Why is Mainstream Dating Advice So Ineffective?
A few weeks back, in the comments section of “Real Empiricists Test”, a reader asked the following question regarding the gulf between mainstream dating advice and what’s taught on this site:
“Is there an article on this, or maybe someone can answer this outright. But why is it that mainstream dating advice is so contrary to the dating advice given on this site ? Why is it that there is almost no agreement ?”
The short answer, of course, is that what we focus on here is entirely techniques and strategies that:
Achieve efficient, effective, reproducible results
Are tested out and balanced against alternatives and discarded if found ineffective
Are coming from people who’ve devoted a large chunk of time specifically to this field
... whereas most mainstream dating advice is coming from regular folk with limited experience dating and even less time spent studying and analyzing dating and sex and relationships and social dynamics both in the field and with other likeminded folk.
But the fact of that matter is, it goes a lot deeper than this. There’s more to this clash of ideologies than simply field experience vs. non, and it mainly has to do with who’s giving the advice, and what their objectives are in giving it.
One of the bizarre consequences of living in the information age is
the tendency of some voices, often those with little to say, to drown
out most others. In the case of
dating advice, the advice of vanilla-flavored non-advice on the
Internet and, before it, on
its forebear, television, has effectively
drowned out practicable advice. Much of this comes from women advising
men on dating, though certainly not all of it.
Now, as we’ve talked about on here in the past, it’s generally a bad idea to get men’s dating advice from women.
Not because women aren’t smart, or aren’t successful at dating themselves, or aren’t well-meaning. Many of the women willing and eager to give you advice are all three.
However, as discussed in
the article linked to above, there are a variety of reasons why a woman
is almost always going to be the wrong person to advise you as a man on
how to get women (much as you might be inclined to think “Who better
than a woman to teach me how to get a girl?”), though
many of them boil
down to the fact that women just don’t have a lot of experience
succeeding with women as a man.
But it isn’t just women giving out dating advice; it’s men, too. And most of the men in the mainstream are every bit as bad as most of the women in the mainstream.
Why’s their advice just so, well... bad?
The Age of Anonymous Advice
Television, and later the Internet, brought the information age into full swing, with all kinds of information being sent out to the masses. The majority of what’s consumed is junk – “news” (really just “disaster” or “outrage” or “political crisis” templates that are filled in with whatever the threat du jour is to whip up the masses into a fearful and devotedly viewing frenzy), reality TV, and celebrity gossip websites are prime examples – but despite this, the average level of edification and worldliness of the average member of the population today is vastly higher than it was 200, 100, or even 50 years ago.
Mass media opened us up to the world in ways that were not available several centuries ago. At the turn of the 20th century, news was for the first time being delivered swiftly, telegraphed from one side of the world to the other, instead of having to wait for ship or rail or coach to get it there. Then came the telephone and radio, then television, then computing and the Internet. The way we consume and exchange information has changed so radically over the course of just a hundred and fifty years that it’s hard to wrap your head around the impact it’s had and having on us, and how society has altered and will continue to alter itself.
But the exchange of information isn’t perfect, and in some cases, it’s done more harm than good.
Prior to television and the Internet, the world was a much quieter place. You talked to your friends and family and neighbors and strangers you met in the street, and you read the newspaper, and maybe tuned into the radio every now to listen to the evening broadcast, or you hopped on the party line to chat with folks in the neighborhood, but that was it. You didn’t have the kinds of raw, deep discussions you see on television and the Internet, and here’s what I mean.
In our media today, we are bombarded constantly from every angle with instructions on how we must act and behave, and these messages come from complete strangers who do not know us.
In the past, you’d get advice on how to comport yourself, but it largely came from family and close friends and your priest and maybe a nosy neighbor or two. Advice in newspaper advice columns or serials mostly stuck to the basics: be considerate and don’t be an ass. The majority of the advice you received would be largely tailored to you: your specific situation, and what you needed to do and change.
The information age is an age of anonymity; it’s an age of legions of regular people given a pulpit on the boob tube, or on the web, to preach their views to some imagined representative viewer out there, and rail against imagined enemies of different creeds.
And as women have taken the pulpit, they’ve rapidly changed the tone and direction of this mass, anonymous discussion, and changed the way advice is given.
We Mustn’t Hurt Anyone’s Feelings Now
As private, personalized advice has gone the way of the dinosaur, one-size-fits-all advice has moved to the fore. And in a media landscape that attempts to cater to the broadest demographic range possible, that means the advice given must be as vanilla and inoffensive as possible.
