The experience of being “othered” is a prevalent and universal experience in the world of dating — especially as it pertains to race in the world of online dating. Today I interview the host of the Dates and Mates Podcast Damona Hoffman about the hugely important subject of race, online dating, and the search for love. Damona is a celebrity dating coach with over 15 years of experience who has always been asking herself these tough questions. In this episode, Damona shares the unique balance of reality and hope that she employs when confronting racial bias. We discuss the idea of dating apps as amplifiers of what’s going on in society and Damona shares tips for attracting the right kind of people online.

Listen in as we touch on and begin to unpack some of the issues around racial bias in the dating world, explore how to step away from unhealthy dating habits, and hear Damona’s advice for people of color who are reckoning with the immensely challenging experience of being “simultaneously invisible and hypervisible” in online dating.

You can Subscribe and Listen to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts. And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

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Show Notes:

  • Race and dating preferences
  • Unpacking racial bias in dating
  • Why am I attracting bad guys
  • Operation Date Nice Guys
  • Online dating reinforces healthy racial perspectives
  • Swipe mentality and unhealthy dating habits
  • Accidentally limiting your dating pool
  • Invisibility and hypervisibility of online dating as a minority
  • How to attract the right people online
  • Grappling with the sadness of rejection

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Online Dating, Race, and the Search for Love with Damona Hoffman

 

Ken Page:
The experience of feeling othered or made to feel like an outsider is such a prevalent, universal experience in the world of online dating. And this painful experience happens profoundly and powerfully around issues of race. I am so excited today to be talking with Damona Hoffman, host of the Dates & Mates Podcast, about issues of race in the online search for love. So stay tuned to Deeper Dating.

 

I see dating apps as a tremendous opportunity for people to date outside of their traditional community. Click To Tweet

Ken Page:
Hello everybody, and welcome to the Deeper Dating Podcast. I’m Ken Page, and I’m a psychotherapist, a coach, the author of the best-selling book, Deeper Dating, and the Creator of the Deeper Dating Intensive, which you’ll get to hear more about later. Today, I’m going to be interviewing the wonderful Damona Hoffman, and we’re going to be speaking about race, online dating, and the search for love. I’m so excited to be sharing this important conversation with you. And in this, in every episode, I’m committed to sharing with you the greatest tools and insights that I know to help you find love and keep it flourishing and heal your life in the process because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of love, which are the most important skills of all for a happy and meaningful life.

Ken Page:
And if you’d like to learn more about the Deeper Dating path to real intimacy, just go to deeperdatingpodcast.com. And if you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll get free gifts and learn about a lot of resources. And you’ll also get complete transcripts of every episode on the website. And by the way, if you like what you’re learning here, I would love it if you could subscribe on iTunes and leave me a review. So thank you so much for that.

 

Online Dating, Race, and the Search for Love with Damona Hoffman

Race and dating preferences: the answer isn’t always that you must date interracially.

 

Ken Page:
And now, let me tell you about Damona. Celebrity dating coach, Damona Hoffman has been coaching singles on how to find love online and offline for over 15 years. Her articles appear regularly in the LA Times and The Washington Post, and I love her writing. And she’s a regular on-air contributor to The Drew Barrymore Show, NPR, and NBC’s Access Daily. Damona also starred in two A&E Network TV shows, #BlackLove and A Question of Love. Her weekly podcast, Dates & Mates has been featured in Cosmo, HuffPost and Bustle and tops the charts regularly in the relationships category on major podcast platforms.

Race and Dating Preferences:

Ken Page:

Damona, we just interviewed for your podcast. We did a wonderful interview and I feel so honored and excited and delighted to have you here for this podcast in which we’re going to be talking about race and racial bias in the online search for love.

Damona Hoffman:

Thank you for having me, Ken. I know it’s a hot button topic, but I think it’s something that is important to discuss. And I know, as you approach everything with curiosity and with sensitivity, I think you’re the perfect person to have this conversation with.

