The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'love'
We Can Marry You Off Wholesale, a hypothetical piece set in an alternate universe where Facebook is evil and uses its power to monitor and manipulate human relationships to keep its users optimally unhappy for profits:
Facebook knew you were in love a long time before you did. It noticed you scrolling back through her timeline. Every millisecond lingering over the photos of her at the beach was faithfully logged.
On the surface, you two were perfectly suited to each other. But Facebook had detected a problem. At your age, it's hard for Facebook to make money from your love. Sure, a promotion for flowers earns a few bucks. Adverts for romantic dinners can bring in some cash. But here's not much money in that.
So Facebook acted. It "lost" the occasional message you sent her. It made sure that photos of her with other guys were always at the top of your newsfeed. She mostly saw your posts about drinking - and all the girls who had liked your status updates.
With perfect algorithmic efficiency, Facebook found you a beautiful wife who was practically guaranteed to produce a sickly child. Nothing too bad, mind you, but just ill enough to make you spend a little bit more than you would otherwise. A child is a joyous event. Lots of photos posted to Facebook. Lots of likes. Lots of inspiring updates about bravely struggling.This is, as the author points out, a work of fiction, though once the deep-learning algorithms are given access to all incoming data and control of the entire system, and optimised only to solve one problem (maximise profits, whilst avoiding a list of forbidden tactics that someone has thought of), there may be millions of subtly malevolent scams like this, all of them too complex for any human in a position of oversight to understand. Billions of equations, predicated on complicated models of circumstances and human behaviours, combining into scenarios which result in one or more users becoming slightly better-performing profit centres.
The ascent up the Maslow hierarchy of needs might have a dark side; a US psychologist claims that the ideal of self-actualisation has created a world in which romantic relationships are more likely to fail. Eli Finkel of Northwestern University posits the “suffocation” model of marriage, asserts that, as the needs we have of a partner have changed from shared survival in a hostile environment, through romantic love and onto mutual self-discovery, and the time these couples spend with one another decreases due to external time constraints, it is harder for any actual relationship with another human being (especially one who also wishes to discover themselves) to fit the bill:
"People used to marry for basic things like food and shelter. In the 1800s, you didn't have to have profound insight into your partner's core essence to tend to the chickens or build a sound physical structure against the snow," Finkel said. "Back then, the idea of marrying for love was ludicrous."
"In 2014, you are really hoping that your partner can help you on a voyage of discovery and personal growth, but your partner cannot do that unless he or she really knows who you are, and really understands your core essence. That requires much greater investment of time and psychological resources," he said.
The inimitable Rhodri Marsden has some uplifting thoughts for the day, the day being, of course, the 14th of February:
I was 14 when someone first said to me: "You're not my type". It felt like a sophisticated comeback for a 14-year-old girl. She evidently knew what she wanted from a 14-year-old boy – mainly that he had to be older than 14. My dissimilarity to the socio-economic profile she'd carefully constructed meant that I had to change, quickly, to try and tick some more boxes, but in this particular case it seemed to involve joining Spandau Ballet, which was going to be tricky. Then a friend told me that it was shorthand for: "I'll never go out with you no matter what you do," which was demoralising, but also something of a relief because Spandau Ballet weren't keen.
But then you meet someone and you fall in love and out of love and then in love with someone else and before long you realise that you have a "type", too, which becomes reinforced by every subsequent romantic liaison. And then someone comes along who's not your type, but they like you and you remember the burning injustice you felt when you were 14, so you try to explain, as best you can, that it's not going to happen. But of course it doesn't go down well, because there's no excuse yet devised that's able to cushion that kind of blow. And then you drift on, with an uneasy feeling that your "type" has now become so scarce that there's probably only one example left on the planet and it's already been shot, stuffed and exhibited in some museum somewhere, with a label that simply reads: "Sorry."In a similar (though less melancholic) vein, Rhodri also has a very entertaining book out consisting of dating catastrophies recounted through the medium of Twitter. (I attended a reading of this book last week; it was the best comedy show I have seen this year so far.)
For those more inclined to action, Occupy Valentine's Day (subtitle: "Down with couple-talism!"), a call to arms against the romance-industrial complex. Or something like that.
Meanwhile, here's Savage Chickens:
And one from Gemma Correll, a London-based illustrator specialising in all things twee:
New research has shown that oxytocin, the neurochemical which promotes feelings of love and trust, also induces racism, or to be more precise, sharper discrimination against those ethnically or culturally different from oneself and one's group:
When asked to resolve a moral dilemma, such as choosing to save five lives from a runaway train by sacrificing one life, oxytocin-sniffing Dutch men more often saved fellow countrymen over Arabs and Germans than those who didn’t get a hormonal whiff.