Did you know that every American broadcast television network except
Fox has a majority female audience? According
to the New York Times, 57% percent of CBS viewers are women. 62% of
ABC viewers are.
And did you know that roughly
60% of social media users are women? Specifically, it’s 53% female
on Instagram, 58% female on Facebook, 62% female on Twitter, and 72%
female on Pinterest. Even MySpace still has a majority female
membership. Google Plus is alone among major social networking sites
slight male majority.
Bet you thought these things were 50-50, didn’t you. But men don’t need to chat and connect and social share and gossip and gab like women do; it’s not that one style is superior to another, it’s just that women have a larger part of the brain devoted to verbal, social, and connection, and this is where they spend more of their time. It isn’t as big a concern for men.
Of course, what that means is that naturally, every television channel that wants to be the biggest, and every social media website that wants the largest user base, is going to cater more toward its female audience than it is its male audience.
If the female audience is outraged, well, that’s a very bad thing, so the broadcasting and social media giants trend female-centric as they mature.
They might not start out that way, but they all end up that way.
Further compounding the issue is the fact that women get outraged pretty often, frequently over (what seem to men to be) small-ish things... and men do not, not nearly as frequently and not nearly as vehemently.
Insult a man on network television or the web?
Insult a woman?
It’s a travesty!
What that means is that network and social media bosses get virtually no negative feedback when things hurtful, insulting, or undermining toward men get aired, but a cacophony of negative feedback anytime something like this airs about women.
Over time, things women dislike appear less and less, and everything targeted at mass audiences trends female in its message content.
More women disseminating information on mass channels. More women
showing up to receive it. More men toning their messages down, or
adopting female-centric viewpoints to kowtow to the mainstream.
Combine a bunch of advice givers meting out advice to anonymous recipients via giant channels with large reach where the culture is determined to keep things as vanilla-flavored and inoffensive to the female viewership as humanly possible, and what’ve you got?
Well, you’ve got something that’s heavy on feelgood fluff, and extremely light on substance... and something that’s very likely to lead you far astray if you treat it as anything worth paying much mind.
Worth pounding in for good measure at this point in the article: women are not your enemy.
There is not some great conspiracy in which women have set out to rob men of their masculinity by cramming crappy advice down their throats. That isn’t what happened.
Instead, what’s happened has been a natural and inevitable result of our move to one-size-fits-all information dissemination on a mass scale targeting the largest possible demographics in the interest of profit maximization.
Our current state of affairs in the dating advice arena is the unavoidable result of TV and Internet + democracy and capitalism. It can go no other way.
Women are faultless here. Are you going to get mad at women for getting upset about things women get upset about? That’s just what women do.
Likewise, you can’t really blame the TV networks or the social media
giants. If 60% of YOUR audience was female (and 90% of your complaints
came from females), who would YOU be focused on keeping happy?
Getting upset and throwing around some victim mentality at how you’ve suffered and been misled by the media won’t help. Yes, you HAVE been – that’s very true.
But it’s not worth your time getting mad at them; they’re just doing what they do.
And they ain’t going to ignore their female viewership to listen to you, either.
Instead, what you must seek to do is to understand... then, to correct how you take advice, where you get it, and what information sources you expose yourself to on a day-to-day basis.
You Must Not be Sexy
When women are giving dating advice to men (and when most men are on female-centric channels like broadcast TV or social media), there are a few core assumptions you must understand that run in the veins of almost all of the advice they give. They are:
You must not be sexy. If you need dating advice, it’s assumed that obviously you aren’t a guy women are exactly knocking down the door to go out with. Instead, you’re assumed to be a clueless nice guy who probably doesn’t have much hope to get with a girl aside from waiting around and hoping she gets tired of hooking up with sexy bad boys and decides in frustration and defeat to give the nice guy waiting in the wings a try instead. Most of the advice you’ll get revolves around how to position yourself to be ready and waiting to catch her when she reaches “bad boy fatigue.”
You’re looking for your princess. Because the advice giver assumes you, dear imagined anonymous advice recipient, must not be sexy (otherwise, why would you need her advice?), it’s also assumed you must be looking for your princess soul mate to spend the rest of your days with... because, ew, the idea of a non-sexy nice guy like you wanting to sleep with different girls is just CREEPY... and no girl is going to tell you how to do that. No, she assumes you know your place, and you realize that, yes, while there are men women want to hook up with, that’s not YOU, honey... THOSE guys are super cute guys with hot bods and sexy accents and rapier wits. You are... well, you’re the guy who’s waiting in the wings for her to finish with those guys and decide she’s ready to settle down with someone. That’s you.