Ken Page:

So thank you. And the same thing is so true about you, Damona, as well. And I would love to start with something that you wrote, just a couple sentences that you wrote in a very moving and powerful piece for Date Lab in The Washington Post. You asked, “Is it racist if someone excludes a particular race in their dating preferences?” Matchmaker Carmelia Ray asked in a Facebook group, “Even as a child, I was keenly aware of the piercing stares directed toward my white father and black mother. So I had to answer unequivocally, yes, it’s racist.”

Ken Page:

I would love to hear your thoughts, your reflections personally, and with the countless number of people that you’ve worked with around issues of race and racial bias in this wild west of online dating.

Damona Hoffman:

Yeah, so that article was really inspired by, as the quote you read, I was in this Facebook group of dating coaches and matchmakers, and Carmelia, who’s a dear friend of mine and a wonderful matchmaker, asked the question because she had, as a matchmaker, which is a little different from a dating coach. My job as a dating coach is to really get people to understand their attractions and their process for dating and ask some of these deeper questions. But as a matchmaker, she really sees her job as delivering the dates that her clients are asking for. She’s there to match for them. And so she asked this question, “Is it racist if my client says they will only date a particular race or they won’t date another race?” And I was just really shocked, Ken. This was in June of 2020 as well, which I don’t have to remind you what was going on at that time, particularly in the United States.

Ken Page:

Yes.

Damona Hoffman:

It just made me pause. And because I’ve been coaching singles for now over 15 years, and as someone with the background that you just described, I have always asked these questions, well, what about race? And for a lot of people in my industry, I realized that it was actually not being discussed at all. It was something that was either just a given, oh, well I just always date someone of my same race. Or it had become just commonplace that particularly there’s a lot of information out there about black women and Asian men in American culture being overlooked, especially on dating apps, which is where I spend a lot of my time. And I work with OkCupid as their official dating coach. It’s how I met my husband. So it just made me get curious about why are we not asking these questions and why aren’t we getting to the root of where these decisions about who we are attracted to that we think of as just, it’s just how it is.

If it looks and sounds like a racial bias, maybe it's racial bias. Click To Tweet

 

Ken Page:

Right.

Damona Hoffman:

But if we get curious about it in the same way that we do in the working world now, and that we do in our neighborhoods, in our daily lives, why do we give ourselves a pass in dating and say, well, that’s just what I’m attracted to. Why is that not racial bias and yet in any other sphere, if you demonstrated a similar behavior, well, I just prefer to work with people of my same race? Well, I just prefer to live in a neighborhood with people who have my same background. We know we can’t do that, but then why do we get to hide behind it in dating?

Ken Page:

It’s an area that is so kind of safely unexamined for these reasons. It’s so true. And then the other piece of this is there’s this kind of belief that you’re only attracted to what you’re attracted to and that attraction is unrelated to investigation and exploration and growth. So, that’s just another piece of it too. And in that article, you talked about a series of three questions that were the same question that lead people to a deeper thinking about this. And I adore that and I would love it if you could share that exercise with us, and then talk about, when you’ve used that exercise with people, what you’ve seen happen.

Damona Hoffman:

So the exercise is actually a business technique that originated within the Toyota company. There are actually five questions, but they are the same question. And it’s the five whys. It’s why. The question is just why. So if someone comes to me, and this is something I’ve done, again, for over 15 years, if someone comes to me and says, well, I’m really interested… I’ll give you a specific example. I had an Indian American client who said to me, “I only am looking to date Indian men now.” And I said, “Why?” And the first answer was, “Well, for me, it’s important to share my culture.” “Why?” “Well, it’s very important to my parents.” “Why?” “Because I dated non-Indian men in the past and it hurt my relationship with my parents.”

Damona Hoffman:

And through those five whys, we actually got to the conclusion that for her, it was very important to date someone of her same culture, because her relationship with her father was vitally important to her. And in her experiences in the past that it was too hard for him to understand the cultural difference and that relationship was something that she wanted to prioritize over everything else.

Ken Page:

Yeah. You have to kind of make an existential choice. I’m going to go with that. I’m going to go with it. There might be more exploration here about her relationship with her dad, but I’m going to go with that because that’s really how she feels.