“Earlier research of oxytocin paints a very rosy view of it. We thought it was odd a neurological system that survived evolution would make people indiscriminately loving toward others,” said social psychologist Carsten De Dreu of the University of Amsterdam, co-author of a Jan. 10 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Under oxytocin we saw an increase of in-group favoritism, which has the downside of discrimination against people who are not part of your group.”The questions this raises are interesting. In modern Western society at least, the idea of love is almost a secular religion; it is seen as an unequivocally positive phenomenon, whose only fault is that it is, alas, not everywhere, not washing over everyone and making everything alright. Anyone who dissents from this opinion must be some kind of pitiably twisted curmudgeon; entire subgenres of Hollywood romantic comedies have been made about such sourpusses seeing the light and gaining a new faith in the redeeming power of love, replete with montage sequences. But if the biological conditions underlying the phenomena of love also measurably amplify less positive tendencies, such as reducing empathy to those outside of one's in-group, could love follow religion into becoming something once seen as universally good that has been subjected to more radical reassessment? Perhaps, in future, we'll see the same rational scepticism that has been applied to the virtue of religious faith applied to the universal beneficience of love?
New research shows that, neurologically, romantic love is a goal-oriented state and rejection is neurologically similar to cocaine withdrawal.
"This brain imaging study of individuals who were still 'in love' with their rejecter supplies further evidence that the passion of 'romantic love' is a goal-oriented motivation state rather than a specific emotion" the researchers concluded, noting that brain imaging showed some similarities between romantic rejection and cocaine craving. "The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that romantic love is a specific form of addiction."
(via Boing Boing)
A Spanish mathematician has created a mathematical model of how marriages and relationships break down. Termed "sentimental dynamics", José-Manuel Rey's theory is based on the second law of thermodynamics, and posits an optimum amount of "energy" which needs to be fed into a relationship to sustain it:
The results of the mathematical analysis showed when both members of union are similar emotionally they have an “optimal effort policy,” which results in a happy, long-lasting relationship. The policy can break down if there is a tendency to reduce the effort because maintaining it causes discomfort, or because a lower degree of effort results in instability. Paradoxically, according to the second law model, a union everyone hopes will last forever is likely break up, a feature Rey calls the “failure paradox”.The paper may be found here. (Aside: note the use of the Unicode ♥ character in the equations; I wonder how common unusual Unicode symbols are in mathematical or scientific papers these days.)
The Graun has turned what was meant to be a review of the latest Hollywood romantic comedy into a critique of this culture's emphasis on romantic love:
Romcoms don't merely provide an evening's harmless escapism. They help underpin one of the most potent doctrines of our culture: the sanctity of romantic love. It's a doctrine in which many find relief from the materialism, apathy and banality of a society no longer hallowed by religious transcendence. Yet it comes at a price.
The involuntary cognitive state that Jennifer Aniston finds herself depicting so frequently is real enough, but not particularly mystical. Brain scans show it to be generated by the frisky interaction of chemicals like norepinephrine and dopamine. If this hubbub's triggered by recognition of genetic quality, as now seems to be assumed, that would explain why Aniston and her ilk have to be so annoyingly good-looking.
What we call love induces some of the worst behaviour that we're likely to encounter. Yet when this occurs, it usually invites no censure, let alone punishment. Romantic love is a get-out-of-jail-free card that legitimises actions which would otherwise be thought contemptible. Home-wreckers steal something cherished far more deeply than money or possessions. Nonetheless, they go on to build their happiness on the misery of others without having to endure the slightest disapproval. After all, they had no choice but to do what they did: they were in love.
In other cultures, romantic love enjoys no comparable status. Our own ancestors might find our veneration of it as puzzling as we find their worship of pagan gods. In our otherwise disrespectful age, the persistence of its dominion is rather remarkable. Would it have proved so enduring without the big screen's relentless promotion of its supposedly limitless benefits?I have been wondering whether the emphasis on romantic love in popular culture (a significant proportion of mainstream pop songs seem to be about the transitions into and out of the state of being in love, for example) and the sexualisation of the media are not two sides of the same coin, namely a focus on relations between people as being a marketplace of potential partners, rather than less glamorous and less dynamic forms of relations. Could this be a sort of social Reaganism/Thatcherism, the ideological assertion that "everything is a market" translated into the realm of interpersonal relations?