You would NEVER approach dating as a skill. Honestly, most people do not even realize it’s possible to approach dating (or most things) as a skill, and the thought of instructing someone else to do so never crosses their minds. They don’t approach it as a skill themselves (especially not if they’re women... they may read a lot on it, and take great interest in it, but because women rely on being approached, they do not go out and “practice” like we advise you do here, nor do they need to). The only women who realize that dating is a skill usually are women who’ve worked in the adult services industries – strippers, escorts, etc. Yet even many of those women are only half-conscious of the fact, since much of their learning, like that of most naturals, has come about intuitively as they’ve pursued their goals or careers.
You HAVE to get the specific girl you’re asking about. This one’s a more general advice principle, and it’s an error even a lot of guys starting out in seduction will make when giving advice to friends. Most personalized advice in dating centers around situation-specific advice on how to get a specific girl in question; this isn’t as big an issue with one-size-fits-all advice coming from a mass media or social media channel, but if you’re getting advice from female friends it is. That is, when you ask about a problem with a certain girl, rather than asking themselves, “What advice can I give him that will lead him to better results with women overall?”, most people say to themselves, “What advice can I give him to make sure he doesn’t botch it with THIS girl?”
Then – and this is the critical part – they don’t want to give you bad advice that will cause you to fail and LOSE the girl... so they give you conservative advice focused on not offending her, which almost never actually works, but never nets them any negative feedback either (”I tried your advice and it didn’t work! You lost me the girl!” – I get that here occasionally; always makes me want to slap the guy and tell him to shut up about it and go meet 10 more). Instead, the advice recipient gets this vanilla non-advice, acts friendly toward the girl in question, and spends the next three months thinking it must have worked because now she seems a little warmer toward him.
These are the primary differences between what you hear everywhere else, and what you hear here.
Everyone everywhere else is assuming that 1.) you aren’t sexy, 2.) because you aren’t sexy, you must be looking for long-term commitment and anything else would be gross and would mean you don’t know your place / aren’t realistic (because, after all... you aren’t sexy!) / don’t “get it”, 3.) you’d never approach dating as a skill, because, like, who even does that?
And finally, if you’re asking someone about a specific situation, they’ll invariably give you conservative nice guy advice that’s geared at minimizing the chances you burn a bridge with the girl, rather than maximizing the chances you actually get her, because they reason that if you burn the bridge with her, WHO EVEN KNOWS the next time you’ll meet another girl you’ve got a shot with... but if you do next to nothing and it doesn’t go anywhere, well, you can always keep trying to make an eye contact connection with her over the next 20 weeks-months-years.
Mainstream Dating Advice’s Vanilla Sound Bites
A good way of summing up mainstream dating advice is this: it treats dating like a game of symmetric returns.
And as we discussed in “Picking Up Girls and the Game of Asymmetric Returns”, that is almost always not a winning strategy.
Mainstream dating advice fills itself chockfull of vanilla-flavored sound bites that sound great but give you absolutely nothing usable or actionable – things like:
- “Just be yourself!”
- “If it’s meant to be, it will be!”
- “Just be confident – women like confidence!”
- “You should ask her out!” (no details or specifics on how)
- “Be a gentleman – women like
- “Just tell her how you feel – if she feels the same way, she’ll say so too!”
Non-advice like this just leaves men scratching their heads as much after it as before it, often fumbling out a “Thanks” and assuming since she was so confident in how she delivered it the advice giver must know what she’s talking about and his confusion must be his own ignorant fault, but it’s a poor substitute for what they would’ve gotten before the information age – a family member (including a mother or a sister or a cousin or an aunt) or a male friend telling them to stop being yellow-bellied and go ask that girl to the ball... go invite her to dinner... or go drive her to Lookout Point for a night of stargazing and other private things.
This is the kind of advice that no one dares to say on broadcast TV or social media sites on the web, because it causes too much of an outrage, and leads to moral superiority shaming attempts. Even men won’t share it socially – you can get as mad as you want as studio heads or social media CEOs for not making more male-centric products, but are YOU going to go share this article on Facebook or Twitter after you finish reading it? Didn’t think so.
