“Swipe circuitry” is a wildly compelling behavior pattern sculpted by online dating. As it dangles the promise of love in front of us, swipe circuitry subtly leads us away from the very love we’re seeking. In this episode, you’ll learn what Swipe Circuitry is and how to get past it. This is an essential skill for anyone using swiping apps!
Swipe Circuitry: How Online Dating Trains Us To Stay Single
How To Stop Fleeing Love While You Seek It Online
Swipe circuitry is this incredibly seductive behavior pattern that’s sculpted by online dating, that actually leads us away from the love that we’re seeking. Stay tuned to this episode to learn more about what swipe circuitry is and how you can stop it.
Hello, everybody and welcome to the Deeper Dating® Podcast. I’m Ken Page and I’m a psychotherapist, author of the book Deeper Dating®, and the Cofounder of DeeperDating®.com, a new way for single people to meet online that’s respectful, warm and inspiring. Today, I’m going to talk about what I call swipe circuitry, a behavior pattern in online dating that looks like it can lead us to love, but actually leads us away from it. Every episode, I’m going to share with you the greatest tools that I know to help you find love and keep it flourishing, and heal your life in the process because the real skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of intimacy. Those are the greatest skills of all for a happy life.
If you want to learn more about the Deeper Dating® path to real intimacy, just go to DeeperDatingPodcast.com. If you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll get free gifts and resources, and you’ll learn a lot more about how to use these ideas to transform your own intimacy journey. I also want to say that everything I share in this podcast is educational in nature. It’s not medical or psychiatric advice or treatment, and if you’re experiencing any serious psychological conditions, please seek professional help. Finally, if you like what you’re learning here, I would love it if you could subscribe on iTunes or elsewhere and leave me a review. Thank you so much for that and thanks for the amazing reviews that so many of you have left. Let’s jump in.
We push love away while we're looking for it. Click To Tweet
Studies On Swipe-Based Dating Apps
Let me start out with some pretty amazing statistics. Research from the West Sydney University and the University of Sydney has directly linked the experience of swipe-based dating apps to higher rates of depression and psychological distress. In 2017, there was a study that linked the use of Tinder with negative self-esteem and body shame, but interestingly, not leading to any positive change in diet or eating habits. Another study showed that the app Grindr was way at the top of the apps that made people feel most unhappy. Seventy-seven percent of them admitted that it made them feel miserable. Tinder was up there too, but here is something interesting too, is that 70% of gay relationships began online. Clearly, there is good here. There is potential here. There is capacity here, but there are patterns that get sculpted by what I call swipe circuitry, that gets sculpted by dating apps that do swiping, and get sculpted by dating apps in general.
Here’s another wild statistic. Less than 10% of matches in swipe apps are consummated with even a hello, because the users keep playing instead of messaging the matches that were already made. This is huge. This is deep and this is so symbolic of the incredible possibilities that exist in online dating, and the behaviors that get sculpted out of these apps that pull us away from really being able to make use of these incredible resources. Less than 10% even get a hello, and these are matches. These are matches that were made. I think that speaks to the gamifying of swipe apps and what happens to us.
Pushing Love Away While Looking For It
I’m going to talk about this a little more because it’s really interesting what happens to us. This is what it is, it’s the ways in which we push love away while we’re looking for it. I know for me, this is one of the most profound realizations that I had to have, was that in my desperate and ongoing and relentless search for a relationship, I was pushing love away. I was trusting numbers and I was trusting in getting in great shape. I was trusting meeting lots of people. I was trusting in all of those things, that because they have nothing to do with intimacy, ultimately failed me in my search for intimacy.
Unavailability has a spice, a kind of umami, that is so lovely, so exciting, so delicious, and so compelling, and really feels like love. Click To Tweet
Whether you’re using swiping apps or not, whether you’re using online dating as a tool or not, I think these questions are very powerful. How in the ways that I’m searching for love might I be pushing love away? What are my metaphors for this concept of getting a match and 9 out of 10 times, not even responding? I’ll tell you what some of mine were that I’m clear on. One was consistently looking for people who were sexy, spicy, attractive, desirable, and did not get me or weren’t available. That was one way that I did that. Another way that I did that was, unconsciously, I fled the possibility of real intimacy with peers who could be available. I don’t know if it seemed more boring or claustrophobic or scary to me, but what I told myself is that those people were not exciting enough. That’s a really interesting point, I think.
