Tag Archives: opinion

On Love

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of research about love, relationships, marriage, and divorce. I’m still mystified – and so are the experts. But new technology (fMRI) allows us to look inside the brain in new ways, so perhaps we are finally on the road to explaining the great “mystery of love” which has puzzled Read More…

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of research about love, relationships, marriage, and divorce. I’m still mystified – and so are the experts. But new technology (fMRI) allows us to look inside the brain in new ways, so perhaps we are finally on the road to explaining the great “mystery of love” which has puzzled philosophers, psychologists, and lovers, probably since the dawn of human consciousness.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Dr. Helen Fisher postulates (and researches) the theory that humans have evolved three kinds of mating-related love, each driven by separate (but connected) hormonal circuits in the brain:

  • Lust (associated with testosterone) drives us to mate (well, duh, otherwise the species wouldn’t be here).
  • Romantic love (dopamine) is a drive – rather than an emotion – which focuses our attention on one person who could potentially be a long-term mate. Focus is the key word here: many of the symptoms of intense romantic love are manifestations of obsessive focus on the object of that love.
  • Attachment (vasopressin, oxytocin) is a feeling of calm and security, which encourages us to stay with a mate long enough to raise a child.*

Fisher says it is possible to feel any of these three types of love in any combination or order, and to feel each for different people at the same time, though she also states that it is not possible to feel romantic love for more than one person at a time (presumably because of the intense focus involved).

Each type of love can (though it doesn’t necessarily) lead to another: lustful stimulation of the genitals causes dopamine to be produced, triggering romantic love. Orgasm causes a flood of oxytocin and vasopressin, which can lead to attachment, especially when repeated. Conversely, feelings of attachment can morph into romantic love: the “falling in love with your best friend” phenomenon.

Note that, in Fisher’s scenario, the term “real love” is meaningless. If you’re feeling it – and not just pretending to yourself or someone else that you are – it’s real. The important question is: which kind of love are you feeling?

The Evolution of Love

In Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray (1994, updated 2016), Fisher postulates that walking on two legs forced humans to evolve pair bonding. Unlike an ape, whose baby rides on its mother’s back, an upright, bipedal human must carry her (far more helpless) baby in her arms or on her hip. This means that she cannot easily run from predators, take refuge in a tree, or forage for her food. She needs a mate for protection, to help ensure the survival of herself and her child. A male who bonds with a female and helps care for their child ensures that his genes survive and are carried on. So we are selected for pairing up (temporarily) to bear and raise children.

BUT – Fisher believes that: “Humans have evolved a dual reproductive strategy: a drive to pair up to raise children, but also a restlessness and tendency to adultery, divorce, and remarriage.” (quoted from her talk at LeWeb ’08, though the point is also made in her books).

Many species besides humans are monogamous, and for similar reasons: it takes two to successfully raise young. But genetic studies have shown that most “monogamous” species – even those that bond only for a single mating season – are also adulterous.

This behavior has evolved because both sexes are trying to get the best of both genetic worlds. It’s to the female’s advantage to have a steady mate to help raise the young, but she also benefits from having offspring with a genetic variety of males, which gives her own genes a better chance of surviving and being carried on. It’s to the male’s genetic advantage to impregnate as many females as possible, while investing the minimum resources in actually raising the resulting offspring.

Conversely, each has a strong interest in ensuring that their partner does not stray: the male does not want to be tricked into raising some other male’s children, while the female does not want her mate spending resources on some other female, or possibly being lured away for good, leaving her to raise their offspring alone. Hence the irrational, sometimes overwhelming, power of jealousy.

Fisher reports on studies showing that, in pre-agricultural hunter-gatherer societies, where the sexes have similar “economic” (food gathering) power, pair bonds were/are not expected to last for life. Divorce, though painful, is not difficult: either partner can easily walk away with all of his/her possessions, to start a new life with a new partner.

Fisher believes that humankind’s invention of agriculture made women dependent on men, because plowing required a man’s strength. But a man could not manage a farm alone, nor could land be parceled out and carried away if a relationship ended. “Til death do us part” became the norm for good reason: losing a mate could be fatal.