Damona Hoffman:

Right. And it’s a tool to get to what I think are the biggest predictors of long-term compatibility. That’s values and goals. And for her, that value of her family and her dad honoring her choice was most important. So the answer isn’t always, you must date interracially. I got a lot of feedback about the article and some people are like, “Oh, so everyone should be dating interracially. Everyone should be dating outside of their race or religion or culture.” And I’m like, “No, that is not the point of the article.” The point of the article was to get people, to ask themselves the questions. So that conversation may go differently if, let’s say, you’re a white American who has only dated other people who identify as white. And I love how the author Ta-Nehisi Coates calls it, “Those who believe themselves to be white.” Because really, if we really are unpacking this can, race is actually a construct. We are all the human race. And I’m not saying that in a kumbaya way, I’m saying that in a biological context, anthropological context. But okay, this is a construct.

Damona Hoffman:

And I think we also can’t ignore, especially in the United States, racism is alive and well in a lot of places, that the foundation of our history, there’s so many choices that other people made that we didn’t necessarily make, that impacts the way that we relate to one another today, that it’s worth exploring. So if the answer to that first why is, well, I’ve never dated anyone who’s non-white. Well, why? Because I’m not really attracted to anyone who’s non-white. Why? Well, I guess the icons I always looked at in TV and movies were always white and the people I associated with were always white and like attracts like, and it confirms our belief that we are only attracted to that thing because that is what we are traditionally exposed to. And so when we start to unpack it, we realize how many societal conditions actually add up to us having this preference that we say is not a racial bias. But if it looks like a racial bias and it sounds like a racial bias, maybe it’s a racial bias that you didn’t realize was there.

 

Online Dating, Race, and the Search for Love with Damona Hoffman

Reinforcing healthy racial perspectives online: just get curious about attractions — all of them, not just race.

Ken Page:

Yes. And there’s research to back that up, research, showing that people who have these strong racial preferences, that that is often correlated, like majority of times correlated with racist beliefs. So, that’s actually been research-backed.

Damona Hoffman:

Right. And even beyond that, though, we become more attracted to things that we are familiar with. This is a biological conditioning.

Ken Page:

So true.

Damona Hoffman:

Right? We are conditioned to be attracted to like and to be either fearful or repelled by things that we assume to be different.

Ken Page:

So true.

Damona Hoffman:

And this is survival. Back thousands of years ago, that was survival. If you trusted somebody or something that was outside of your tribe and it posed a risk to you, that could spell the end. For survival, we would associate with those that we knew and that we could trust. And so we’ve started to draw these lines in modern society that sometimes we don’t even realize are there. What I try to encourage my Dates & Mates listeners and my clients to do is to just get curious about our attractions, all of them, not just race.

Ken Page:

Absolutely.

Damona Hoffman:

But all of them. Why is it that you seem to always attract the same kind of person? Just stepping away from the race conversation for a minute, I always attracted what I’d call the bad boys. And I’m sure there are listeners that are like, “uh-huh, I’ve been there”. And I had to make a mindful choice that I was continuing to allow people into my life that didn’t honor me, didn’t support me, and didn’t share my values or my goals. And I had to make a choice and I called it “Operation Date Nice Guys” when I came to the conclusion that the guys I was dating were not the right fit for me and that I needed something different. And I actually shifted my attractions, Ken.

Ken Page:

Yes, yes.

Damona Hoffman:

And I did that through slowing it down, which I know you talk about a lot.

Ken Page:

Yes, yes.

Damona Hoffman:

I slowed the whole thing down and got curious about what is it when I feel that tingly feeling inside me that I think that people now label as like, oh, that’s butterflies, that’s attraction. What is that actually signaling? And it may not be signaling, ooh, this person is a match for me. It may be signaling, oh, this person reminds me of something that’s familiar to me. But I didn’t like how that outcome turned out, so maybe I need to do something mindfully different if I want to get a different result.