Unavailability has a spice, a kind of umami that is so lovely, so exciting, so delicious, and so compelling, and really feels like love. Not so much the experience of living in love, but the experience of longing for love and feeling like it’s almost in reach, but not quite. When you fall for someone who’s not available, there’s no fear, and that is such a relief. I know that was such a relief for me. Unavailable people, I had no fear. Now, if it was someone available, I would start to feel claustrophobic. I would start to lose interest. I would start to feel bored, and the glory of unavailable people was that I could just feel delightful, excitement, and attraction with none of that fear, because there’s a gulp that has to happen. There’s a kind of like a swallowing of discomfort when you go through the process of having someone who is a stranger, who’s available and interested, and wants to enter into your world, actually, go from being a stranger to being someone you deeply bond with is hard and it’s scary.
Research shows that the degree to which we don’t yet really love ourselves or honor ourselves is the degree to which we’re going to be attracted to people who also don’t really love us, or honor us fully, or are not available. The degree to which we don’t love ourselves enough is the degree to which, when we meet people who are interested and available, we’re going to want to push them away. We’ll have a deep discomfort. This is what I call the wave of distancing. I’ve talked about it a lot. I think it’s one of the greatest, if not THE greatest saboteur of healthy new love. These apps that are constantly bringing you to the next, to the new, are very powerful for getting us over the discomfort that comes with availability. I think that’s a huge reason why so many of these matches aren’t consummated. It’s like, then I’ll have to talk to this person, then I might have to feel obligated to this person. I might not like this person. They might like me and I won’t like them, and that’s kind of exhausting, and you don’t want to have that happen, or maybe they’re kind of exciting and I’m scared because they might not like me.
Circuitries Of Attraction
I think something that is very important to understand, if we are trying to have a conscious and effective dating life and search for love, is this concept of circuitries of attraction. I think that all of us have different circuitries of attraction. The two big ones that I talk about a lot are attractions of deprivation and attractions of inspiration. Just to briefly describe those, I’ve spoken about them a lot in different episodes, an attraction of deprivation is where the sexiness, and the attraction, and the desire, at least in part, springs from the sense that someone is almost available, or is almost going to like us. They’re just somehow out of reach, and that is so sexy. It brings up such deep longing inside us, or they don’t fully accept us, or they accept us, but they don’t treasure us, or they miss our jokes and they miss our ideas, and they don’t get kind of our unique genius or our way of seeing the world. We feel like we are not seen or loved or cherished enough, but we almost are enough. We try to get that person to love us more fully, to get our jokes, to understand our unique kind of intelligence, to appreciate our beauty. You know, when you have to try that hard, it means that it’s not working.
It’s hard to describe how sexy these attractions are and how they pull at us, and how they feel like love, but these are what I call attractions of deprivation. It’s a circuitry all of us have. It’s like that playing hard to get kind of thing activates that circuitry. So much of the men’s seduction techniques are based on triggering that circuitry in women. So much of women’s seduction techniques to get a man are based on not being too available and all those kinds of things. Lots more to say about that in another episode, but the research clearly shows that playing hard to get doesn’t work. We can talk about that more in other episodes. Anyway, those are attractions of deprivation, and how many years or months have we spent lost in those attractions?
One of the things that happen in those attractions is that we are branded again and again with our feelings of insecurity. They’re branded more deeply into us. They prove the point that we’re not enough, but if we try harder, we might become enough, which translates into we are essentially just not enough. This is a powerful circuitry. It’s one that gets triggered easily, but for almost all of us, it is not our only circuitry. We have another circuitry, which I call attractions of inspiration. That’s when we’re attracted to somebody because of their goodness, their decency, their authenticity, qualities like creativity and originality, but the kind of good qualities, the qualities of decency, goodness, truth-telling, availability, and the kind of consistent, essential, liking and loving of us. Now, this is a different circuitry of attraction.