This ancient “ideal” still carries enormous cultural weight, even though most of us today are not farmers and may not even need a partner for economic support.

Love Today

I distill from all this that modern humans are subject to several warring impulses:

  • We are evolved to mate (just) long enough to produce and raise offspring.
  • Both sexes are also evolved to cheat, but we mostly do it on the sly because it is enormously threatening to our mates.
  • Much more recently in human evolutionary history, but long ago in cultural memory, we developed a societal expectation that we will mate with absolute fidelity and forever. It’s important to realize that this expectation is cultural, not evolved.

The prevailing attitude towards love and marriage in American culture is particularly and dangerously idealized. We define “real” love as romance that grows into a lifelong, sexually-faithful attachment. Marriage is further burdened with expectations that our partner will meet our every emotional and physical need, and that, if the love is “real”, we will live together harmoniously forever and ever, amen.

The expected pattern is that you meet “the one,” fall in love, marry, have children, and live happily ever after. Popular culture (from romance novels to chick flicks to self-help books to greeting cards) constantly reinforces this, so we feel cheated or that we have failed if we do not experience this kind of idealized, all-encompassing love – or if it doesn’t last forever.

It seems to me that this American myth of love does more harm than good. We go into marriage expecting far too much of the relationship and of our spouse, and blame them or ourselves when the reality falls short of our expectations. We feel pressured to “make it work” even when one or both partners is irremediably unhappy in a relationship. We feel crushing guilt when a relationship fails. Then we go out searching all over again for “that special someone” to fulfill an impossible ideal, kicking off another cycle of inevitable disappointment.

…and that’s what I’ve figured out so far. Your thoughts?

Related reading:

* According to Fisher, in pre-agricultural societies “long enough to raise a child” is/was probably about four years. More on that another time.

Who’s a Guy?

One session I (and many others) attended at the Community Leadership Summit was on women in technology/communities. Frankly, I lost patience very quickly. As I said then, we all have horror stories; I’m more interested in discussing fixes. (Which, with Sara Ford to get the ball rolling, we did.) One meme that came up repeatedly Read More…

One session I (and many others) attended at the Community Leadership Summit was on women in technology/communities. Frankly, I lost patience very quickly. As I said then, we all have horror stories; I’m more interested in discussing fixes. (Which, with Sara Ford to get the ball rolling, we did.)

One meme that came up repeatedly during this session was the sexism – or otherwise – of using the term “guys” to refer to a mixed group of men and women. In other words, is it offensive to walk into a room containing both sexes and say: “Hi, guys” ?

Some felt that it was sexist, though probably unconsciously so, others felt that anyone who thought so was being over-sensitive. Impasse.

A few days later during OSCON, I found myself in a Moscone Center women’s bathroom at the same time as one of the women whose job during the conference was to make sure that no unbadged person got into a session. We were the only people in the room. She said to me: “You guys are really rare at things like this.”

It took me more than a few milliseconds to parse this. She meant: “Women at technical conferences are rare.” And used the term “guys” to refer to me and women like me.

Case closed. “Guys” no longer refers to men only, so we can stop arguing about whether it’s sexist.

The Twitter Diaries: 2009-05-24: Lawrence, KS

^rainbow over Lonestar lake, Kansas @India_Insights can you fix the link to the education report? doesn’t work, and I’d like to read that one in reply to India_Insights # sorry for the storm of auto-tweets – I’m following my own advice on Transitioning Your Online Identity http://bit.ly/D87rx # @darrinschaos see you at the Twitter workshop Read More…

