Hiding Your Uniqueness May Be Turning People Off

don't hide who you are

dataclysmIt’s 10:52pm on a Thursday. Having consumed too much caffeine, I lay in bed, tired but unable to drift off into slumber. With a sigh, I turn on the bedside lamp and grab the nearest book: Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder.

In Dataclysm, Rudder takes absurdly large datasets from OKCupid.com, the dating website he co-founded, and uses this data to tell the stories of how we behave online and why. It’s fascinating.

The particular chapter I read tonight focuses on how “controversial”, polarizing women get more messages and dates on OKCupid.com than those who are conventionally attractive. For example, if a woman with many piercings and tattoos has an average rating of 3 – comprised of some men rating her a lowly 1 (not a fan of tattoos) and some men rating her a perfect 5 (love the tattoos) – she will, on average, find more success than the bombshell blonde where most guys rate her a 3, 4, or 5.  In other words, an average rating is misleading. What’s important is the distribution of ratings.

Wow, that’s weird. Why does that happen?

Who knows. Rudder’s data shows correlation, not causation. Nevertheless, Rudder ventures a few guesses, first focusing on the perceptions of the men who choose to message her:

“Her very unconventionality implies that some other men are likely turned off; it means less competition. Having fewer rivals increases his chances of success.”

This is a solid guess, but probably doesn’t tell the whole story.

Of greater interest, Rudder also proposes that this phenomenon is related to the well-documented pratfall effect (i.e. an individual’s attractiveness increases after committing a small blunder). If that’s even partially true, it would indicate that we often appreciate things more, not because of a lack of flaws, but by their very presence.

To quote Rudder one more time:

“So at the end of it, given that everyone on Earth has some kind of flaw, the real moral here is: be yourself and be brave about it. Certainly trying to fit in, just for its own sake, is counterproductive.”

This was the idea that caught my attention.

We feel such a strong pull towards appearing “normal”, lest we expose ourselves to judgment and ridicule from others. Yet here we are with a case study demonstrating the triumph of the unconventional. Perhaps this call to uniqueness carries over into other areas of life as well? Or maybe it’s an isolated case in the wacky world of online dating.

It’s an idea worth exploring.


Photo Credit: Enrico Policardo

 

Giving Up What You Love: A Guide to Breaking Through Plateaus

giveupcoffee

It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.
—Seneca

My friends like to joke that I have a second home at Philz Coffee in San Francisco. Three or four days a week, they would see an automated social media check-in at Philz as a result of me connecting to their wi-fi.

There’s a reason I go there so often: I’m happiest when lounging in coffee shops. A quote from my post on tracking my happiness for 30 days says it all:

The top three activities that make me happy: conversation, listening to music, and working on passion projects … considering that people typically do these activities in coffee shops, this may help explain [why I’m at my happiest there].

As you can see, coffee shops are a winner in my book.

Unfortunately, drinking coffee was also sabotaging me. I’ve been struggling with certain health-related goals for years, and deep down I knew coffee was to blame (more on this shortly). But like so many others, the thought of giving up coffee horrified me.

How I thought every morning would be if I gave up coffee.

Three months ago, I put my foot down and finally took coffee out of my life. It sucked, big time, but it was absolutely worth it. And that’s what this post is about: giving up things you really enjoy because they’re holding you back.

Is it painful to give up things you love? Yes. Is it worth the struggle in order to continue growing as a person? Hell yes. And the rest of this post explains why. Continue Reading…

You Should Remind Yourself of Your Mortality. Here’s What People Remind Themselves of Instead.

Remind yourself that...

The truth is . . . once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.
—Morrie Schwartz

Ever since reading Tuesdays With Morrie, I’ve been quite taken with the idea that in order to live, you must learn how to die. In other words, in order to get the most out of life, you should live each day with the understanding that your time on this planet is limited.

The problem is, we’re not very good at remembering our mortality—especially while we’re young. As such, we end up binge-watching Netflix and overeating McDonalds far more often than we should.

Morrie isn’t the only one to recognize the power of keeping mortality in mind as often as possible. In his book Show Your Work!, artist Austin Kleon recommends reading the obituaries every day to inspire you to take action. It’s a good suggestion, but the idea of reading obituaries every day doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest.

Thankfully, the internet is chock-full of people finding creative means of remembering their own mortality.

Yet, it seems that mortality is far from the most popular thing people like to remind themselves of. How do I know? During my research, I started typing remind yourself that you will die someday into Google. The Google search box, in an attempt to show me popular searches, gave me the following auto-completed results.

Remind yourself that...

Nothing about mortality? Ok then.

Not quite what I was looking for, I’m afraid. It seems one’s mortality isn’t top of mind for people searching on the web.

Nevertheless, after sprucing up my Google search, I found some interesting techniques for keeping mortality top of mind, whether to boost your motivation to act on goals or for greater mindfulness of our time on this beautiful planet.

1. The Colored Beads Technique

I came across this technique on Boing Boing. In a nutshell, game designer Chris Crawford owns 29,216 small plastic beads, which he transfers into a jar with each passing day, representing his numbered days on earth.

beadjars

Similar to the colored beads technique is using jelly beans to represent your life in days. Even if you can’t replicate this, the video describing it is a powerful reminder of our limited time on Earth. Continue Reading…

Five Questions That Will Shape Your Life’s Story: A Guide to a Coherent Life

Vertical Awareness

Life at its many (vertical) levels

Human beings are great at waking up, doing things, going to sleep, and repeating. We drive our kids to school, submit project reports, endure the commute home, cook dinner, shop online a little, and maybe even book a flight to somewhere exotic to escape winter.

This is all well and good; life is a wonderful gift, even when we’re taking it day by day. However, researchers are demonstrating that certain long-term lifestyle decisions can significantly influence our day-to-day happiness. In other words, by temporarily stepping out of the daily grind and making certain decisions, we can improve our day-to-day happiness.

If this is a topic that interests you, one question you should ask yourself immediately is, “Is my life vertically coherent?”

Huh? Vertically coherent? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

I hear you; it’s a confusing term that I needed to have explained to me. Let’s put it another way. Imagine you’re traveling somewhere exotic and encounter a friendly local. This local is intelligent, light-hearted, and speaks enough English to communicate well with you. After a bit of banter, he asks you a rather direct question: “I want to learn more about your journey to my humble village. So tell me, how does this trip further your life story?”

I’d probably freeze up in this situation. My life story? Hell, I don’t even know what I have going on next week, let alone a clear idea of my entire life’s story. I’d likely laugh off his question with a shrug and start asking more questions about things to do in his village.

In the scenario above, the local was asking me about my life’s vertical coherence, and I was unable to demonstrate it. Continue Reading…