The Internet Infinity Fallacy.
Why the illusion of choice results in worse decision making in the long run.
I think I was swiping through Tinder when I had this realization, which goes to show that sometimes good ideas can come out of what would otherwise be a fantastic and depressing time suck.
Anyway, in a metro area of around 2.5 million people I was wondering how it’s possible that my profile could get almost zero likes from attractive women on a day to day basis. I think my average was like three to four per day —usually two of which were fake and as for the others: well my mom always told me to keep my mouth shut if I didn’t have anything nice to say about someone…let’s just say it’s a big part of the reason the app no longer exists on my phone.
Now here’s the thing: if I looked like Quasimodo or it was clear I was a white trash grifter I could understand, but I don’t, and I’m not. I’m 6'4" and most women who’ve met me would tell you I’m at least reasonably handsome. On top of that I’ve got a good physique, decent style, a good paying job, an advanced degree…
Unfortunately, most girls on Tinder don’t care.
Guess I need better photos.
Anyway, the realization I had was that the digital world has created a paradigm — or maybe a better way to think of it is programming — that leads us unwittingly, and yet invariably, into a never ending crisis of choice, or what I call:
The internet infinity fallacy.
You see, on the internet, whether Tinder, Instagram, Google — really wherever — there’s the implicit sense that our options are infinite. For example, online daters can be incredibly picky because there’s always another profile, another app, etc.
But dating apps are just one example of this.
If you read the news online, there’s another hyperlink to another article to another blog to another tweet; another Instagram story, Tik-Tok, or Facebook post; another game to download; another thread to comment on or sub reddit to lurk about. Indeed, the internet combined with our smart phones offers us a seemingly endless buffet of possible avenues for our attention, time, energy, choices, etc.
And this bleeds into real life.
We can pass on reasonable job offers because there are always a better one out there. We can afford to flake on friends or dates or concerts or family — or worse, ghost them — because there’ll be other opportunities. Better opportunities we tell ourselves.
And there’s the additional perception that in the context of the faceless suburbs or a big city, lacking personal decency doesn’t hurt us: hence the flaking and ghosting and lack of response, the general disconnection that’s become epidemic — not just in dating, but among friends and family. For a lot of people it’s almost more common these days to hear nothing than it is to get a reply if the person’s attention is directed elsewhere or you’re not immediately relevant to them at the time.
On top of that, taken one hour, one day, one week at a time, life itself can seem infinite. Like sure, we all realize that someday we’re going to kick the bucket — but not now. Not anytime soon. Which is why when you ask so many people when they’re going to start a diet, search for a new job, write the book they’re always talking about, the answer is so often: tomorrow. Next week. Next month. Next year. When I’m done with X, Y, Z.
The problem with all of this is pretty simple: the unutterable fact that it isn’t true (TY Nick Carraway).
To begin, our time is distinctly finite — especially while healthy, young, and relatively attractive — and despite the fact we do have a lot of options because of globalization and the internet and logistics, personal tastes, timing, etc., reduce those options to far less than what most people think.
In short, we view a lot of the things that come and go in our lives — especially people — as disposable. And again, the simple fact is that they’re not. There’s not an infinite number of cool girls who will play nerdy boardgames with you. There’s not an infinite number of 6’2” Doctor McSquarejaws out there like girls on Bumble think. There’s not an infinite timeline upon which you can travel the world or climb the corporate ladder before settling down to have a family. Like, at some point it just too goddamn late.
One of the things women seem fond of saying, whether it’s on a Tinder profile or a girl I meet IRL, is: shoot your shot. And because I know rejection doesn’t really matter, I’m happy to do so.
But what many young women fail to understand is that only so many shots are going to be taken—maybe a hell of a lot of them, but at some point it’s going to peter off and then out altogether . On the flip side, men often fail to act assuming that there will always be more opportunities to shoot.
And yet, father time still remains undefeated .
Unfortunately, humans aren’t gifted with the hardware to understand this idea, or see its pitfalls. We evolved in an environment where most choices were binary and often involved life or death, eating or not eating, fucking or not fucking—not a seemingly endless and mostly inconsequential series of choices regarding apps and games and people and beliefs.
So the truth is that a lot of people spend a tremendous amount of time scrolling through their phones, playing video games, binge watching whatever streaming service happens to catch their fancy — with the idea that it doesn’t really matter, because the internet makes life and choice and opportunity seem infinite.
The greater risk the internet infinity fallacy presents is that we learn to treat people and opportunities as disposable, and after a certain point, we lose the ability to discern between good choices and bad ones. We are so much more than our physical bodies or the pretend lives we curate on Facebook or Instagram or Tik-Tok, but on the glowing screen in front of us…we’re not.
Anyone who’s been on a more than a few dates knows that what matters most — assuming there’s some mutual physical attraction — is conversation and interpersonal chemistry, and yet there are LOADS of people out there who look really good on Tinder who don’t have anything interesting to say or any genuine energy to bring to a relationship.
I’m not naive enough to think looks don’t matter, because of course they do. It’s the thing that matters most — at least initially. But when we make decisions on the margins and those decisions are entirely predicated on appearance and aesthetics and algorithms, it often doesn’t work; it’s like trying to solve an equation with too many unknown variables.
And it seems the more time we spend on phones or staring at screens with access to the infinite belt of information and images the internet’s capable of serving up, the more likely we are to be sucked into the black hole — the oblivion of the internet infinity fallacy.
So how do we avoid making this mistake?
Well, the first thing is simply being aware it exists.
If you’re still reading, check.
The next, and I suppose more important step, is to avoid the oblivion that comes with falling into the vortex.
The best thing we can do in this sense is to spend our time doing real things with real people we care about. Ultimately, it’s difficult to avoid the implicit belief that life is long and therefore we can afford to make some mistakes, because in the end it’s true—you don’t have to get everything right.
But in the modern world this has always been true — what makes it different is the amplification of the internet, social media, television, etc. As mentioned above, the more time we spend looking at screens, the more we’re going to be paralyzed by the internet infinity fallacy.
Beyond this, we would do well to examine our options with the understanding that they are not all created equal, nor are they limitless or bound to improve by waiting; indeed, they’re steadily decreasing with every hour, day, week, month, and year that passes — true almost no matter what we’re talking about, whether dating, friendships, careers, recreation, etc.
The final point here is that taking action is almost always more beneficial than non-action. Sure, it’s possible that by taking action we fail, but at least by failing we learn and improve our ability to take advantage of future opportunities. As a writer who’s been blogging for more than ten years and published a few novels, I can safely say that most of what I’ve done hasn’t worked…
But I’m much better equipped to have future success because I’ve been in the game instead of sitting on the sidelines.
Which is a lot of what I intend to write about here at Radical Truth.