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And what about old-fashioned British reserve? My new American flatmate, who’s recently arrived from New York, laments how difficult it is to meet people in London: ‘People don’t talk to each other, they don’t chat each other up. There isn’t as much of a hook-up culture as in the US.’
Could this be that while there is now an app for most things, there are still some things we can’t recreate or simulate on the internet? What makes you attracted to a person, what makes you want to have sex with them is not, actually, a tick box compatibility quiz.
Do they like the same books/music/films as me? Do they work in a similar industry? Are they really good at texting? Are they always on point funny in their messages? This is all important, of course, but when you meet someone in person there’s body language, smell, the sound and tone of their voice, their mannerisms and, of course, a whole load of hormones flying around, which even science hasn’t fully figured out.
If we understood it somebody would have bottled attractiveness by now, and we’d all be buying it and popping it in pill form.
Daniel Davis, author of The Compatibility Gene, tells me that, ‘The fundamental biology seems to suggest that the way we pick partners is very complicated and it’s quite a difficult thing to study.’
In recent years scientists and biologists have been looking into something called the Major Histocompatability Complex. This, essentially, is a set of encoded genes and the theory goes that we’re attracted to people who have different immune systems to us so that our children will be healthy.
The way this manifests is that the scent of another person determines whether or not you are attracted to them. That’s right, according to science, you can sniff your perfect partner out, so it’s no wonder that for all that swiping on Tinder and messaging you still might not want to rip their clothes off.
Daniel says, ‘There’s some evidence, which is on the cutting edge of science, that suggests that the immune system genes we inherit play some role in attraction and this is certainly an example of what’s lost when you’re using an app. It’s one aspect of the way we communicate with each other that’s lost in an app.’
Why the online dating revolution hasn’t sparked a second sexual revolution which has seen us all at it like rabbits with total Tinder strangers 24/7? Perhaps, but there are, of course, other factors at play as well.
There are a variety of cues that we pick up in person that we don’t in online dating, of course. But all of the sites and apps are asserting their own perspective on what’s compatible and how compatibility works – from E Harmony’s psychometric data base to Tinder’s ‘I like the look of this person and here are people we have in common’ set up.’
However, he adds: ‘We know that computer media communication is very shallow – this is a key fact. I mean there aren’t a lot of cues – you can’t tell voice, intonation, smell online – we read into this communication. We throw in our hopes and ideas’ imagining what a person will be like in real life.’
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