Psychological experiments at the University of Amsterdam have found connections between romantic love and creative thinking and sex and analytical thinking:
The clever experiments demonstrated that love makes us think differently in that it triggers global processing, which in turn promotes creative thinking and interferes with analytic thinking. Thinking about sex, however, has the opposite effect: it triggers local processing, which in turn promotes analytic thinking and interferes with creativity.
Why does love make us think more globally? The researchers suggest that romantic love induces a long-term perspective, whereas sexual desire induces a short-term perspective. This is because love typically entails wishes and goals of prolonged attachment with a person, whereas sexual desire is typically focused on engaging in sexual activities in the "here and now". Consistent with this idea, when the researchers asked people to imagine a romantic date or a casual sex encounter, they found that those who imagined dates imagined them as occurring farther into the future than those who imagined casual sex.
A global processing style promotes creative thinking because it helps raise remote and uncommon associations. Consider, for example, the act of finding a gift for your partner. If we think about a gift while in a local mindset, then we’ll probably focus on more literal and concrete options, most of which involve a tangible object wrapped in colorful paper. We’ll probably consider the usual suspects, such as a watch, a book, or perfume. However, thinking about a gift more globally might inspire us to consider a gift as "anything that will make him/her happy". This may, in turn, bring to mind more diverse and original ideas, such as going on a joint vacation, writing a song, or cleaning and remodeling the house. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should always think globally. While local processing might interfere with creativity, it also promotes analytic thinking, which requires us to apply logical rules. For example, if you are looking for a piece of furniture in a big display according to a pre-defined list of criteria (e.g., size, color, price), a local mindset may help you find a match, by preventing you from being side-tracked by attractive but irrelevant options and by making you pay more attention to relevant details.I wonder how this ties into other things, such as holism and reductionism. Or wiether there's a correlation between short-term thinking and a prevalence of sexualised imagery/metaphors.
(via Mind Hacks)
Something to do this Valentine's Day in London: anarchist speed dating, organised by hardcore anarchist group Class War, no less:
Proceedings at the Cross Kings - a boozer in an as-yet un-gentrified corner of north London - will be overseen by a dominatrix known as Miss Scarlett L'amour. There will be no segregation by gender, out of respect to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender attendees.
Anarchist literature will be on sale all through the anti-Valentine's evening. And entertainment will be provided by punk bands with such names to set the heart a-flutter as Active Slaughter and Headjam.The BBC piece, of course, starts with the "Anarchist speed dating? What a laugh." angle; after all, in the eyes of the tabloid-reading public, anarchists are nihilistic thugs who like smashing stuff, and the idea of them engaging with romantic love is a piece of wacky juxtaposition. The piece is, to its credit, quite sympathetic to the anarchist position, and goes beyond the stereotype:
He doesn't mind if that somebody is "a boy or a girl, as long as they're pretty". And he doesn't find anything strange about agitators being equally committed to bringing down the system and finding companionship.
"From a distance, when you think of anarchists you think of big boots and fighting with policemen," he says. "But all the ones I've met have been very nice, very committed people. They believe in something and they want to find love, just like everyone else. Why would that surprise anyone?"
New research from England (where else?) claims that having had a passionate first love can damage one's chances of finding happiness, and it's better to avoid the throes of extreme passion altogether:
Brynin found that the euphoria of first love can damage future relationships. "Remarkably, it seems that the secret to long-term happiness in a relationship is to skip a first relationship," said Brynin. "In an ideal world, you would wake up already in your second relationship."
While researching the components of successful long-term partnerships, Brynin found intense first loves could set unrealistic benchmarks, against which we judge future relationships. "If you had a very passionate first relationship and allow that feeling to become your benchmark for a relationship dynamic, then it becomes inevitable that future, more adult partnerships will seem boring and a disappointment," he said.
A study at Edinburgh's Heriot Watt University has claimed that watching romantic comedies can damage relationships, by inculcating unrealistic expectations:
They found fans of films such as Runaway Bride and Notting Hill often fail to communicate with their partner. Many held the view if someone is meant to be with you, then they should know what you want without you telling them.
Kimberly Johnson, who also worked on the study, said: "Films do capture the excitement of new relationships but they also wrongly suggest that trust and committed love exist from the moment people meet, whereas these are qualities that normally take years to develop."
