as to what kind of Black Women I’m talking about, lest I be accused of being a “misogynist” much in the way Williams was accused of being an “Islamophobe” – I’m not talking about the everyday Sista out there just trying to get by and live her life. I’m talking about Sistas who have chosen to enter into the public square of opinion and debate and attempt to foist their views onto the rest of us, without challenge or critique – then, when such a thing happens, which is inevitable, they want to suddenly revert from “strong, independent Women” to Damsels in Distress, pilloring you with all manner of Ad Hominem assualts in the process. In other words, these Sistas – and again I’m talking about bloggers and writers who have chosen to make it their life’s work to be advocates for certain points of view, and in some cases GET PAID FOR IT – want to have it both ways. They want to go into the public square, get up on the soapbox and say what they want, without challenge of any kind. And when they are challenged, when their views are shown to be proven false, when they’re exposed as the phonies and frauds that they are, they then want to shut you down, after attempting to paint you as a “misogynist” or a “racist” or a “stalker” or whatever else they can think of. Personally, it’s Black Women like these, that are doing grave harm to Black America, and I say that without any hint of hyperbole; this is not purple prose I’m going into here.

    For WordPress’ part, they are no better than NPR in my view, hang on, actually, they are worse – at least Juan Williams got a late night phonecall. I didn’t even get an email from WP. I was informed by others than my blog was gone. Ask me what I think of WordPress’ commitment to freedom of speech.

    Being born under the Sign of the Archer, every minute of every day is a “teachable moment” and had been reflecting on aspects of daily life long before that phrase became fashionable. Unlike so many others have been indoctrinated to do, my approach is to look at the world around me, and ask “wassup wit dat” and look for answers to explain it – not, instead, come to the table with preconceived notions already in my head, and try to make what I see fit those “facts”. I’ve found personally, that such an approach, if nothing else, simply doesn’t work. And it’s served me well.

    Which is more a pressing concern for our body politic – racism, or feminism? For me, the answer couldn’t be cleearer. After all, it wasn’t hooded Klansmen, or HBDers, or Tea Partiers, or the Rotorary Club armed to the teeth with The Bell Curve, who stormed the WordPress gates. It was those who consider themselves “progressive” and who all have vaginas, who did it. And they also just so happen to be Black.

    I am hoping that this incident will be the one that will finally unite the much-beleagured “Men’s Movement”; fellas, we have much bigger fish to fry here. And if we let differences in skintone continue to divide us, then it will be as I’ve said in one of my final WordPress blog posts the other day, about why Black Men vote the way they do, with so very little to show for it – we will have brought it on ourselves, and will have no one to blame, but ourselves.

    You have an ally in me, brothers. It’s up to you, if you want to take a Black hand in friendship.

    Many of you claim to be at least moderately to the Right. If that’s true, then follow Fox News’ example, not just over the past few weeks, but the past decade, because that’s how long Juan Williams has been there. If you’re truly serious about moving the ball forward, join with Brothas like me who are finding their voice and telling it like it TIZ. it isn’t my skintone or my supposed “genetic inheritance” that’s your problem. Your problem comes from a much more pernicious source, and you all know it. And we will never mount an effective counterstrike, if we remain divided. Do not get this twisted, gentlemen – if it can happen to me, it can happen to you.

    Lastly, as we all know, it was a happy ending for Juan Williams – his firing by NPR led in truth, not only to a serious pay raise, but a full-on platform to air his views, uncensored and uncut. I think the same will be true for me – I think I’m on the cusp of something great. Because when people mobilize to have your voice shutdown, that means that not only have you struck a raw nerve, but that there’s a there, there – and you need to cultivate that.

    I want to thank all the well-wishers for coming out in support of me, online and especially off, and for all their help in assisting me in restoring key back postings of mine. I expect to have everything back up and running within a week or two. And when I do, it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy. Now, it’s ON.

    Lemme tell you what I really think…

    More to come – count on it

    Now adjourn your asses…

    The Obsidian

    obsidianraw.bravenet.com

  • Pingback: Obsidian’s Blog Shut Down? | How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

  • Aldonza

    well ok i can kinda get the 1st point but do men really want to see a bunch of pixels moving on a screen? it cant be that realsitic surely?
    .
    It’s getting pretty realistic. And you do spend a *lot* of time staring at your toon. Pick one you like.

  • Brendan

    It’s getting pretty realistic. And you do spend a *lot* of time staring at your toon. Pick one you like.

    Agreed. Warcraft is now oldish and not so realistic-looking, although Blizzard is *very* particular about its character animations, especially of the female character models, which makes them more interesting to look at. I assume that this is done deliberately.