When you fall for someone who's not available, there's no fear, and that is such a relief. Click To Tweet
Here’s a really interesting point. The people that kind of grab at you and excite you deeply and intensely from the beginning often do so because unconsciously, you recognize that they’re not going to love you the way that you want to be loved. That reminds you of ways in your life that you weren’t loved the way that you want to be loved, and that’s very compelling. With attractions of inspiration, that desperate, sexy edge is not there. There’s a sense of goodness. There’s a sense of growing care. There can be such deep, rich, wonderful, fabulous lust. I’m absolutely not saying that can’t be there, but it’s a skill that we need to develop to allow that to happen in an attraction of inspiration, because for many of us, we just want to get out of there. We want to flee.
How To Do Swiping Differently
Now, in the land of online dating, what this means is that the people that you swipe most quickly “yes” on, the people that you swipe right on most quickly, are the people who are your scratch-the-itch type in most cases. I’m going to talk about how to do this, how to do swiping differently, but assuming you just kind of go with the sculpted behavior that comes out of this, the people that you’ll swipe right on will often be those real scratch-the-itch types, and those are often attractions of deprivation. All of this happens unconsciously, but it happens. This is not always the case, but it’s often the case. You just recognize that tiny little smirk, maybe that drop of arrogance that’s there, that little bit of superiority that like, you don’t quite name yet, but there’s something sexy there. A distance, a pullback that just grabs you. I know all of these so well from my own experiences.
You have to look differently for an attraction of inspiration. You need to look for inspiration. You need to look for the qualities of decency, stability, values that you love. You need to look for these things. At a certain point, in my intensives and my courses, there’s a certain point where people reach where they’ve kind of explored their attractions of deprivation, their attractions of inspiration, and they make a pledge, and the pledge is, “No more attractions of deprivation. No more. I won’t do that again. I’m going to close the door on that no matter how sexy it seems. I’m only going to pursue my attractions of inspiration, people with deep goodness, decency, integrity, and a growing sense of availability.”
When you make that choice, you begin to shift your attraction circuitries. Your circuitry of attractions of inspiration grows, and is watered and fed, just like to a hammer, everything is a nail. The more you’re in this decision to only choose inspiration, the more you will notice inspiration. You’ll notice people you wouldn’t have noticed before. Often, when you’re in that circuitry, a funny thing happens. You start remembering people from your past who were attractions of inspiration that you’ve kind of forgotten about. They come back to the fore. I always say to people, “When you do this kind of work and you grow in these kinds of ways, when people pop up from your past in your mind, and you remember, “That person was good and decent. That was an attraction of inspiration and I wasn’t ready for it.” You can find out what those people are doing. They might be available. It might be a match. I think that’s always good to do. I’ve heard so many stories of people later just becoming friends with these people.
When you’re swiping, you go into a different zone, you click into a different circuitry. Another interesting piece of research showed that college males often never ever use swiping apps even to hook up, much less to ever even speak or anything. They use it because it builds their self-esteem and it kind of helps them when they’re feeling bored. This is an amazing thing. Now, maybe you’re not using swiping apps. Maybe you’re not even dating online, but this is a very deep thing. What happens with these people who aren’t spicy because of their unavailability, cockiness, arrogance, mild disdain, or addictions? What happens with the people who aren’t those people but are real attractions of inspiration? What do you do with those people, because they just might not be quite as exciting at first. Do you ignore those people? Do you dismiss those people?