Ken Page:

I love that. And that’s the universality of this. But this is so exciting to me in a number of different ways. And I’m thinking of something that the Gestalt therapist and author and anarchist Paul Goodman said, I think back in the ’50s, said something really interesting. He said, “The great thing about being gay,” and mind you, this was in the time when there was not a lot of freedom for actual relationships. It was all about hooking up and although some amazing, amazing people were able to form relationships, but he said, “The magic of that is that you end up having sex with, and then building connections with people from outside your class, outside your race, outside of your age range. And that is like one of the gifts that happens from that world.”

Ken Page:

And I just think about that. And I know that there’s really interesting thinking about how the world of online dating can actually facilitate just what you’re describing in a few different ways. One way being, getting rid of the kind of baked-in racial bias that can exist so easily. Like so many big sites actually will assume in the searching, they’ll privilege same race choices. That’s just built in. But what if within the context of what you’re overall looking for, that website actually privileged a mixture and a diversity? Which is not done. I mean, that’s really exciting. And that is a way that I think online dating could actually really shift things for people because maybe you think you’re only attracted to a particular race. Maybe you’re attracted to a race for kind of fetishizing reasons. I mean, I guess any kind of attraction has some degree of fetishizing in it.

Ken Page:

So then all of a sudden you… But you get names of people, you get pictures of people, you get a picture of someone of a race that is different than you normally would choose. And that person’s eyes are just gorgeous. And you’re like, let me read a little more. And you say, damn, this person and I went to the same school or whatever it is. That we can actually use the world of online dating to just do the five questions in a way. And actually, there’s one site called Daddyhunt, which is a gay men’s site that actually gives you those questions and you can sign a stigma-free pledge. So in other words, people get educated in that. So this is just tremendously exciting for me because it’s a way that online dating can actually not reinforce racial bias, but reinforce just the openness that you’re describing so beautifully.

 

Reinforcing Healthy Racial Perspectives Online:

Damona Hoffman:

Well, that is really the opportunity within dating apps. And as I said earlier, I’m a big fan of dating apps. It’s how I met my husband. It’s how most of my clients have met their partners, because it gives you choice. It gives you opportunity. And when we even think about a couple of generations ago, especially for LGBTQ daters, your options were really limited in how far you could go to look for love, who you could even share that you were looking for someone in a same sex relationship. And I really see dating apps as creating tremendous opportunity for people to date outside of their traditional community. And when we look at census data on cohabitation, on marriage, we see that there’s been a huge spike in interracial relationships. I find it interestingly correlated, I haven’t officially studied this, but I find it interestingly correlated with the rise in dating apps. But I just want to speak to the idea that dating apps are giving you same sex matches. It’s actually that the algorithms are conditioned to show you matches that they believe you would like.

Damona Hoffman:

And they develop this algorithm based on your actual behaviors. So people may go into the back end and choose like, I am this race. I am looking for this race. But if you’re always browsing people of a different race, they’re going to start showing you similar. They’re going to show you people like that because they think, oh, this is what this person actually wants. And it’s interesting, we’re seeing some apps that are removing the race field completely.

Damona Hoffman:

Well, that is really the opportunity within dating apps. And as I said earlier, I’m a big fan of dating apps. It’s how I met my husband. It’s how most of my clients have met their partners, because it gives you choice. It gives you opportunity. And when we even think about a couple of generations ago, especially for LGBTQ daters, your options were really limited in how far you could go to look for love, who you could even share that you were looking for someone in a same sex relationship. And I really see dating apps as creating tremendous opportunity for people to date outside of their traditional community. And when we look at census data on cohabitation, on marriage, we see that there’s been a huge spike in interracial relationships. I haven’t officially studied this, but I find it interestingly correlated with the rise in dating apps. But I just want to speak to the idea that dating apps are giving you same sex matches. It’s actually that the algorithms are conditioned to show you matches that they believe you would like.

Damona Hoffman:

And they develop this algorithm based on your actual behaviors. So people may go into the back end and choose like, I am this race. I am looking for this race. But if you’re always browsing people of a different race, they’re going to start showing you similar. They’re going to show you people like that because they think, oh, this is what this person actually wants. And it’s interesting, we’re seeing some apps that are removing the race field completely.