Concerned about its young citizens being too busy working hard to find partners, the government of Singapore (perhaps one of the most efficiently managed societies in history) has begun offering lessons in seduction. Not that type of seduction, though, of course, but something altogether more wholesome and befitting of a place described as "Disneyland with the death penalty":
Students at two polytechnics can earn two credits towards their final degree by choosing the love elective. Activities include watching romantic films, holding hands and "love song analysis".(They need a course with credits for holding hands? Good grief. Has all spontaneity really been disciplined out of the Singaporean spirit to the point where they need to be directed on how to fall in love?)
But it is not so easy to put Singaporean youth in the mood for love. Another student who did the course, Kamal Prakash, said: "I'm not really looking for a girlfriend now as I want to concentrate on my studies."
Evolutionary biologist Carl Zimmer looks at evidence suggesting that romantic love is a biological adaptation, and is not unique to humans; a far cry from the blank-slater hypothesis that romantic love is a cultural construct invented by mediæval troubadors and/or Mills & Boon, and before that everything was unromantically practical arranged marriages and dynastic property transactions:
There are reasons to conclude that romance as well was shaped by the unsentimental hand of evolution. We humans don't have a monopoly on oxytocin and other molecules linked to feeling in love. Love may switch on reward pathways in our brains, but other animals have similar--if simpler--reward pathways too.
In her experiments, Haselton finds evidence for love as an adaptation. She and her colleagues have people think about how much they love someone and then try to suppress thoughts of other attractive people. They then have the same people think about how much they sexually desire those same partners and then try again to suppress thoughts about others. It turns out that love does a much better job of pushing out those rivals than sex does. Haselton argues that this effect is exactly what you'd expect if sex was a drive to reproduce and love was a drive to form a long-term commitment.
(via Mind Hacks)
The latest exhibition at Berlin's super-hip Tacheles art space is a travelling exhibition of artefacts from failed relationships. The Broken Relationships exhibition, originally from Croatia, actively solicits contributions from attendees in the cities it visits; contributions have included a wedding dress and an axe used to destroy an ex-lover's furniture.
In recent health-related news: a cure may have been discovered for the debilitating condition of unrequited love. Researchers in Alabama and Iran have found that a combination of the hormones of melatonin and vasotocin may alleviate the condition:
Intense romantic love is associated with specific physiological, psychological and behavioural changes, including euphoria, obsessiveness, and a craving for closeness with the target.
The key is the pea-sized pineal gland, which produces melatonin. This hormone plays a key role in the circadian cycle. It has also shown anti-dopamine activities in part of the brain, while a second hormone, arginine-vasotocin, also has a key role in romantic love. The researchers suggest that giving the two hormones may be a cure for non-returned romantic love.(Alabama and Iran? I wonder whether there's any deeper significance to two places known for religiously-based social conservatism being at the forefront of research to control a powerful and sometimes disruptive phenomenon. Is it heartening or disturbing that, even as talk of a US/Iranian war grows louder, US and Iranian scientists can join forces in the War On Unrequited Love?)
Also in the same article: taking showers may cause a neurodegenerative condition associated with inhalation of manganese, keeping dogs may cause breast cancer and sunlight may increase violent impulses.
A US astronaut has been charged with trying to kidnap a woman she thought was a romantic rival for the affections of a space shuttle pilot.
Police said Capt Nowak drove 1,000 miles (1,600km) from her home in Houston to Orlando International Airport, wearing a nappy to avoid a toilet break.
Ms Shipman was then attacked with the pepper spray, it says. She drove to a car park booth and police were called.It is believed to be the first time an astronaut has been charged with a crime.
Artificial intelligence/cognitive science pioneer Marvin Minsky, who has recently written a book on the mechanisms behind emotions, gives an interview, weighing in on intelligence, cognition, the nature of self and the ineffable mysteries of life:
Q What, in your view, is love?
A There's short-term infatuation, where someone gets strongly attracted to someone else, and that's probably very often a turning-off of certain things rather than something extra: It's a mental state where you remove your criticism. So to say someone is beautiful is not necessarily positive, it may be something happening so you can't see anything wrong with this person. And then there are long-term attachments, where you adopt the goals of the other person and somehow make serious changes in what you're going to do.
Q And what is the self?
A We often imagine that there's a little person inside ourselves who makes our important decisions for us. However, a more useful idea is that you build many different models of yourself for dealing with different situations -- and each of those self-images can add to your resourcefulness.
Social psychologists in the UK have enumerated the nine types of (romantic) love. These include a "grown-up version" that involves mutual trust, recognition and support, the "Cupid's dart" variety, "hedonistic love" and "dyadic partnership love" (where two people become a single unit, presumably delegating cognitive tasks to each other), as well as various transitional forms.
