The dating scene is no match for an optimized life.

All about that fine line.

Thresh·old : the magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, phenomenon, result, or condition to occur or be manifested.

Act 1 : Curation.

I generally know what I like, especially in music. I’ve been scavenging bands for quite some years and sometimes feel like I’ve discovered all of my favorite stuff. But recently, out of curiosity, I gave Spotify “My Daily Mix” a shot. I wanted to know how good it thought it knew me.

The answer : a lot.

It made me realize that with Spotify curators, Netflix suggestions, Amazon shopping tips, Product Hunt personal alerts, Pinterest inspirations and Facebook knowing-me-better- than-I-do wisdom, awesome stuff is thrown at me every time I look at a screen. Custom, tailored, premium stuff. And the best thing is, when something or someone seems irrelevant, I just have to mute it. Gone for good. [On that subject, and as I am writing, Facebook is rolling out the “snooze” function to help you control your feed. One more tool in the pursuit of newsfeed purity.]

Clearly, power is in our hands and the doors are locking for things we do not like. Listen to music you love. Watch movies you love. Eat in places you love. Your threshold is rising.

Act 2 : Standards.

The first 20–25 years of a “normal” life are full of free time and out of money. Going out, messing around and not thinking so much about the future. But along the way, a switch happens. You start to devote more time to work and receive money in exchange. Throughout the years to come, time will become the rarity while money (let’s hope) steadily makes its way home.

So now you are being surrounded with awesomeness (Act 1) and starting to realize that time is a currency you cannot stack. More importantly, that you are not as awesome as the stuff you constantly stumble upon. What do you do then ? You try to make the most of it. You try to become better. Now enters the age of self-improvement. No wonder the self-improvement industry was worth 9,9 billions in the U.S. last year. It’s a pressure we all feel at one point.

Now if you do things right, run a little more, drink a little less, eat a little better, shut down that computer, grab some good books and invest your time in healthy relationships, you will probably get better. And you will like it. The thing is, goodness is a drug. It’s an exhilarating state, feeling that you somehow have control over your life.

‘You are the average of the five people you most associate with’ — Tim Ferriss

When you got something good, you don’t want to spoil it. You want to make sure you can maintain the pace. Mostly, you want to surround yourself with people who feel the same way, who help you maintain and rise the standards. So you do. Good friends and family. Intelligent, creative, caring…You cherry-pick them and now, they are the kind of people you want and like to hang out with. Your threshold is rising, again.

Act 3 : The Search.

Then comes the time when, as you start to settle, you feel like looking for someone you will spend more than 3 pints with. And suddenly, you discover the most unpractical and unfiltered system of all : dating.

Meeting strangers, friends of friends, right-swiped blurry faces and Facebook suggestions, hoping for an alchemy moment. Huge costs are implied : time, money, effort and strategy, all for a shot in the dark. A shot you will be taking several times. What are your chances of making it ? Well, 9 out of 10 Americans think they actually have a soul mate. The thing is, only 3 of those 10 will not break-up afterwards.

You want to know if you tried too much, or not enough ? Researchers came up with a benchmark. (for the U.K.)

Pathway to meeting ‘The One’ (Women/Men)

Number of relationships 7/8

Disaster dates 4/4

Blind dates 2/3

Stood up on a date 1/2

Online dates 2/3

Number of kisses 15/16

Sexual partners 7/10

One night stands 4/6

Relationships (year or less) 3/4

Relationships (year or more) 2/2

Partners lived with 1/1

Falling in love 2/2

Heart break 2/2

Times cheated on 1/1

Times cheater 1/1

Long distance relationships 1/1

…Are you there yet ? Good.

Act 4 : Expectations

Your life is full of things perfectly suited for you (Act 1), you wisely chose the friends and colleagues you are hanging with (Act 2) and now you make serious investments to go on uncertain dates for the 10th time (Act 3).

Yeah, you have high expectations.

That stranger you will face has a rough road ahead, and so do you. Because at a certain point, it’s hard to go back to things you don’t know if you like. It’s hard to not be judgy right from the start. After all, everything else seems to flow. Why would that not be as easy too ?

It seems that people you meet rarely reach your threshold, at least at first. They fall in the “not really it”, “might do it for some time” or “I prefer someone than no one” categories. You might be right or wrong, but it’s kind of hard not to get cynical anyway. And the more cynical you get…the higher the threshold…again.

Act 5 : Reality Check.

  • The kind of people you want to meet have the same standards and will probably hardly give you a chance, just like you would not.
  • People your age are not courting as much as previous generations did and are considering to live alone a lot more.
  • You have far too precise expectations based on the level of control you have on the rest of your life.
  • Places and contexts for “meeting people” are kind of unnatural and do not offer the filtering you hope for.

…So what now…

Final act : What if ?

What if you look for and display traits that could reach thresholds in any context ? Maybe it’s a better idea to search for variables that indicate a relationship can scale well in the future, instead of being perfect right now.

It’s hard to both be passionate about Bulgarian ballet, medieval calligraphy, League of Legends or ultra-marathons. But why not aim for passionate about something for a start ? Being able to grow a passion clearly displays signs of discipline and personal investment. And if you are not passionate, then show you are curious at least. Being curious is about never being totally satisfied and always wanting to grow.

You will not really know each other for a long time, or maybe never. But it’s not that hard to show empathy. Admitting that you don’t know everything now, but that you care.

Yes, there will be awkward moments. But it seems to me they are the perfect time to prove you have a sense of humour and not taking yourself too seriously. God knows how easier things will be.

Maybe you are more about aesthetics, security or money, and you know what, if it’s the case, go for it.

If not, admit that you will not control every details as you normally do and, instead of waiting for the perfect song to come up on shuffle mode, show some good faith, browse through a nice record shop and hope for the best.

Creative director — Associate at Orkestra. Collecting solidly articulated, relevant ideas with tangible implications, and trying to join in. | www.orkestra.ca