 

What are you doing to be proactive to make sure you're visible to the right people? Click To Tweet

 

Damona Hoffman:

But it is interesting to me as somebody that goes in the back end, both with OkCupid and then in my individual client practice, and I see how many people still do select racial preferences when they’re setting up their profile. I’m really curious what’s going to happen, Ken, as we really start to lead, not with checking these boxes, but really, I’ll give credit to Tinder actually, for the swipe technology really popularizing that and popularizing… I like to look at both the positives and the negatives, right?

Damona Hoffman:

People are like, ugh, the swipe, it sucks because it’s just based on attractiveness. And so people aren’t going based on all the other great qualities within me, it’s just like, are you attracted to my picture or not? But when you look at it through the lens of race, it’s really interesting because when people are not checking a box of like, only show me people who are this age, this race, this whatever is in your list of criteria, and you see someone, it’s just like when you’re out in the wild, right?

Damona Hoffman:

And you’re just attracted to them. So I’m really curious, and I’ve seen some data from Match and from other apps that as we are moving into being more based on the initial visual attraction, we are putting less emphasis on the race, on the age, on these other elements that may have front loaded our search on dating sites prior to the swipe technology.

Ken Page:

Interesting point. That’s really interesting. I mean, I’m very aware of how swipe mentality actually blocks healthy intimacy in so many ways. But this is a very interesting point and I think true as well.

Damona Hoffman:

When we really go based on just the initial attraction, but then it’s what I try and coach people to do, and I know you do the same, is to use that just as a gateway and then go beyond, as you were saying, in your example, to see, well, where are the commonalities? I find that too many people are looking for reasons to say, no-

Damona Hoffman:

Rather than reasons to say, yes. It’s like, oh, he used this word in his profile. So, I have to swipe left.

Ken Page:

It’s a fight or flight mentality. It’s like every time you invest in a new person, you could get hurt, you could get annoyed, you could get irritated, you could get rebuffed. So we kind of try to cut our losses upfront, but in ways that could be really, really harmful. And I just want to acknowledge this kind of very universal thing about the choice toward comfort and what we know and the choice toward curiosity and openness. Do you have any thoughts? Okay. Let’s take folks that are open to dating people of different races, but haven’t really done it. And they say, yeah, this is kind of really true about me. I don’t have any hard and fast about this, but I have stayed with where I am comfortable. Any suggestions for people to begin to take different steps, because it’s just like when you change the distance range from five miles to 100 miles, you’re going to get a lot more amazing people. And the same here is true about race. But I’d just love to hear your guidance, your thoughts for people who want to do that, but they feel awkward.

 

Online Dating, Race, and the Search for Love with Damona Hoffman

How to attract the right people online: Even geographically you may be limiting your dating pool racially without even realizing it.

 

Damona Hoffman:

Well, the first step is just awareness. I’m sure there are some people listening right now that are like, oh, Damona, I haven’t even thought about what my preferences are. I haven’t thought about it from this lens. So just, first of all, and I’m not trying to call anybody out or I’m not pointing fingers. I’m just, like you, encouraging people to get curious about it and see what might unfold for them, if what they believed to be true or how they proceeded in the past, if just what they believed to be true was not, let’s just say, for example, it’s not true. Let’s just say, whatever that thing is that you’re telling yourself like, my person is not X. What if it’s just not true? And then how would you behave differently? How would you move forward differently? And once you have that awareness, then we can go into… I love getting into the nitty-gritty of the profiles. It’s really interesting to me when I’m working with clients that… Now online dating has been around for a while. So a lot of times people will come to me and they’ll say, “Oh, I have this old OkCupid profile, so we’ll just use this.” And I’ll open up this relic of you from 10 years ago. And then you made an edit two years ago, and then you added these pictures. It’s like looking at a time capsule.

Damona Hoffman:

Right? And crack that open and realize like, the things that you selected, maybe when you started your profile, they might not be true today. I’ve found clients that didn’t even realize they had preferences set. You may have a preference set for race that you don’t actually even realize is still there.

Ken Page:

Interesting. Interesting. Yeah.

