by Amy Alkon
I recently met this guy, and we’ve spent the entire past week together. Unfortunately, he’s moving across the country — tomorrow. He asked whether I’d be open to dating after he moved. I panicked and said no — I’m really not looking for long-distance — but now that he’s leaving, I’m sad, and I’m worried I’ve made a mistake. Help!
Obstacles to love are like situational steroids. We long for what’s out of reach — and all the more romantic if reaching it takes crossing the desert on a camel or $553 with a layover in Boise.
The perception that something is in short supply or soon will be (say, because it’s about to move across the country) makes it seem more valuable to us. Psychologist Robert Cialdini calls this the “scarcity principle” and explains that the possibility we could lose access to something (or someone) jacks us into a motivational state: Go! Chase it! Don’t let it get away!
The scarcity principle is the psychological scheming behind ads like: “Today only!” and “Only one sofa at this price!” The looming scarcity (or “scarcity”) shuts down your Department of Reasoning, basically turning you into a dog chasing a couch-shaped squirrel. Only after you buy the thing and get it home (P.S. “no returns!”) do you notice an important fact: It will fit perfectly in your living room…if you take a sledgehammer to part of a wall and — “surprise!” — extend one end into your neighbor’s apartment.
Recognizing how scarcity primes us to see through loss-prevention-colored glasses, do your best to set aside “Eek! He’s leaving!” and objectively assess what you two have. In short, is he (and how you are together) so extraordinary — so near-impossible to find locally — that the thousands of dollars in travel costs and other trade-offs of long-distance might be worth it? If so, just tell him you’d like to try long-distance and see how it goes.
Should you decide your feelings were more about the circumstances than the guy, well, you’re not alone. Impossible love brings out the drama queeny 14-year-old in many of us. Imagine if Romeo and Juliet’s parents, instead of forbidding their love, were all, “Hey, you crazy kids…have fun at the movies!” The play would’ve become a hate story for the ages — after things between them inevitably got kinda meh and Juliet walked in on Romeo in bed with her BFF and her lady-in-waiting.
Tales From The Decrypted
I really appreciate my boyfriend, except for one thing: his constantly posting photos and videos that include me on his Facebook or Instagram. I’m a pretty private person, and I told him I don’t like having my life and our life together posted online. He grudgingly agreed to stop posting things about me, but he thinks I’m being unreasonable and “paranoid.”
“Online privacy” is a quaint fiction. The reality: Any info about you, from your sexts to your Social Security number, is probably stealable by any basement nosepicker with an IQ over 125.
That said, it’s understandable you’d try to retain whatever shreds of yours you can — like by engaging in the “impression management” sociologist Erving Goffman observed we all do face to face: tailoring the “self” we present and revealing more or fewer “regions” of ourselves, depending on the particular audience.
There’s probably no person these days who can’t be “canceled” — out of a job, any ability to keep earning a living, and/or their social world — by some photo, video, or quote from them that’s cast in a bad light by an internet mob.
Take the San Diego Gas & Electric worker photographed driving with his hand hanging out of his truck window in what was claimed on social media to be a “white supremacy” hand signal. (The OK sign is said to make the initials W.P. for “White Power.”) The man — who is Mexican American! — insisted he was doing nothing of the sort, but the utility fired him anyway. “To lose your dream job for playing with your fingers, that’s a hard pill to swallow,” he told NBC 7 San Diego.
Your boyfriend might never agree with your approach to online privacy. However, he might understand it — and gain a deeper understanding into who you are — if you evoke his empathy. Instead of simply telling him you “don’t like” to appear in social media posts, go into detail about your fears and discomfort at allowing an unselect audience a window into your life.
It’s awful enough when we violate our own privacy — like by accidentally sexting Grandma and then rushing over in hopes of deleting it before she remembers where she left her phone. There’s really no hope of privacy crime scene cleanup when your audience is “everyone on the planet but three Namibian guys whose goats keep chewing through their cable.”
(c)2021, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com. @amyalkon on Twitter. Weekly podcast: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon
Order Amy Alkon’s new book, “Unf*ckology: A Field Guide to Living with Guts and Confidence,” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2018).