David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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The SEARCH Engine of Love: How Long Do You Need to Spot True Love?

How long does it take to know that you’ve found The One—or someone who you might want to see for a second date?

I found the answer to this and other existential questions in the Sky Mall catalog on a flight home, sandwiched amid ads for Big Foot garden statuary and anxiety-reduction blankets for cats.

 The answer is 20 minutes. At least this is the answer provided by the largest percentage (45%) of participants in a survey sponsored by the dating service, It’s Just Lunch.

 They asked, “How much time do you need” on a first date to decide if you have interest in the person? The runner-up answer, at 33%, was “about an hour.” A ruthless 12% said “5 minutes,” and only 7% said “over an hour.”  If I were single, I’d rush into the bold, recklessly inefficient arms of the last 3% of participants, who responded, “I always agree to see someone else again.”

 The distribution of answers, which keeps the required amount of time within the standard lunch hour, suits the needs of It’s Just Lunch, since their premise is that dating is more convenient and less awkward when you can confine it to a casual lunch hour, rather than having to make the scary commitment to a dinner (and I do know at least two people who have used this service and found partners through it).

“Speed dating” makes It’s Just Lunch look like an arduous long-term relationship, however. Here, you get six minutes to prove your human value and charm.

You probably know how speed dating works. When I was working on my book I went to a trendy bar to observe it. The host organization, founded in 2000, graciously allowed me to watch without having to participate and subject myself to dating market forces.

On the first floor of the bar was the bustling, tipsy romantic melting pot of a happy hour. On the second floor was the speed dating event. Nine mostly 30-something women sat, alone and silent, at small tables. They each had a number. The exuberant scene downstairs had been rationalized into makeshift cubicles, like an office. Their would-be partners sat alone and silent at other corners of the bar, as the official event hadn't begun. When the whistle blew (literally) the men progressed to the first station. They spent six minutes chatting, then each filled out a score card on the other, and moved to the next station.

It didn’t look like anyone made a love match that night. The event made me melancholy. These people must have come dreaming of some romantic epiphany. But their lives boiled down to a few mutually listless minutes. It seemed cruel to me, in the same way that I find agri-business to be cruel. Speed dating is to the bar scene as agri-business is to a family-run farm. It rationalizes the natural romantic chaos. You have your stall/table, and you are on the clock.  It’s a rotten thing to do to a tender heart—but that’s only my view, because speed dating remains popular, and it’s appreciated as a less harmful, efficient way to meet people.

 A lunch hour isn’t much time; six minutes even less. But you can get vastly more efficient than that, and shave minutes off of your judgments and decisions.

 AnswerLab does “neuromarketing” and is a leader in “interactive gaze technology.” They conducted a “field-based eye-tracking study” of online dating habits. They took their eye-tracking devices to a San Francisco café and had participants view different profiles from and eHarmony. Their technology allowed them to measure gaze patterns precisely, and to determine how much time each subject-consumer spent viewing different elements of each profile.

 AnswerLab discovered that women are more “careful consumers” of other humans as potential mates. Women spent nearly 50% more time than men to assess whether someone’s profile might be a match.

 But look at how much time these leisurely women spent: an average of 84 seconds. Men spent 58 seconds.

 20 minutes. Six minutes. 58 seconds. Don’t fence me in to an entire hour.

Love’s window of opportunity is shrinking. Our idea of a reasonable period of romantic exploration is metered in seconds.

It may be that we’re all just that good at appraising potential lovers, intuitively. It could be true. Or it may be that when you look for six seconds, you can find only what you expect to find, with potentially seductive quirks and depths of character remaining submerged under surface presentation.

 The mood is Tayloristic, a time-and-motion study, where efficiency is prized. There is a “getting it over with” spirit to mate selection in the new, hyper-accelerated modes.

 Love is a search. Think about the other SEARCH engines and functions in our lives. 

My WINDOWS “search” function can find an obscure phrase in a word file for me in well under a minute. That’s a sluggish pace compared to Google and other search engines.  Google quietly boasts that it found my 3,250,000 mostly irrelevant results for “plum pudding” in precisely 0.21 seconds; my inquiry about the Plevna Delay in the Russo-Turkish war found 640,000 results in 0.28 seconds.  You can’t stump Google. “What is Love” yields 3,720,000,000 results in 0.24 seconds.

 When we search for things, it takes so very little time to find them. The gap between desire, action, and gratification is so tiny. It is measured in a fraction of a second. The space between a question and its resolution is infinitesimal.

 If this is true for plum pudding recipes, it may also be true for love. The concept of the “search” and the quest have perhaps been globally and indiscriminately accelerated by the new technologies. The pacing and plotting of life has changed, and that change isn’t easily quarantined to the office.

 I don’t want to draw the point too finely, between the fast-paced, impatient judgments of humans in romance, and the speed we’ve come to expect in other, more prosaic searches of life.

Then again, these are the algorithms of our lives. Seek and ye shall find—efficiently, and in under half a second. We can’t expect that the new means of production, and life, won’t infiltrate our hearts in unintended ways, just as the wondrous new “machine age” of the 1800s and the assembly line of the early 1900s accelerated the tempo of our lives. They made life jazzier, gave it a faster beat, and focused on ever-more minute units of time, from which efficiency and yet faster production could occur.

 The technology of our age will surely do the same, in ways that we can’t always see or appreciate when they’re happening.

Live today! Unfiltered lessons of a female entrepreneur

Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think, live at 1pm EDT today.

Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

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Two-thirds of parents say technology makes parenting harder

Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.