Damona Hoffman:

Yeah. You got to go back in there and peel that back and start playing with the levers first. Like you said, location. So here’s a reality of life in America. Due to redlining, where, let’s say, my maternal grandfather could not buy a house outside of a particular area. That’s where all of my family in Detroit lives in this one community, because that’s where they could get a home legally. That’s where they could get a loan to buy the house. And we could get in a whole thing about predatory lending and modern practices. But let’s just look at that foundation. So if you set your radius for five miles, which it sounds funny, Ken, but it’s actually quite common. A lot of times when I look at people’s profiles, five miles is the radius. That’s not a long radius.

Ken Page:

Yes. New York City – nothing above 23rd Street.

Damona Hoffman:

Exactly. And so geographically, you may be limiting your dating pool racially without even realizing it. And you’re not obligated to go on a date with anybody. This is just a process of discovery. So if you expand your location, you expand your racial preferences, you expand all of these factors that may be getting you the same pool. And look, I know it’s frustrating. If you haven’t gone in and changed any of these settings, you may be seeing the same kind of people again and again. And you’re like, there’s no one online for me. That’s because you’re doing the same search in the same way.

Ken Page:

So many people feel that way. Another fabulous message that connects to kind of everything. Yeah.

Damona Hoffman:

Yeah. So just start with that and then see who comes in and again, look for commonality. So we were just talking a moment ago about how we look for reasons to say, no. Try to say, what happens if I look for reasons to say, yes, to this person and swipe with that filter. That alone can really change your perspective.

Ken Page:

I love that. I love that.

Damona Hoffman:

Then we can get into the five whys. Then we can get into like, I have all this great content with Dates & Mates to show you how to bridge some of these more challenging conversations around race and culture that may come up as you move into a relationship, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is what I find my clients doing a lot. Like we’re already projecting to the future and the problems that we might have. I even said in that article in The Washington Post, like coming from a biracial, bireligious, dual religion household, and growing up in a predominantly White Anglo-Saxon Protestant area, I found that people, like, I was really, I was a unicorn among unicorns.

Damona Hoffman:

I didn’t mean that in the sexual terminology, but there was no community where I fully fit in. And I’d have friends that would say, “Oh, well, I would date a black guy, but I wouldn’t want to do that to my future kids.” And I’m like, “First of all, what future kids? You’re like getting way ahead, we’re in high school or college. But do what? Do what? Give them the experience that I had where I get to be…” Even though I was an outsider in a lot of communities, I was an insider in so many more communities. And even beyond that time, my life has really been enhanced by my sister-in-law is Indian American. Her parents had an arranged marriage and they’re still together. That is a very different framework. I get access into that world and that culture. My stepmother is Mexican American. I get to see what that culture is like. And I feel like my life has actually been enhanced by being able to walk in all of these worlds.

Ken Page:

I think that’s so rich and so true. I have a funny story that I have to tell about that. But I want to say something first, which is that I think that this addresses all the folks that don’t necessarily feel comfortable stretching out to dating people of different races, but the research shows that that’s mostly true for white folks and heterosexual white folks, even more, that for example, black online daters are much more willing to date people of other races and white online daters are less willing to. So I guess I’d love to hear something, because there’s just such rich data and research and stories about people of color who have just been really hurt and shame being inculcated and a lot of sadness and hopelessness and despair and depression directly linked to that. That’s been really proven. I’d just love to hear from you just any of the experiences that you’ve seen or heard or had about what that’s like to enter the online dating world and have that kind of what someone called invisibility and hypervisibility at the same time.

Damona Hoffman:

Very interesting. So there’s a lot of data out there on this. Some of the data that keeps getting shared is actually old data. I nodded to the data in this article where OkCupid, long ago, before I was working with them and when it was under a different ownership, they actually would look at the data and had like a trends blog that would investigate different aspects of human behavior. And they saw that in the data, 15 years ago now, that black women sent the most messages and received the fewest responses. And that was the fewest responses, not just among non-black daters, that was the fewest responses overall. And that I feel really got internalized by a lot of people and a lot of black women and the narrative became “online dating is harder for black women.”