A survey of the similarities between love and various pathological conditions:
The initial drive - lust - is brought on by surges of sex hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen. These induce an indiscriminate scramble for physical gratification. Attraction transpires once a more-or-less appropriate object is found (with the right body language and speed and tone of voice) and is tied to a panoply of sleep and eating disorders.
Obsessive thoughts regarding the Loved One and compulsive acts are also common. Perception is distorted as is cognition. "Love is blind" and the lover easily fails the reality test. Falling in love involves the enhanced secretion of b-Phenylethylamine (PEA, or the "love chemical") in the first 2 to 4 years of the relationship. This natural drug creates an euphoric high and helps obscure the failings and shortcomings of the potential mate. Such oblivion - perceiving only the spouse's good sides while discarding her bad ones - is a pathology akin to the primitive psychological defense mechanism known as "splitting". Narcissists - patients suffering from the Narcissistic Personality Disorder - also Idealize romantic or intimate partners. A similar cognitive-emotional impairment is common in many mental health conditions.
Love, in all its phases and manifestations, is an addiction, probably to the various forms of internally secreted norepinephrine, such as the aforementioned amphetamine-like PEA. Love, in other words, is a form of substance abuse. The withdrawal of romantic love has serious mental health repercussions.
Also via Mind Hacks, studies of the neurology of sarcasm, which turns out to be a good subject for exploring subjects' theory of mind, being carried out at the fantastically-named Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel.
In this pre-Valentine's Day romance-related-article silly season, health experts are claiming that unrequited love is a real illness that can kill.
He said many are "destabilised by falling in love, or suffer on account of their love being unrequited" and this could lead to a suicide attempt. Few studies deal with the "specific problem of lovesickness", he said.
Which sounds like a bit of a cop-out to me; I don't doubt that unrequited love has caused many mental breakdowns and suicides, though I wonder how much of that comes from the biology of the condition and how much comes from the social expectation that, when someone you fancy doesn't fancy you, you're entitled to whine, pout, go all emo and become temporarily unresponsible for your behaviour. For example, during the Victorian era, many women would faint in certain social situations. This was not due to the biology of the female gender being susceptible to sudden consciousness loss, but due to programmed-in social expectation. Could it be that losing one's shit over that one special person in the world who doesn't reciprocate one's passion is a similar case of cultural conditioning?
(Which is not to say that romantic love or sexual attraction is culturally constructed; I don't for a moment entertain the blank-slate theory of human nature. However, it's more than conceivable the expectations of how such urges are expressed, and how much they can affect one's behaviour, are strongly influenced by cultural expectations, and that, as biological and physical causes of behaviours are revealed, they gain more influence as the self-sustaining illusion of the sovereign free will becomes weakened.)
Then again, now that unrequited love is recognised as a bona fide medical condition, perhaps some pharmaceutical company will seize the opportunity and bring out an anti-unrequited-love drug, a sort of Prozac for the heart which quickly and conveniently cures this debilitating ailment, further streamlining the human condition.
Neural imaging technologies have shown that feelings of love lead to a suppression of activity in the areas of the brain controlling critical thought; in other words, love is blind. Or perhaps it just makes you stupid.
In the US, it seems you can patent anything, including the secrets of successful relationships. And given that Australia has just committed itself to implementing a US-style patent system, and Europe is adopting US-style software patents, this sort of thing looks likely to be the case for all of McWorld soon. And then it will be legally impossible for anyone to do anything without the backing of a multinational corporation with a patent portfolio and cross-licensing agreements with other patentholders. (via Techdirt)
I believe this is a parody of those "Love Is" cartoons seen on posters in the London Underground:
Next time you buy the mandatory diamond ring for your beloved, spare a thought for the child soldiers who valiantly fought to get it for you, or the civilians in Sierra Leone whose limbs they hacked off:
Over the course of the decade-long war, the rebels have mutilated some 20,000 people, hacking off their arms, legs, lips, and ears with machetes and axes. This campaign was the RUF's grotesquely ironic response to Sierra Leone President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's 1996 plea for citizens to "join hands for peace." Another 50,000 to 75,000 have been killed. The RUF's goal was to terrorize the population and enjoy uncontested dominion over the diamond fields.
The Powers That Be assure us they're reforming the process to ensure eliminate the perception of such inequity; however, without much success.
