Are Dating Apps Aligned to Personality Type a Good Thing?

This month a free dating app was launched that matches people based on their Myers-Briggs personality type. On the surface, this might seem like a good thing – but is it?

Apparently, the new app, called So Syncd, pairs you with your most compatible personality types, as defined by the Myers-Briggs system, one of several ‘tests’ that assign people with various characteristics based on their responses to – in this case – an online survey. Once upon a time, only licensed psychologists could administer the MBTI, but nowadays anyone can get their four letters in a few short minutes.

NowI’ve long been a fan of the MBTI, but even I take it with a pinch of salt. And do I want my dating choices determined by so-called best matches? Umm, no.

And here’s why: every single time I got the MBTI involved in my own self-match-making, it flunked.

So what if a potential mate is a compatible letter combo? The chances are they can also be a complete moron who doesn’t tick a single other box. These are the things that really matter, like their educational achievements, background and SES, their core values, age or political leanings.

And then there’s the completely rogue aspect of physical attraction and the secret pheromones that we exude. Those are the two most important factors for long-term success in my humble opinion. You can align on the education, age and values options, but still not find your potential mate remotely attractive or bonk-worthy.

There are benefits to aligning MBTI types though

So, I’m not completely canning this dating app concept, just cautioning you not to get your hopes too elevated at the prospect of deciding you really want to match with your twin. Euw, no thank you – but jokes aside, sometimes we are more compatible with personality types who share a lot of common ground.

MBTI

Take the basic tendencies towards introversion or extroversion. As defined by the MBTI, introverted types are energised by alone-time and drained by people-time, whereas it’s the other way round for extroverted types. Of course, we’re all unique individuals but personally, acknowledging my basic introverted nature has deeply resonated. It was initially liberating and extremely satisfying to finally realise that I didn’t need to be ashamed for NOT being an extrovert. (Actually, I’m what’s known as a gregarious introvert!)

Authors and speakers like Susan Cain, author of Quiet Revolution: Unlocking the Power of Introverts, and Brene Brown have helped people all across the world to realise that it’s more than okay to be an introvert; in fact, we help the world go round, and we accomplish so much without beating our chests and banging our own drum. Introverts have marked and common traits, as do extroverts, keeping in mind of course that many of us are somewhere on this spectrum between the two.

Despite this, introverts the world over have flocked by buy Susan Cain’s book and watch the TED talks, read the many blogs on the subjects and yes, like me, even secretly relish all the memes flooding cyberspace!

introverts

It’s freeing and somehow comforting in a truly mammalian way to find your tribe and feel as if you fit in. For some of us, finding the MBTI and the ‘introverts’ movement has been both life-saving and an intellectual curiosity. But does it help when dating?

Jessica Alderson says, “dating is energy-draining for anyone, but even more so for us introverts…the thought of making small talk with a stranger …makes me want to crawl under my duvet.”

To help similar introverted types, Jessica and her sister set up syncd, which they claim is the first dating app and website that matches complementary Myers-Briggs types. “It’s also great for busy extroverts who have little time for dating,” she writes. (And let’s keep in mind that opposites also attract – sometimes a great relationship grows in the differences between extroverts and introverts.)

The So Syncd concept relies on the inherent matches in the MBTI system – that as an INFJ for instance, I am likely to be drawn to similar types like INFPs or ENFJs for example.

Jessica acknowledges though that personality isn’t everything – there are multiple factors that affect who we date and mate, or who we strive to meet at the very least.

But there’s no denying the vital role and generally great feeling when people just ‘get’ each other. Sadly, in my experience that doesn’t necessarily mean they are relationship material. It might mean that the date roars along with all the right signs, and then the next day you find yourself ghosted for no known reason! It happens – all the time. So, a reminder not to invest too much in the idea of ‘type’ compatibility.

Jessica also raises the importance of self-awareness (knowing your type and reading up on it can be fun and enlightening!) I guarantee some ‘aha’ moments, and if you’re anything like me when I discovered the wealth of content written about my type (INFJ), I spent many happy hours reading up on myself! Though I write that with a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek, Jessica points out that self-awareness helps you to become the best version of yourself.

Hence on this app, much like OK Cupid – which began as a personality-type based concept – you’ll start with 40 questions to answer over 5 to 10 minutes. If you know your MBTI, you can skip this part and head to the action.