Best thing you’ve read all day? Maybe so.
Going to share it socially? Nope.
Because if you do, you’re probably just going to be courting negative feedback on it from the people in your social media network: “Oh, you read that Girls Chase site? I should’ve unfriended you a long time ago.”
The fact is, on channels like social media and television that cater to women first and men second, the positive feedback is reserved for things that make women feel good to see and hear and experience and consume, and the negative feedback is reserved for things that create cognitive dissonance and upset a woman’s worldview – and it doesn’t even take many upset women to generate a lot of loud-sounding negative feedback.
A handful of angry, vocal individuals is often all it takes to make sure you toe the party line next time around (something we talked about in “Bitter Women: No, They Are Not “Everywhere”” – the sad reality is, a small vocal and outraged minority of women are able to exert a great amount of control over what makes it into the media simply because the Internet gives a loud voice to anyone who wants it and is enough of a demographic and message fit to make it in the mainstream; this handful of angry women give the majority of normal, easygoing women on the web a bad name).
Can the Mainstream be Fixed?
I don’t think so, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing, necessarily.
Rather, I think what’s IMPORTANT is that people come to REALIZE that mainstream channels are going to be vanilla-flavored by nature, because they’re catering to the broadest possible markets and they’re extremely sensitive to not offending anybody. That makes them valuable places to go and consume mindless fluff, or the occasional insightful thing that doesn’t upset anyone’s sensibilities... but if you want real learning you have to step out of the mainstream.
And that goes for pretty much everything. You won’t learn a martial art going to a “belt factory”, as they’re known – those are the karate and kung-fu and Krav and everything else facilities that have cropped up all over to keep students enrolled and leveling up so they keep paying even if they don’t actually learn how to defend themselves. These places are aimed at making martial arts “accessible”... and more a workout and a way to feel good about oneself than anything else. You really have to audit a location and see how strict the teaching is to find out if you’re actually going to learn anything, or whether it’s just a mainstream feelgood jazzercise belt factory.
Likewise, mainstream investing advice. Most daytraders take their advice from guys giving investing advice on television or the Internet... all of whom, it’s safe to say, are primarily making money from their salaried TV and Internet jobs giving advice about investing to viewers and readers, not from playing the stock markets and making millions. If you want real advice here, you need to tune out all the noise and bluster here and go find successful investors to listen to (e.g., turn off Jim Cramer, who will happily lose you 7 cents per dollar you invest in his picks – by comparison, had you just put all your money into the S&P 500 over the same time period, you’d have earned an extra 38 cents per dollar invested – and go buy a book by Warren Buffett instead).
Mainstream is fluff because it HAS to be fluff. It has to be. The channel with the largest audience is ALWAYS going to be one with sufficiently-inoffensive content. There’s always a balance of course – the big guys want edgy enough that everyone says, “Oh, what a scandal that X character from Y show said Z!”, but not so edgy that any of the viewers or readers have cause to feel personally offended, marginalized, or objectified.
The beaten path, in other words, is always the safest, and it’s guaranteed to take you somewhere kind of interesting/okay... just interesting and okay enough that most people will stick with it because it’s just easier than having to go down one of those less beaten, less talked about, more grown-over paths.
Just like, yes, if you follow mainstream dating advice, you will get dates eventually... you will get a girlfriend eventually... and you’ll get married eventually and have kids eventually (if that’s what you want). She might not be the girl of your dreams, but she’ll probably be okay. It’s not so horrible that it’s impossible to ever get a girl being a pushover nice guy. It works just occasionally enough that most nice guys never really have to jump ship.
However... if you need something that works better than just some of the time...
Something more fulfilling than “just okay”...
Something better, more exceptional, and more excellent all the way around...
Then you’ve got to tune out of the mainstream, shut off the fluff, and find the unconventional.
Because away from the vanilla fluff inoffensiveness of the channels catering to the masses is where you find the real meat – the real info on how to do anything you really want to do.
So, I invite you – the next time you find yourself getting sucked into some inane television show or reading some piece of mainstream media drivel or scanning through a social media activity feed full of tweets and status updates about your friends’ and followers’ meals, pets, and bowel movement shenanigans, stop for a moment and ask yourself, “Is there somewhere better I could be getting my information about this subject instead?”
The answer is almost always going to be “yes”... even if sometimes you have to do some sleuthing and digging and path carving to find the right source.
The hunt is always worth it in the end.
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