Unfortunately, neither action is halting the lucrative trade: "Efforts to end the trade in conflict diamonds ran into a major obstacle in the Bush administration, which has been reluctant to impede business in any way or have its hands tied by any international agreements, even when the U.S. diamond industry has called for it," says Akwei.
(Does that mean that Halliburton, the Carlyle Group or some other band of highly-connected kleptocrats have a stake in the diamond trade, or are the Bush administration just being recalcitrant out of principle?) (via Adbusting)
Scientists are discovering the neurological bases of social phenomena such as romantic love, trust, self-awareness and deception.
"We believe romantic love is a developed form of one of three primary brain networks that evolved to direct mammalian reproduction," says researcher Helen Fisher, PhD, of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. "The sex drive evolved to motivate individuals to seek sex with any appropriate partner. Attraction, the mammalian precursor of romantic love, evolved to enable individuals to pursue preferred mating partners, thereby conserving courtship time and energy. The brain circuitry for male-female attachment evolved to enable individuals to remain with a mate long enough to complete species-specific parenting duties."
In the new research, Zak and his colleagues find that when someone observes that another person trusts them, oxytocin - a hormone that circulates in the brain and the body - rises. The stronger the signal of trust, the more oxytocin increases. In addition, the more oxytocin increases, the more trustworthy (reciprocating trust) people are.
"Interestingly, participants in this experiment were unable to articulate why they behaved they way they did, but nonetheless their brains guided them to behave in `socially desirable ways,' that is, to be trustworthy," says Zak. "This tells us that human beings are exquisitely attuned to interpreting and responding to social signals.
(Or, perhaps, that what we know as the conscious mind doesn't so much make decisions or control our behaviour as rationalise it; could it be that the conscious mind does little more than provide a running commentary for the many physical processes happening in the brain and nervous system, and the (advantageous) illusion of a coherent, unified "self"? But I digress.)
And in other related news: a wink sends testosterone soaring:
He paid male students $10 to come into the lab and leave a saliva sample. Unbeknownst to the men, the scientists staged a five-minute chat with a twentysomething female research assistant before they spit. This brief brush set the men's hormones surging: testosterone levels in their spit shot up around 30%. The higher a man's hormone soared, the more the female research assistant judged that he was out to impress - by talking about himself, for example.
As more and more people look for love online, a new industry has arisen: online dating consultants. For a fee, they'll spruce up your profile (or write you a new one guaranteed to make your boring, unimaginative self look dazzlingly witty and original), and/or furnish you with a digital portrait guaranteed to reel 'em in. (via Techdirt)
A Los Angeles-based firm's site, www.e-cyrano.com, offers a choice of packages, ranging from a 40-dollar "bronze" service that provides basic profile editing to a 200-dollar "platinum" option where a personal consultant writes a profile from scratch and follows up with a 30-minute phone consultation.
Yes, Los Angeles sounds like the place for that kind of thing.
Despite the increasing popularity of online dating, Stricke says she often has to counsel people who are worried about the "loser" stigma that still sticks to the idea. "Some people are like, 'OK, I'm going to a photographer. Am I weird for doing that?' And I say, look, it's totally cool, everyone deserves a good photograph," she said.
So if you hire a consultant to write your online dating profile and pay a special photographer to give you that killer portrait people might think you're a bit desperate or insecure? Whyever so?
(Though, perhaps as increasing mobility and "labor-market flexibility" (read: longer and/or more unusual work hours) and the tendency to postpone marriage until long after leaving school/university take their toll on the traditional theatres of courtship, perhaps soon everyone will be looking for their next partners online; and thanks to the Red Queen Effect, the only way to not be a loser will be to hire the most cutting-edge dating consultants, armed with the latest techniques, to put yourself ahead of the competition who are using all of last week's hottest profile tips.)
As Interflora/Hallmark Relationship Tax Payment Day approaches, an interesting article about how good sex is neurochemically indistinguishable from being in love. The thing that does the magic is a neurochemical called oxytocin, which is released during orgasm and triggers the bonding behaviours in the human brain. So the more sex you have, the more oxytocin you have in your brain, and the more "in-love" you feel. Which can be somewhat problematic if you're not suited to each other outside of the bedroom.
(Yes, it's that time of year. Remind me to keep up the tradition and post some links about how (1) being "in love" is biologically indistinguishable from (a) shooting up heroin, or (b) obsessive-compulsive disorder, (2) the sexual marketplace is not the positive, life-affirming thing it's represented as but rather a brutal, atavistic and ugly form of capitalism-red-in-tooth-and-claw, and (3) it's all a con to take your money and prop up florists, trinket-manufacturing sweatshops and the DeBeers diamond monopoly, and so on.)
