I think I need more help than a profile critique...
October 21, 2014 2:18 AM   Subscribe

I've been a member of OKCupid for seven years, met most of my friends and both of my partners (polyamorous) there. I've had a very healthy and fruitful relationship with the site in the past. But lately, I've been spending an absurd proportion of my time there, and getting very few results. I don't think the problem is my profile, I think it's this new fixation with getting messages...

I don't know why I feel so love-starved! I'm in two consistently affectionate long-term relationships, and yet I've spent all my waking hours for the past half-week longing for the approval and admiration of strangers. I can't sleep, I forget to eat. I got one really complimentary message today and I felt relief for about an hour. After that, back to "why doesn't anyone like me?!" It has already begun to interfere with my programming projects, moving to a new apartment, and actual social engagements.

Maybe related: after some weight gain and changes in disposition/energy, both related to my medications, it seems that the scales have tipped and people that I am attracted to now outnumber people who are attracted to me. I've really been struggling with the loss.

Can you please help me figure out what's going on with my brain? Can you please help me take my life back?

Relevant: I have disabling social phobia (which is a big part of why I use OKCupid to make friends) and see a therapist. My next appointment with her is two weeks away.

Possibly relevant: LeechBlock, Freedom, etc., don't really work for me-- I know too many ways to get around them. I'd also need a lot of convincing to lock myself out of my account, given the connections I've built up there, and that it's been such an overwhelmingly positive thing for me until now.

I thought of linking my profile here, but I know it would be partly in the hopes of getting some nice comments about it or me, and I'm not going to create the opportunity for anyone to inadvertently enable me.
posted by dee lee to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you talked with your therapist about this before? Is there any chance you can get an early appointment or a session by phone? That seems to me to be the best way to approach the situation.

It sounds like you do have a problem -- or else you wouldn't be asking about it here, right? -- and you're doing the right thing by recognizing that. You will need to work out with your therapist what to do next.

I think you probably already know the "why?" answer as it is something inside you, but you may not be ready to confront that yet. Deal with the immediate problem now -- the interference with regular life activities -- and work on accepting and understanding the underlying cause as you go forward.

Good luck!
posted by shvaughn at 3:58 AM on October 21, 2014

Well, the arguments for severely curtailing your access to the site include the fact you're not programming, moving apartments, or seeing people in real life; that you're distressed when you can't check it; that you have yourself identified this as a problem.

So I'd try to end your relationship with OKC, at least temporarily. You can exchange emails with people you've developed meaningful relationships with. I'm not that techie of a person, but I know you can block websites directly from your computer, vs browsers (although obviously, with programming experience, you'd be able to get around that.. maybe it'd be slightly more of a hassle?).

Why do you do it? I don't know, social networking sites can be hugely comforting to socially anxious people. You can control conversational inputs and outputs so they suit your preferences to a degree that's not possible in real life, you can have a kind of intimacy that's not threatening - it's a very effective way to gate reality. Do you want to continue to gate reality? Does it feel good? Is it the life you want? (Sorry for being heavy-handed about it, but I'm trying to persuade you to block the site :/)

You could also be slightly addicted to intermittent rewards (messages). On OKC, those rewards tap into the things you're anxious about.

If your weight and mood are compromised by the medications, would it be worth having a chat about that with your prescriber?
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:08 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think what might be going on is that you might feel self-conscious about the changes to your body and you have grown attached to the fresh hits of compliments from people who are new to your life. I think the novelty and the variety means something to you as you've grown comfortable with the long-term partners you already have.

And, honestly, if it was just that, it would be okay. I think a lot of us, myself included, enjoy being told nice things about ourselves sometimes, especially when it doesn't feel perfunctory. Where it goes off the rails is you not eating and not taking care of yourself and your life.

I don't think the answer lies in avoiding OKC. I think you're right that you have a problem. I think that goes a long way to fixing things. Perhaps talk with your partners about how you're feeling. They're in the best situation, outside of your therapist, to support you in this.
posted by inturnaround at 4:08 AM on October 21, 2014

Alternatively: it might help for you to have an objective picture of exactly how much time is going to OKC. WasteNoTime doesn't block sites; it measures the time you spend on them. (I'm sure there's another widget like that if that one doesn't suit your needs.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:32 AM on October 21, 2014

I find the wording that you "have a relationship" with a website to be a bit odd. I know what you mean; you mean it like someone else would say they have a "good relationship" with food or alcohol. But in this context, it also kind of sounds like okcupid is this nebulous third long-term relationship you have. Like it's a human who can meet your needs and consider your desires, help you be happy and lead a fulfilled life. And now it's failing you.

But it's not! It's a site. Aside from it's corporate mission statement to match users up, it doesn't care about you, specifically.

I agree that unplugging won't solve the problem here, necessarily. I mean, there's a chance you'll just port all of your contacts over to gchat and carry on. Or attempt to hit the bars. But maybe reframing OKC away from "lifeline" to "tool" might help a little?

And you have two partners who sound great! And a therapist! You're actually in a better position than you think. I would call your therapist up and tell her you need an appointment sooner, and get honest with your partners about needing a bit more care than usual.

You can also hit the gym and feel what your body can do, rather than just what it looks like. Or take a class in anything that uses your brain/hands, so if you do get compliments, they don't have anything to do with your body.

I hope this helps.
posted by functionequalsform at 5:12 AM on October 21, 2014

Although there is various stuff going on here that you can and should work on, in the short term it sounds to me like you need at least a temporary "detox" from OkCupid, if for no other reason than that you have a lot of other stuff you want/need to be focusing on. My suggestion is to have one of your partners (or a close friend who you trust) change the password on your account to something you do not know. It can always be changed back once you get a needed break, but in the meantime there's not really a way to get around it like with a technology-based fix. And I can see why you don't want to permanently disable your account, so this avoids that issue as well. I have found myself falling into similar traps with just sinking WAY too much time into a particular website, and the only thing that's worked has been going cold turkey for a couple of weeks to break the cycle. Then I can go back and enjoy the site in a healthier/less time-consuming way.
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:46 AM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

every time you are attention-seeking you are trying to avoid something else you don't want to think about. and your relationships don't have new relationship energy which is the most distracting kind of energy.

So every time you are doing attention-seeking ask youself "what am I upset about now?" and write them down on a piece of paper. After a week, collect them all and see what they say.

That will be the problem that is truly bothering you.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:17 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you are feeling love starved, random new people on OKCupid is like going for junk food - a quick fix that doesn't last. What about turning to your partners, and let them know you are struggling. Can you be honest and vulnerable and reach out to them for a genuine connection that will actually nourish your heart?
posted by metahawk at 9:32 PM on October 21, 2014

Long distance relationships, even great ones, suffer from the deficit that they're long distance. Perhaps you need a relationship with someone with whom you can spend more time and rely upon more for company, either as a replacement for, or in addition to, your current relationships. I know that when I've been in distance relationships that I've also spent more time on social apps and dating sites, when I'd really rather have been just actually hanging out with an actual person who liked kissing me.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 2:12 AM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have to say...I was also getting very addicted to OKC and despite the fact that I was receiving pleasant messages and meeting some great people it always seemed that I wanted more. I disconnected from the site about a month ago and it has been great to do so. I figure I can go back next month or in early January but for now...I am much more productive without it.

I figured it would also help me meet more people in real life and though that hasn't been the case, I have been productive on all other aspects.....Why don't you try getting off for a few days and see what happens?
posted by The1andonly at 11:17 AM on November 10, 2014

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