 

How to attract the right people online:

Damona Hoffman:

And while I do believe there are truths in that, I have seen, because I hosted a TV show called #BlackLove for A&E Networks, I’ve worked with a lot of black women, I have consistently been able to beat the odds. That has not been the case for the black women that I work with. But I will say, I do this process that we discussed. And a lot of times the black women have never dated outside of their race or are successful in dating outside of their race. And they have a very different experience when we go through these five whys and we really drill into what are your goals? What are your values and how do you telegraph that out to the world, through your dating profile? And then which actions do you need to take to get yourself noticed? You were talking about hypervisibility and invisibility, how do you get to be visible to the right matches?

Ken Page:

The perfect question. Yes.

Damona Hoffman:

Right? I’m not concerned about… And this goes for whatever the thing is that you think makes you undateable. And I’m sure there are a lot of listeners that are like, well, it hasn’t happened for me because of this thing about me. And when you focus on the right kind of matches and not get bogged down in whatever the numbers are, like, oh, well, because I’m over 50 now. Oh gosh, I see this all the time, Ken, like people lying about their age in their profiles.

Damona Hoffman:

Because they’re like, “Because I’m over 50 or over 60, I’m falling out of the algorithm,” which to a certain extent is true. But then what are you doing to be proactive to make sure you’re visible to the right people? Because I don’t care if you get 100 matches a week if they’re not quality matches and they’re not the right matches for you. I’d rather you have three matches with the right people than worry at all about the other 97 that didn’t see your beauty and your value.

Ken Page:

Yes. I love that message of empowerment. I think it’s so important. But I guess I also want to say, the sadness of rejection needs to be held in a certain way. And when the sadness of rejection feels related to bias, it hurts in a different way and it feels like broader and more painful in a different way too. I guess I just also want to acknowledge that hurt that so many people still do experience in online dating. And we all experience it in different ways. But that one particularly related to race and being rejected, fetishized, minimized, not seen, I just think there’s a lot of grief there.

Damona Hoffman:

It’s real and I’m not minimizing the sadness. I just like to offer people an opportunity to reframe it because honestly, Ken, I see dating apps are really just an amplifier. They’re an amplifier of whatever else is happening in society.

Ken Page:

But I think they’re also a crafter, that in other words, the way that they are built in some ways, like, for example, not privileging diversity as much as they could and their choices, they’re actually helping to create a system that causes pain. And they don’t have to. And I’m not saying all apps do that, but I’m just acknowledging that there are just such subtle ways that that gets reinforced.

Damona Hoffman:

Definitely. And I was just going to say, as a black woman, that kind of sadness and that kind of rejection and that kind of scrutiny and hypervisibility/invisibility, that is a part of my daily experience. And if I allowed myself to be sad about it to the level that it really is sad, I’d be depressed all the time. I choose to reframe the way that I look at that.

Ken Page:

That was so beautifully stated.

Damona Hoffman:

Thank you. And I really appreciate what you’re saying and it’s making me think of like, in my role at OkCupid, what could we do that helps promote inclusion? And I used to work at NBC. I started their Talent Diversity Program in media — Because I also see the parallels in what you’re saying and the responsibility that, I would say, we are the reflectors of culture in media. And so it is up to us to show visibility and representation. It really does matter. And it really, to me, was a business imperative. Now I did that role almost 20 years ago. So it’s taken quite a long time for the conversation to really echo out to the point where these changes are being made. But it’s a very interesting question to ask, what could apps do, where it’s not necessarily their role, their responsibility, but if there was something that an app could do, like the pledge that you were saying that makes people just more aware of their choices. This is random, but I just got an Uber and they had a new pledge that was like a code of conduct of I have to be respectful. Right? And I had to sign that and I’m like, it’s not necessarily going to change my behavior, because I feel like that’s how I always behave, but just the…

Damona Hoffman:

I feel like that’s how I always behave in an Uber, but you never know. I’m sure there was some day I was running late and I was not in integrity with myself. But just the action of stopping to do that made me more aware. And I would hope for the people that don’t necessarily honor that code of conduct, that there’s something in that pause that makes them shift their behavior. I don’t know if it’s possible, but you got me thinking about different ways that we can all be more proactive in shifting our awareness of some of these actions and some of these biases.