Now, I am not saying that you should be with someone who’s intellectually boring to you, that you should not be with someone who’s not really attractive to you. Of course, you shouldn’t, but I promise you that there are people who are good and decent, who are deeply creative, who have great intellect, who are physically attractive to you and are going to be physically attracted to you. There’s quite a pool of people like that. Those are the people that you want to look for. You’re doing online dating, you’re doing swipe app dating, you’re not doing online dating, the kind of task becomes the same. It is to slow down, to move away from that kind of sped up circuitry, that kind of scratch-the-itch circuitry, because scratch-the-itch circuitry might lead to a hookup. It might lead to a bad relationship. You never know it might lead to a good relationship, but usually that kind of scratch-the-itch circuitry pulls you away from closeness and intimacy.
The people that you swipe most quickly yes on are the people who are your scratch-the-itch type in most cases. Click To Tweet
What you want to do is to slow down enough, to allow yourself to not be stuck on the type of person that you always think you’re attracted to. Instead, slow down enough to feel into the quality of chemistry with someone. Often when you do that, it’s a hugely different experience than the experience of just being in your head and thinking, “This person is hot,” or “This person isn’t right for me.” When you slow down enough and you kind of go deep into your feeling state, you will feel different things than what your head is telling you. You want to know what those feelings are, because what those feelings are, are deeper chemistry, and you want to know what that deeper chemistry is.
This is a really important thing. Take the time to find out, even when you want to flee, even when you want it to get away. This is a story that I often tell. My mentor, John McNeill, who was a brilliant author and theologian, who wrote the book, Taking a Chance on God and The Church and the Homosexual. He’s a hero of mine. I was telling him once in our spiritual direction sessions. I was telling him about somebody I was dating, and in his directing me, because I was saying that this guy was somewhat attractive. He was definitely not a red flag. No, but I wasn’t that interested. John said to me, “Keep dating him, because in time, either he’s going to become more beautiful to you or he’s not, and either way, you will know.”
We do need to slow down. There are speed bumps with people who are attractions of inspiration. We get scared, but we don’t know it’s freer. In those cases, when that happens, what you want to do is slow down. You want to enjoy and almost fetishize, and appreciate the physical, emotional, and behavioral qualities about them that are sexy to you. You want to enjoy those, but with a little bit of space and a little bit of distance. You don’t necessarily want to force yourself to do sexual or intimate things that you don’t feel ready for. You keep a bit of space. You don’t flee and you don’t force yourself, and you allow this wave of distancing to pass, which it almost always will. When it passes, you will have a clearer sense of, “Is this person right for me, or are they not?”
Now, we come to a wonderful question, and the question is, what ways do you use to push possible healthy love away while you’re looking for love? Just take a minute to think about that, because your answer is gold. It might be hard to swallow and a little humbling, but it is gold. If you can take that and begin to shift it, it’s just such an important piece of knowledge. I can pretty much assure you that if you do that, if you recognize it, if you admit it, and if you start to act outside of that circuitry, you will grow in wisdom, you will grow in intimacy, and you will speed your path to finding love by a lot. This is another thing, is that online dating is built to keep you looking and not finding, which is why I’ve devoted a lot of time to creating an online resource that is about real intimacy, that incubates intimacy from beginning, hopefully to end, and that’s DeeperDating®.com. Please come and visit that site, and explore it. You can now meet people on there. You can create a profile, and you can meet other people and message with them all for free.
I’d like you to just take a minute, as we move toward closing this episode and think, is there one thing that hit home for you in this, one thing that had charge, that had resonance for you, that felt important and significant around your own dating journey and search for love? Whatever that is, really value that. Just as we are saying, “Don’t move too quickly to the next while you’re dating. Don’t move too quickly to the next, when you have a beautiful insight or an awareness in your own search for love or intimacy journey because those things are gold.” Those are the things that make us stronger and wiser, and lead us to love. Those insights, those revelations have a very big bang for the buck. When we follow them and try to act based on them, doors open. I’ve seen this again and again. It is a beautiful truth. I want to encourage you to swipe slower, notice inspiration, and trust and honor your revelations about how you need to grow in your own search for love, and ways in which you can deepen in your capacity for love, and ways in which you can minimize the degree to which you flee love even as you’re searching for it. Thanks so much for listening and visit me on DeeperDatingPodcast.com or go to DeeperDating®.com, and I look forward to seeing you on the next episode.