Soup, Cos' new community blog storytelling project, has an entry on overpasses as community noticeboards; i.e., the tendency for people to write birthday wishes, declarations of love, &c., on bridges and overpasses.
Many years ago, there was a graffito over Burwood Highway (I think it was on one of the Alamein line railway bridges), reading "I'LL ALWAYS MISS YOU EILEEN &heart; SD". I saw it many times when being driven to school, and imagined a tearful SD writing that before jumping to his death below. It occurred to me later that the bridge was nowhere near high enough to reliably commit suicide from, by when my mental image of SD was revised to lying with a broken leg in the middle of Burwood Highway at 3am, a bucket of paint spilled beside him, the pain distracting him from his broken heart, and the alcohol taking some of the edge off the pain.
One day I saw a piece in a community paper (I think it was out Ferntree Gully way), by a journalist who tracked down the real SD, who wrote his famous message one drunken night after Eileen left him, a decade or so earlier. Since then he had married another girl, bought a house in Boronia or Upwey or some place, and become a father. Every day he would commute to work down Burwood Highway and see his younger self's testament of undying love; sometimes, he said, he wanted to climb the bridge and paint over the silly thing once and for all.
Porn spammers are taking to online dating web sites to prey on the unloved and gullible; it now seems that 3% of online personals are spam, crafted to collect email addresses and hopefully sucker the respondent into subscribing to a porn site.
While the ads are tricky to spot, it's not impossible. They tend to be women in their 20s who have very general information listed in their personal essays, and often leave many personal details fields blank. And of course, an immediate request for a private e-mail address should be suspicious.
Who says romance is dead? h4x0r boy meets h4x0r girl. Ah, young love...
Romantic Love Considered Harmful: New research shows that teenagers who are preoccupied with romantic thoughts in their adolescence are more likely to suffer depression later in life. (via FmH)
The sexual marketplace: The greatest love letters in history have used the same techniques used by direct mail marketers.
In advertising, we must remember, honesty is a commodity that can be traded freely against expectations; since Henry (VIII) clearly didn't need Anne (Boleyn) as a repeat customer, he could afford to promise her more than his final cutthroat offer.
Creepy link of the day: The White Supremacist guide to dating, or how to be the psychopath women can't resist and win over the Eva Braun of your dreams (attributed to one "Elizabeth Bennett", who I think is named after a Jane Austen character; go figure):
Many people have pondered and scratched their heads, wondering what the connection is between sex and violence. The answer is, sex IS violence and women want to have sex with a violent man... The fact is, women experience sex as a delicious form of violence. What is more violent than losing control of your body for nine months, swelling up like a tick? I know it's hard for you to understand (because you aren't a faggot who wants to be dominated) but if you don't understand how women feel about sex -- the mixture of pleasure and pain, fear and excitement, melting in a haze of pleasure and degradation -- then you can't be a good lover.
(You know, parts of this read like a neo-Nazi version of Ayn Rand, or perhaps Houseplants of Gor...) (via NtK, bOING bOING)
Fitter, happier, more productive: A look at the phenomenon of online dating, and its effects on human interaction:
And that's what's fascinating about online dating. It reflects the human propensity for choice and classification, and the fact that technology is being molded to meet those propensities. By online dating Darwin might have been disturbed, but he would not have been surprised.
Morever, the truly innocent are often truly hoodwinked, according to the anonymous author of Saferdating.com, a site with extremely detailed advice and gruesome online dating stories, started by a woman who met her husband through the Internet, but "went through hellish experiences" beforehand. Online dating anecdotes posted on Saferdating.com have titles like "Determining Honesty Is Like Military Intelligence" and "A Horror Story of Cons and Scams."
"Our study showed if people are communicating with someone they believe to be attractive, they edit and rewrite more than if they don't care whether they are impressing them." Walther's chief concern is that email correspondence can lead to a dangerous wish fulfillment for the perfect love. "It is nearly impossible for people to live up to such an artificially high, idealized range of expectations," he noted.
This morning on 3RRR, I heard about an interestingly subversive art installation being launched at the Blackbox gallery. It explores the nature of globalisation and personality, and consists of a love-letter transcription service. Users record a romantic message on a computer, and it is sent to a data-processing consultancy in Bombay, India, where (thanks to the cheap, skilled labour that is so popular with the call-centre and medical-transcript industries in the West) it is hand-written and mailed to your beloved. I believe it is part of the Experimenta "Waste" programme.