Ken Page:

Tremendously exciting. There was a wonderful research article about this and I’ve been trying to get the researchers to come on the podcast. If they do, because they speak about exactly that, would you join us in a panel?

Damona Hoffman:

I would join you anywhere, Ken.

Ken Page:

Vice versa. Well, that’s really exciting. That’s great. Can I just share, this is a silly story and it’s a little bit of a divergence, but I have to share it because I don’t know where else I’m going to share it and it is related. So years ago I was dating this guy who was Muslim and we came from such completely, completely different worlds. He was really closeted. So at one point I was at his house, we were hanging out and his aunt who lived down the hall, came and knocked on his door. And he looked at me and he said, “If she sees you here, I am so screwed. Everyone in my town is going to know like, what is this? What’s going on?” So I said, “Don’t worry, I’ll hide.” So I hid in the closet, closed the door, stayed there, listened to some music. Like an hour later he came to the closet and let me out. And he said, “I am so sorry.” And I said to him, “No, I am thankful because I just figured out where the phrase ‘in the closet’ came from.”

Damona Hoffman:

I was thinking that, I was like, wow, he’s literally in the closet. But man, I mean, that’s how powerful, Ken, when you think about it, these belief systems, that we’re not even aware of how much they impact us. But that belief system and that fear was so intense that he made this person he cared about sit in the closet for an hour, when you really-

Ken Page:

Well, I thought of it, but yes, I knew his fear. I saw his fear, so I had to help. Yeah.

Damona Hoffman:

And so I also don’t want to minimize the process that I’m asking people to walk through. I know it’s not easy. It’s not easy. And look, you don’t have to do it. You can go back to your regular life, your regularly scheduled programming and it’s fine. But I kind of feel like, in that moment, you had a shift of perspective, right?

Ken Page:

Yes.

Damona Hoffman:

And once our eyes are opened to that fear, the pain, the construction, all of those things, that we can walk through with blinders on. But once our eyes are open, it’s kind of hard to go back to sleep.

Ken Page:

Yes. So true. So true. I love your balancing of reality and hope and holding the pain, but also privileging the empowerment. I really feel like this was a message of compassion and hope around a really complex situation. And I really hope we get to talk about this again, as well as lots of other things.

Damona Hoffman:

Thank you so much, Ken. I really, I love our conversations. Your conversation with me on the Dates & Mates Podcast was so impactful for so many people. I’ve gotten such fantastic feedback. And so the opportunity to come here and speak about something that is really near and dear to my heart is a tremendous honor. And just to share space with you is something that I would be happy to do at any time.

Ken Page:

Oh, Damona, it’s really, really mutual. And your work’s so important and so beautiful, so empowering, so real. I want everybody to know, if they don’t know already, exactly how to reach you. So could you just share with us where you appear, what you’re doing, how people can learn more about you, how they can get on your mailing list?

Damona Hoffman:

Sure. Well, we’ve been talking a lot about online dating, so I do have a free profile starter kit on my website datesandmates.com. Yeah. And that’s for anyone that needs to have a refresh of their profile or has fear about online dating or confusion about how to present themselves. It’s just a really easy guide, like plug and play templates and profile, conversation starters, ways that you can get online quickly and really put your most authentic self and foot forward.

Ken Page:

Fabulous – great resource!

Damona Hoffman:

So, that’s the best place to reach me. And then I’m on all the socials @damonahoffman, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. I am on TikTok, but I’m working on it.

Ken Page:

Same here, same here.

Damona Hoffman:

But yes. And then Dates & Mates Podcast is every Tuesday. So definitely check out Ken’s episode. It’s one of my faves this season.

Ken Page:

Oh, thank you so much. And Damona, really, you’re a presence of authenticity, integrity, empowerment, and inclusion. So that’s really rare and really special. So I just deeply encourage everybody to follow Damona and follow her work and her thinking in all these locations.

Damona Hoffman:

Thank you, Ken.

Ken Page:

Thank you, Damona. Thanks for being here. And we’ll be talking again. And thank you, everybody. And look forward to seeing you on the next episode of the Deeper Dating Podcast.

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