    Second Life is a different kettle of fish, because it’s not a “game”. And to be honest I think Linden Lab (the creators of SL) got on the wrong side of the “internet anonymity” issue overall. The whole idea of SL was to have an alternative online identity — something which lends itself, once one reflects on it only briefly, to all manner of mischief when you are dealing with human beings. And all manner of mischief has happened in SL, from financial scams to virtual prostitution, from online “affairs” only ever “consummated” digitally through avatars and animation scripts to virtual stripping, prostitution and all manner of “niche” sexualities, just to scratch the surface. I investigated SL myself a few years ago and found the place mostly empty *except* for the sims (areas) that focused on “adult activities”, such as strip clubs, bordellos, S&M sims and so on. There are a LOT of people who are in SL to run away from their Real Life issues, whether those pertain to relationships or anything else, and some people spend an amazing amount of time “in world” (up to 15 hours or more a day) running “virtual businesses” that make very little real world money, or living out affairs with people in foreign countries who are married to other people and whom they will likely never meet. It’s an odd place indeed.

    I think, though, that SL is “capped” in terms of the people it will attract, ultimately, because at the same time that SL was building itself out, Facebook was taking the internet anonymity paradigm that had ruled prior to Facebook and turning it on its head. This was a war of design, very bluntly, as Mark Zuckerberg took (and takes) a very dim view of the utility of anonymity on the internet, a view directly contrary to what was becoming, pre-Facebook, the ubiquitous norm and which, even today, remains a powerful counterculture to the mushrooming of “real ID” sites like Facebook and, to a large degree, Twitter. So ultimately SL is destined, I think, to become a “virtual adult misbehavior ghetto”, where anonymity is the required “mask” for the proceedings to take place, while the real “gas” of the internet seems to have migrated to the real ID paradigm.

  • Clarence

    Sorry to hear your blog was taken down, Obsidian.

    I’m glad you haven’t given up, and I’m glad you know who your friends are and who are the enemies you should respect, and those you shouldn’t.

    I’ll look for your new blog as soon as its up. The links you gave do not work.

    Thanks for leaving his post up, Susan. Many of us respect Obs even when we disagree with him.

  • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

    @Clarence
    I have enormous respect for Obs, as a person and as a thinker. He asks important questions that deserve consideration. He is also a very loyal blogging friend. He is always welcome here.

  • Just Thinking

    PJL said–”There’s a lot of ways to cheat. I think it’s just as execrable for a woman to use sex to gain to the upper hand in a relationship or to be emotionally distant as it is for a man to have an adulterous affair.”

    Very true. There are a lot of ways to betray someone. I think the primal female temptation is not LUST, but GREED—greed for status as well as possessions. If a man suffers a serious fall in status/wealth, it is more common than not that his wife will betray him emotionally. Even if the fall was due to bad luck or economy-wide problems, it will usually be blamed on him, and his wife will show great anger at him rather than providing the emotional support he needs at this period of great stress.

    And, of course, it’s convenient that female lust triggers are connected to the greed receptors, so his fall in status will make her much more interested in other men. But even if she doesn’t leave him or have an affair, because of religious or practical reasons or even a lingering affection, she is still likely to make his life a living hell.

    Relationship blogs focus too much, IMO, on female SEXUAL infidelity and don’t pay enough attention to all the other ways that women can and do betray men.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      @Just Thinking

      I think the primal female temptation is not LUST, but GREED—greed for status as well as possessions.

      Wow, way to dismiss a whole gender in one stroke. Don’t forget PRIDE, WRATH, ENVY, GLUTTONY and SLOTH. Oh no, how will the world be peopled????

  • http://www.snubbr.com Henway

    Great post that really resonated with me! When I was young, I would hang out in the local park and play sports with the other kids that lived close by. These days it seems all we do is surf on Facebook, Twitter and text… whatever happened to just plain ole hanging out?

    I also find the communication that occurs in social networks is not even authentic. Sure, we can catch up with what others are doing thru Facebook, but do we really know them? I dunno anyone that shares their deepest secrets, fears, insecurities, etc in their Facebook updates.

    • http://www.hookingupsmart.com Susan Walsh

      @Henway
      That change in the play habits of children is largely responsible for the obesity epidemic in the U.S. For most of the 20th century, kids played together after school. Guys played pickup games of various sports. As girls we often went exploring outdoors, or played various pretend games in the woods, etc. We rode bikes, or walked all over the neighborhood. Every day we were called in to dinner and came inside reluctantly. This was true in all but the worst weather. With most moms working now, those days are gone, and more sedentary pursuits have become the norm.
      .
      I also agree with you about authenticity – it’s not possible to strengthen a relationship via Facebook status updates, or playing FarmVille together. It can forge acquaintances, but that is the limit.