Mack R. Hicks Ph.D.

Digital Pandemic

What Happened to Love at First Sight?

Are we letting numbers, details and facts undermine human relationships?

Posted Sep 06, 2014

A smartphone app called Tinder serves up thousands of potential dating matches. This service offers big numbers and endless possibilities. But Leah Reich, in her New York Times article, “Playing the Numbers in Digital Dating,” August 17, 2014, questions whether dating as a numbers game really fits the human condition.

Thousands of numbers, thousands of potential contacts and thousands of potential “hookups.” What could be better? Hmm, I’m thinking that sometimes less is more, and this could be one of those times. Reich asks “with so many options, how can we ever choose?” I think that’s a fair question.

 Remember the 1940s, Rodgers and Hammerstein song, “Some Enchanted Evening?” Two perfect strangers make an unexpected and breathtaking visual connection across a crowded room.

                                                 Who can explain it?

                                                 Who can tell you why?

                                                 Fools give you reasons,

                                                 WISE MEN NEV-ER TRY!

Fools give you reasons, all right, and I guess we’ve entered an era where fools are giving us lots of reasons to become absorbed in numbers, details and facts. But where’s the emotion? Where’s the love? Is this the old battle between the left brain and right brain, a deadly competition where left-brain logic tries to submerge our feelings and emotions?

If you want to select a beautiful forest for a picture shoot would you go into the woods and begin examining trees, one by one, scurrying from tree to tree, or would you fly overhead and experience the forest in all its grandeur and beauty, nestled in the mountains, its leaves sparkling as if laced with gold?

 Neither approach is perfect, because if you look at only the big picture, you could miss the dry rot in the wood, which can only be revealed through close examination of each tree. But if I had to choose between the two approaches, I’d take the big picture. “Can I explain it? Can I tell you why?” Unlike the lyrics of “Enchanted Evening,” I’ll give it a try, fool that I am. We humans are a contrary lot, and the right brain hasn’t given up yet.

 You see, Tinder the matchmaker has 2 billion matches to date, but that’s trifle compared to the human brain, where billions of brain cells are activated in an instant. In fact, when those two lovers from the song see each other across that crowded room, brain cells are activated in every part of their brains, especially the right side of the brain, because they’ve already fallen in love and haven’t even met! And they haven’t even had a chance to analyze reams of doctored photos or calculate their potential lover’s height, weight, educational background, or social class.

 Why wouldn’t we trust Tinder? It’s simply because we can’t trust computers when it comes to love. Computers mean well, but are child’s play compared to the human brain. And I say this with full awareness of neuropsychological claims about groundbreaking research and incredible things that may happen someday. Yes, it’s always out there in the future. Please give me a wake-up call when someday arrives. And computers are half-brained. Yes, they are mostly left-brained, and creating simulations of the right side of the brain won’t be easy.

 And if a left-brainer does a photo shoot, she is likely to also take a picture of herself –– a selfie. I know the selfie lets us know about our friends’ travels to exotic places such as Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and to give us plodders a little excitement in our dull lives. Ah, to see that face. It’s uplifting I tell you. And sometimes we even get to glimpse iconic landmarks in the distant background.

 I must admit that it makes me feel good to get a selfie, because at least my friend has taken valuable time from her journey to think of me. Or maybe not. But, in any event, as with the forest and the trees analogy, the selfie is another example of thinking small.

 Recently, on the coast of Portugal, a Polish couple climbed over a guard rail to snap selfies of themselves with the sea as a backdrop, while their two young children watched. They fell hundreds of feet to their death. This is tragic and very sad. Thinking small and thinking selfie are not always the best ways to connect with the real world.

And even if these detail-oriented left-brainers find someone, what then? I interviewed a woman for my book The Digital Pandemic, who was carrying on a relationship utilizing a smartphone and her home computer. It seemed like a good match. Everything was logical and everything was in its proper place. Since she hadn’t seen her “lover,” not even across a crowded room, she was afraid of what to expect when they met. Would he really think she looked like the photo she had sent him? Would he be disappointed in her?

 I’m afraid that left-brainers become entangled and defeated by their own ways of processing. And this process may diminish their power and effectiveness. A recent article in Bloomberg Business Week reported on studies showing that power is best projected by using abstract generalities. Details convey weakness. When presidents give the State of Union messages filled with details, they come across as less powerful than the big picture summation found in a Reaganesque style speech. Joel Stein, “Could You Explain It Less Clearly?” Bloomberg Business Week. August, 2014.

 So “how do fools fall in love?” I don’t know that I can tell you why, but it has to be some combination of the trees and the forest. And after the infatuation subsides, maybe in a few years, they might really fall in love.

 From a scientific perspective, all we can know for sure is the following:

                                         “Once you have found her, never let her go

                                          Once you have found her,


Oh, how we danced

'Till death do us part