This summer, I read Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. I initially thought it was just another comedic romp a la Master of None, but guided by Professor Eric Klinenberg’s academic insight, Modern Romance turned out a witty, accurate depiction of its titular theme.
One thing I found particularly fascinating was the “trading up” phenomenon. Ansari pointed out that, in people’s search for a soulmate today, they tend to be less satisfied with “good enough.” People tend to get sucked into a constant search for better. Making a commitment feels like being locked in, thereby introducing the fear of missing out (FOMO).
Though I am loath to use it as a source, Thought Catalog conducted a survey of people’s opinions on Tinder and other dating apps. Tellingly, one respondent noted that “people have become professional daters – they don’t care about a relationship and they just want to keep swiping, constantly seeking new excitement. Tinder doesn’t always work because there is no incentive to make it work as there is a mentality that you can always trade up.”
The perceived ability to trade up prevents people from fully engaging in their relationships. According to a study in The Journal of Social Psychology, when those in committed relationships think attractive strangers are interested in them, their relationship satisfaction and commitment actually deceases.
Researchers in New Zealand gathered 81 college-aged participants, all in some form of committed heterosexual relationship. All of the participants rated their self-esteem, relationship satisfaction, and commitment level before participating in a video interview with three attractive strangers of the opposite sex. Though the participants didn’t know it, the other side of the “interview” was actually just a prerecorded DVD.