As more and more Americans (and other westerners, to an extent) spend more and more of their lives on medication, from childhood ritalin to adolescent MDMA to adult Prozac, the question arises of what proportion of personal relationships are mediated by medication: (via Follow Me Here)
But according to Dr. Amy Banks, a psychiatrist at the Stone Center for the Study of Relationships at Wellesley College: ''There are two categories of medicated couples. There are those in which the medication allows the rightful relationship to emerge, and then there are those in which medication serves as a screen to cover up real issues. How can you tell them apart?''
"I saw a woman ... with 7-year-old twins. She came to me because she felt she needed to be less mean in her relationship. But she has 7-year-old twins while her husband gets to kick back, sleep late. She resented the hell out of him. I told her: 'You know what? Drugs won't fix this. I don't want to take away your anger.'" What Banks is saying makes a lot of sense, but there's also something a tad condescending to it. I mean, if the woman doesn't want anger, why impose it on her? Maybe, for her, the best thing is to mellow out. There is something to be said for living a less honest life, the edges softer, peace in place of confrontation.
(This piece reminded me of a scifiesque story idea I once had, about chemical marriage counselling, in which troubled couples are given drugs (acting much like phenylethylamine, the "falling-in-love" neurotransmitter) to make them fall in love all over again. I never figured out, however, whether such a programme would be a roaring success or a catastrophic failure.
Scare meme of the day (or of a few days ago anyway): Falling in love is bad for your psychological health; at least if you're a teenager. Adolescents in the throes of romantic involvement and under the influence of phenylethylamine have been found to be more susceptible to depression, delinquency and drug abuse. Remember kids: Just Say No. (via Rebecca's Pocket)
Destroy anything pink and fluffy: Islamic morality police staged a Valentine's Day crackdown, arresting lovers making out in cars and hotel rooms. Those who could produce marriage certificates were released; others found holding hands unchaperoned were sent home separately. No idea what happened to more severe cases; caning perhaps?
More details on Bandai's Love By Email "virtual girlfriend" service, which operates through Japan's "i-Mode" mobile phone system:
Progress is measured on a chart that shows how many of the woman's 52 secrets the man has been able to uncover and what percentage of her heart he has won. At the end of the relationship, which can last from one to three months, a successful lover will be given an everlasting commitment of love. An insufficiently attentive suitor is dismissed as a creep.
Bandai had a similar service for women, named My Prince Charming, but it was unsuccessful, attracting only 1,000 subscribers in its first three days. By comparison, Love By Email has more than 30,000 subscribers.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of bootywhang: Microsoft's PR people have posted an ad to a PC magazine, saying that PC users were better lovers than Mac users -- and an identical one to a Mac magazine saying the opposite. Hmmm; reminds me of an amusing article I saw about how Macintoshes make better courtship devices than PCs.
The strange little gulping noise from her throat, would ordinarily be message enough but you're revved up, and you start to tell her about the clock chipping you did last weekend and how you had to hack the DLL in order to get the IDE address to register. She starts to backpedal as you describe the ordeal of finding the correct dip switch setting for your new modem. With wild hand gestures you launch into the details for finding the secret passage from level 7 to level 8 of the game you've been playing over the net, but the object of your desire has fallen to the floor clutching her throat.
Who could possibly identify with some of the bland, insipid "love ballads" that end up on supermarket piped music systems? My guess would be that the only person such songs could hold deep meaning for would be a retarded teenager with a crush on the lady who takes care of him. Either that or they were written and recorded specifically for supermarkets, as part of some psychological manipulation technique.
Researchers at the Institute of Psychology have discovered that men are biologically programmed to fall in love at the age of 50, dumping long-term partners and taking younger trophy wives. This phenomenon, termed the "Michael Douglas Syndrome", was no doubt an evolutionarily advantageous mutation, allowing men with this trait another chance to pass their genes on with a fit, fertile partner.
Magnetic resonance imaging can tell whether you're really in love:
Seeing a lover prompted activity in four brain regions that were not active when looking at pictures of a friend, and caused a significant reduction in the activity of one other area... Two active areas lay deep in the cortex: the medial insula, which may be responsible for "gut" feelings, and a part of the anterior cingulate, which is known to respond to euphoria-inducing drugs... The inactive region was in the right prefrontal cortex--the region that is overactive in depressed patients.
It's probably only a matter of time before this appears on the market, as a device which tells you whether your partner is really in love with you, or just using you for money or sex or somesuch.