Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Is Dating About Marketing?

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on March 4, 2013

“Maybe dating online is about marketing,” I say to Cara, forty-seven. At first, she looks at me surprised, as if to say that she is in psychotherapy to understand her dynamics and not to get strategic advice about the internet. I understand her look, but I am thinking that the “connections” people make with online dating create a projective experience. At first, there seems to be the tremendous hope that with a few clicks they will meet their “soul mate”. Then, there seems to be the tremendous anger when the “other” disappoints in some way. The associations to each email create tremendous vulnerability. Rejection is felt when this electronic other does not respond promptly or warmly, and yet, this electronic other is not a known entity, merely a fantasy created by electronics. “Many people post who they want to be, not necessarily who they are,” I say, trying to understand how such intense feelings can be generated by such shallow “relationships.” My question is meant to understand the emotional meaning of the search for the “other,” and hence the painful feelings which seem to follow when the email chain breaks down. Cara begins to understand what I mean, but she looks to me for reassurance that she will find someone eventually. Fear runs through the room at those moments. The omnipresent notion that we cannot know or control our future rises, yet again. The anxiety of not knowing is often made better by trusting someone who seems to “know”. In this case, Cara has given me that job. If I tell her she will find someone, she will calm down, as she trusts me. On the other hand, if I tell her that she is looking for reassurance, when, in fact, none can be given, then her anxiety will increase. I explain to her my dilemma and she understands, but she still wants me to tell her that her future is bright. “The more you pay attention to your own needs, the better your life will be.” I say, pointing out that she can control her behavior towards herself. “Maybe marketing yourself bypasses the fear which inhibits your search,” I say, again wondering that perhaps her anxiety is interfering with her openness to new relationships. “Yes, I am almost phobic, at this point,” as she sees how she has limited her search to criteria that almost no one can meet. “OK, I am glad I came today,” she says, as if in the beginning she was not so sure. “You helped me a lot.” she repeats as she walks out the door. Cara appreciated our discussion because she began to see how she was adding in her own fantasies about these people, which then led to pain and self-doubt.

 

 

7 Responses to “Is Dating About Marketing?”

  1. Ashana M said

    I think there is an element of online searching for dating that reminds us of being rejected in 8th grade by that kid we were completely nuts over–at a time when we had no skills for coping with rejection and the person had the entire grade at his disposal to humiliate us with. I think it is sometimes partly that pain that is so horrible. That wasn’t really my experience, but I remember very clearly how others fared in those few tentative steps into the dating world. It was so often truly terrible and cruel.

    I agree, though, that marketing helps. Especially accurate marketing. You may not get the response you want, but you will be more likely to be happy with the responses you get.

    • Yes, I agree that fantasied relationships also bring up past experiences, such that the rejector triggers one’s painful past of previous rejections. This is an inherent problem with becoming vulnerable in order to find intimacy. Thanks.

      • Ashana M said

        I’m sure you’re right. I bring that one up because I think it’s the least likely to be explored, although it’s so evidently painful. It gets written off as a normal part of growing up–unlike a nasty divorce or the death of a spouse.

  2. Shelly said

    I don’t necessarily subscribe to marketing oneself online in that if one pretends to be someone who one is not, then one attracts someone who one isn’t looking for. Is it so awful to be real that one must pretend to be someone who one is not? As you say yourself, “The more attention you pay to your own needs, the better your life will be.” Perhaps Cara’s needs are to be herself and not pretending to be someone else online?

    • Marketing does not mean pretending, but rather it means understanding your audience and then playing up the parts of yourself which are true, but also particularly important to your “viewers”. Taking care of oneself is a complicated notion. Marketing oneself to find a mate, could be one very important way in which Cara takes care of herself. Thanks.

  3. Jon said

    Of course dating is about marketing. It always has been – long before the internet. It always will be – long after our current high tech world will seem old fashion and quaint. One aspect of dating is trying to both find a soul mate and convince “the other” that we can be their soul mate. With this as the goal (and noting that this is far from the only goal in the dating universe), an honest marketing of who we are is arguably the best strategy for success. Will Cara find someone eventually? As noted, this cannot be known; however, Cara will be better able to deal with the world when she has a deeper understanding of how it works.

    • Yes, Jon, I agree, but I think that the internet has made it more obvious that dating involves marketing. For some, this is a hard pill to swallow in that one has hopes of “being swept up” and if marketing is important, then one becomes the net, not the “netee”. Thanks.

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