Sex & Relationships
  • Today's parents believe parenting is harder now than 20 years ago.
  • A Pew Research Center survey found this belief stems from the new challenges and worries brought by technology.
  • With some schools going remote next year, many parents will need to adjust expectations and re-learn that measured screen usage won't harm their children.

Parents and guardians have always endured a tough road. They are the providers of an entire human being's subsistence. They keep that person feed, clothed, and bathe; They help them learn and invest in their enrichment and experiences; They also help them navigate social life in their early years, and they do all this with limited time and resources, while simultaneously balancing their own lives and careers.

Add to that a barrage of advice and reminders that they can always spend more money, dedicate more time, or flat-out do better, and it's no wonder that psychologists worry about parental burnout.

But is parenting harder today than it was, say, 20 years ago? The Pew Research Center asked more than 3,600 parents this question, and a majority (66 percent) believe the answer is yes. While some classic complaints made the list—a lack of discipline, a disrespectful generation, and the changing moral landscape—the most common reason cited was the impact of digital technology and social media.

A mixed response to technology

children using desktop computer

Parents worry that their children spend too much time in front of screens while also recognizing technologies educational benefits.

(Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

This parental concern stems not only from the ubiquity of screens in children's lives, but the well-publicized relationship between screen time and child development. Headlines abound citing the pernicious effects screen time has on cognitive and language development. Professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, issue warnings that too much screen time can lead to sleep problems, lower grades, weight problems, mood problems, poor self-image, and the fear of missing out—to name a few!

According to Pew's research, parents—which Pew defines as an adult or guardian with at least one child under their care, though they may also have adult children—have taken these warnings to heart. While 84 percent of those surveyed are confident they know how much screen time is appropriate, 71 percent worry their child spends too much time in front of screens.

To counter this worry, most parents take the measured approach of setting limits on the length of time children can access screens. Others limit which technologies children have access to. A majority of parents (71 percent) view smartphones as potentially harmful to children. They believe the devices impair learning effective social skills, developing healthy friendships, or being creative. As a result, about the same percentage of parents believe children should be at least 12 years old before owning a smartphone or using social media.

But a deeper concern than screen time seems to be what content those screens can access. An overwhelming 98 percent of those surveyed say parents and guardians shouldered the responsibility of protecting children from inappropriate online content. Far less put the responsibility on tech companies (78 percent) or the government (65 percent).

Parents of young children say they check the websites and apps their children use and set parental controls to restrict access. A minority of parents admit to looking at call and text records, tracking their child's location with GPS, or following their child on social media.

Yet, parents also recognize the value of digital technology or, at least, have acquiesced to its omnipresence. The poster child for this dichotomy is YouTube, with its one billion hours played daily, many before children's eyes. Seventy-three percent of parents with young children are concerned that their child will encounter inappropriate content on the platform, and 46 percent say they already have. Yet, 80 percent still let their children watch videos, many letting them do so daily. Some reasons cited are that they can learn new things or be exposed to different cultures. The number one cited reason, however, is to keep children entertained.

For the Pew Research Center's complete report, check out "Parenting Children in the Age of Screens."

Screens, parents, and pandemics

Perhaps most troubling, Pew's survey was conducted in early March. That's before novel coronavirus spread wildly across the United States. Before shelter-in-place laws. Before schools shuttered their doors. Before desperate parents, who suddenly found themselves their child's only social and educational outlet, needed a digital lifeline to help them cope.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many parents to rely on e-learning platforms and YouTube to supplement their children's education—or just let the kids enjoy their umpteenth viewing of "Moana" so they can eke out a bit more work. With that increase in screen time comes a corresponding increase in guilt, anxiety, and frustration.

But are these concerns overblown?

As Jenny Radesky, M.D., a pediatrician and expert on children and the media at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, told the New York Times, parents don't always need to view screen time as a negative. "Even the phrase 'screen time' itself is problematic. It reduces the debate to a black and white issue, when the reality is much more nuanced," Radesky said.

Radesky helped the American Academy of Pediatrics craft its statement about screen time use during the pandemic. While the AAP urges parents to preserve offline experiences and maintain limits, the organization acknowledges that children's media use will, by necessity, increase. To make it a supportive experience, the statement recommends parents make a plan with their children, be selective of the quality of media, and use social media to maintain connections together. It also encourages parents to adjust their expectations and notice their own technology use.

"We are trying to prevent parents from feeling like they are not meeting some sort of standard," Radesky said. "There is no science behind this right now. If you are looking for specific time limits, then I would say: Don't be on it all day."

This is good advice for parents, now and after the pandemic. While studies show that excessive screen time is deleterious, others show no harm from measured, metered use. For every fear that screens make our kids stupid, there's a study showing the kids are all right. If we maintain realistic standards and learn to weigh quality and quantity within those standards, maybe parenting in the digital age won't seem so darn difficult.

How meditation can change your life and mind

Reaching beyond the stereotypes of meditation and embracing the science of mindfulness.

  • There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to what mindfulness is and what meditation can do for those who practice it. In this video, professors, neuroscientists, psychologists, composers, authors, and a former Buddhist monk share their experiences, explain the science behind meditation, and discuss the benefits of learning to be in the moment.
  • "Mindfulness allows us to shift our relationship to our experience," explains psychologist Daniel Goleman. The science shows that long-term meditators have higher levels of gamma waves in their brains even when they are not meditating. The effect of this altered response is yet unknown, though it shows that there are lasting cognitive effects.
  • "I think we're looking at meditation as the next big public health revolution," says ABC News anchor Dan Harris. "Meditation is going to join the pantheon of no-brainers like exercise, brushing your teeth and taking the meds that your doctor prescribes to you." Closing out the video is a guided meditation experience led by author Damien Echols that can be practiced anywhere and repeated as many times as you'd like.
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