And on the topic of the MBTI, Jessica celebrates its power as a tool to help us understand our weaknesses, strengths, blind spots, how we act when we’re stressed and what we have in common with others. May moons ago in pre-internet days, my corporate workplace paid a hefty sum for all staff to be analysed for their Myers-Briggs type, and then workshop our commonalities and our differences! This can help you understand other people better too, especially your colleagues or family members.

Jessica also says that you’re more likely to meet similar people on her app, who are looking for a meaningful connection. Too early to tell, I’d say, but it’s a nice idea, especially if we can do away with superficial swiping based on looks alone.

Other benefits she cites for her new app is the ability to build resilience through understanding that different people find different traits attractive (ie, not to take rejections personally); and the ability to skip the small talk. On this point, they have available summaries of each type and suggestions for the ideal date. Hmm, intriguing.

The cynic in me says that, if the vibes aren’t right, I won’t want to dissect our MBTI crossovers and harmonies no matter how aligned our test results say we are!

One of the appealing aspects of this new personality-type based dating app idea is that you can let the system do the hard work for you. If you want to choose your ‘ideal type’ yourself that’s open to you, but you cal also click ‘choose for me’ to let the algorithms loose. “Either way, you get a compatibility percentage for each person, can search for people in any location and see who has liked you, or you can get a list of suggested matches,” Jessica explains.

If you’re intrigued by this concept and keen to give it a go, you might want to read up a little beforehand on your love language or check out their Facebook page.

Love to know your thoughts on this new development in the comments!

Are We Addicted To Hope?

Oh, what promises abound in the world of online dating!

Behind every miniature digital face is an opportunity, the potential for thrilling heart connection, laughter-filled friendships, amazing sex, or D&Ms while strolling along a riverbank.

It can feel overwhelming, like being stuck in a supermarket with endless aisles and too much choice. But don’t be misled by this illusion of variety. Most of what’s on offer is not worth a cent. It’s facile, duplicitous, fake in every sense. To get to the genuine gold it requires a lot of digging. This can be very time consuming and before long, you can find your daily life subsumed by messaging, checking for messages or scrolling through a multitude of faces or profiles. This all takes its toll.

And yet the allure of potential is what often keeps us coming back for more.

Addictive and ‘hyper-real’

Chatting to people on dating apps can easily become addictive and ‘hyper-real’. This ‘blog is in some ways a chronicle of that addiction, and my very first online liaison was the perfect example. I’m almost embarrassed to recount this story because I was such a newbie and so totally clueless.

I’d just uploaded one profile picture on Skout, together with a very brief personal description. I don’t even remember what I wrote, but I know it was brief. As a professional copywriter it was probably meant to be intriguing and succinct, but I was new to the self-marketing business and so it probably didn’t tick any of the key boxes.

However, my phone had been pinging all afternoon at work, so that evening I sat down to go through the prospects.

There was a clear standout that weekend, and I was caught unawares by the arresting power of someone else’s desire.

He spent the entire Saturday and most of Sunday messaging me and of course I was eager to respond. He was almost 20 years my junior and wearing my rose-tinted glasses, I thought he was gorgeous. A little rough round the edges, but sexy, passionate, tall and manly, but shy and more than a little awkward. This was all fine, because he was the first!

There was no one to compare him with, no benchmark of normality and no holding back either!

The banter and the sexual tension built steadily over the 48 hours and by the Sunday evening, I was firmly ‘besotted’ by this 32-year-old mechanic. By now, we were messaging constantly between 7.00 in the morning and 9.00 at night (his bedtime). He was well behaved as he learnt early that I didn’t tolerate boundary crossing. I compared myself to a nervous wild pony, whinnying with excitement but flighty and skittish. (He loved this analogy). So there were no dickpics or semi-naked sexting, just bonding, innuendo and by the Monday, blatant desire barely concealing our yearning.

I say ‘yearning’ because, back then, I was fresh meat, and also pretty fresh out of a long marriage, so it was all new and sexy as hell. As for him, I think he was desperate to forget being jilted and sexually betrayed by his ex, as well as keen for a good old-fashioned root (to use his lingo). There seemed to be a heavy emotional component too, but who knows how genuine that was?

By the end of Day 5, the UST (unresolved sexual tension) was almost at fever pitch. We decided to meet on Sunday. That day, it felt like the most important event on my annual calendar, and after some last-minute child-minding problems, I arrived at our destination: a quiet part of the botanic gardens in my city.

Botanic garden archway

I’ll be blunt – it was a shock. He didn’t exactly look like his photos, but only because he’d taken no care whatsoever in his appearance. Sure, he was the same size and age, but in the cold hard light of day, he didn’t look as attractive.

His photos hadn’t revealed his food-infested teeth, bad breath, two-week old stubble nor his unwashed body odour and daggy tracky dacks. Then there was his body language and manner – this was the man who’d been lusting and groaning about me, as well as painting optimistic pictures of the relationship we’d have. He could barely meet my eye, and seemed aloof and embarrassed. Lesson number one – to use his phrase – it’s easy to be a keyboard warrior. It’s a lot harder face to face to manifest the false persona you’ve created.

Being the people person I am and especially as a communications professional, I managed to slowly squeeze a stilted sort of conversation out of him over the three hours we spent together. It was abundantly clear that his reclusive, real-life personality was nothing like the confident, sexy man I’d expected. To his credit (um, I guess?), he did grope me and tried to stick his hands down my pants.

So, it was also blindingly obvious that we were totally unsuited. You might not be surprised when I tell you that I didn’t run a mile or ‘ghost’ him, newbie that I was. Instead, in the hours following this first meeting, I examined my feelings of being duped, being sold a bum deal – that I’d fallen (however lamely and superficially) for someone who didn’t exist.

The fantasy I’d developed over just that one week (or approximately 98 hours) had such a strong hold on me that even when he turned brutish and nasty a few days later, I still held onto a half-baked notion that we could somehow make it work.

It should have been a salutary lesson but it was not one I learned quickly.

This build-up of intimacy online can happen quite suddenly and if we’re honest, unrealistically. We all know deep in our sensible selves that you can’t start chatting with someone and understand them deeply, trust them with your life or want to shack up with them forever after.

In my first year on the dating apps, I kept being sucked into this dynamic over and over again, but I couldn’t see it. Even after I recognised the dangers, it was difficult to stop repeating the pattern. I gave men a chance when I should have politely declined. I was blind to their glaringly obvious faults and fixated on the idea that playing the field meant exploring EVERY opportunity I could get. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration but you get my point? I’m a lot wiser to my weaknesses now.

After only a couple of days messaging intensely, it’s possible or even likely that a ‘false intimacy’ develops.

When combined with physical attraction, it can be a potent mix of ‘fantasy pheromones’ and a tender hopefulness that so many of us carry within. This is risky territory.

Intimacy is built and maintained in the ‘hyper-reality’ of initial online liaisons in a number of ways: the showering or steady drip-feeding of compliments, attention, and the sheer amount of time spent ‘chatting’ with someone. It’s good advice to be wary of these tactics, as narcissists and psychopaths use them to do real damage. Love bombing is now a thing.

“Romance, real romance – being courted and wooed on screen and in messages and letters – is a thing difficult to say no to,” writes Stella Grey of The Guardian in her column about looking for love at age 50.

“It’s especially difficult when you are sad. It’s easy to fall for someone over email. Things can accelerate way too fast, especially if you’re both accelerators. What is difficult is following through into life. The closer email conversation brought us, the more risk there was that a real encounter would be the beginning of a big letdown.”

I’m still a bit obsessed about what this social media-enhanced experience of ‘relationships’ in the 21st Century means. I read everything I come across, I lap up other people’s stories or roll my eyes in knowing agreement. I share the highs and lows and I feel their pain. After all, I’ve been there. I think we can all benefit from sharing and getting the word out about what the traps are here in the online dating world.

I’m reminded time and time again that finding like-minded people is not easy.

Authentic, mentally healthy men and women who are prepared to open their hearts are rare and precious. Finding people with common interests, compatible free time and a relationship status that works with mine is also a challenge.

And that’s another whole new topic!

 

PS – This story is one I’ve revisited and revised from the early archives of this blog, back when I had just a few scattered visitors. If you’re a new reader, I hope you’ve enjoyed it.