Kansas rainbow

^rainbow over Lonestar lake, Kansas

  • @India_Insights can you fix the link to the education report? doesn’t work, and I’d like to read that one in reply to India_Insights #
  • sorry for the storm of auto-tweets – I’m following my own advice on Transitioning Your Online Identity http://bit.ly/D87rx #
  • @darrinschaos see you at the Twitter workshop Tuesday? in reply to darrinschaos #
  • got a poster (on videoblogging) accepted for the Grace Hopper conference in October. #
  • @India_Insights can’t DM you with that because you’re not following me in reply to India_Insights #
  • Traveling makes me happy #
  • on my way to SFO soon. Glad I have the 3:43 flight instead of the 3:30 which is delayed til 7 pm. Even if I do have a middle seat. #
  • I feel for airline ground staff. They put up with so much crap. Including from me, sometimes… #
  • @darrinschaos on my way, in MPK til Thurs noon. prob have some time but will be v busy with dry runs for C1. But I did bring my equipment! in reply to darrinschaos #
  • @SteveEdiger I did? No recoll at all. #
  • @SteveEdiger oh wait that’s what that guy who left sun started #
  • Arrived sfo. Now to make my waynto hotel in palo alto and meet TZ for dinner. There’re always woodstockers to meet! #
  • kid just about wets himself every time the baggage tunnel disgorges. I guess youthful enthusiasm is endearing. #
  • kid just about wets himself every time the baggage tunnel disgorges. I guess youthful enthusiasm is endearing. Or something #
  • @SteveEdiger too busy moving to remember all my shaking! #
  • Isherwood said “I am a camera”. Deirdré says “I am a network”. #
  • Was there an earthquake? Totally didn’t notice #
  • C1 OpenSolaris sessions dress rehearsals begin this morning with OpenSolaris High Availability – Nick Solter, co-author OpenSolaris Bible #
  • NB: This will be one of the FREE deep dives on Tuesday, June 1: http://bit.ly/6kl7N #
  • Italian salaries low… http://bit.ly/ckpsP (and the figures for women are even worse) #
  • Italian salaries low… http://bit.ly/ckpsP (and the figures for women are even worse) #
  • @SteveEdiger share with your educator network – could be useful https://learning.sun.com/sites/stimulus/ in reply to SteveEdiger #
  • @sumaya where do you live?? in reply to sumaya #
  • need some new job skills? Free online learning with the Sun Career Stimulus Initiative http://bit.ly/LMGck #
  • I adore http://bit.ly/ ! Fantastic being able to track click-throughs in real-time, and not just from Twitter #
  • @comay be well, bro – we need you! in reply to comay #
  • @AmandaLorenzani so… you sprogged? in reply to AmandaLorenzani #
  • <sigh> corporate territory marking #
  • @sumaya you’ll do great #
  • @KeithBurtis advice from someone else’s wife: pay attention to the wife – FIRST in reply to KeithBurtis #
  • @ben re. corporate territory marking, I now have visions of that Jack Nicholson scene in “Wolf”… in reply to ben #
  • @missbhavens You forgot “Frankly, Scarlett, I Don’t Give a Jam” in reply to missbhavens #
  • @davidorban your first Pratchett? I envy you. Wish I could start all over again. in reply to davidorban #
  • @carolross it was my daughter who got a speeding ticket, not me. That’s her Italian driving gene showing. in reply to carolross #
  • locating knight costumes and toy crossbows… then have to train engineers to dance & sing “We’re knights of the Round Table…” #
  • @timbray Real to anything else may not be possible; it was designed to be a major PITA, in the name of “protecting content” in reply to timbray #
  • @carolross no biggie, she figured out how to get it expunged or whatever, and will hopefully drive more sedately in future in reply to carolross #
  • @euaccess interesting. Would love to see how you’re going to do the UI on that in reply to euaccess #
  • sitting in Sumaya’s Twitter workshop – impressively full large room! Lots of Tweet hunger here at Sun, I guess. #
  • never fails. My phone rings only when I can’t answer it. #
  • getting started #sunsocialyou #
  • #sunsocial you 200 Facebook communities. But can we measure activity there meaningfully (and easily)? #
  • Shel Israel on Twitter for Business – LIVE at Sun 5/19/2009 – Socially Speaking on Blog Talk Radio http://bit.ly/Wm7Ir #
  • #sunsocialyou Shel Israel is very tanned #
  • #sunsocialyou comforting to know I’m not the only one who suffers from really poor timing #
  • Scoble was Shel’s 4th choice as co-author on “Naked Conversations”. #
  • damn. I guess I’ve been recreating Scoble’s Channel 9 at Sun. http://blogs.sun.com/video/ #
  • #sunsocialyou book as means to protect/extend personal brand. Yup. You sure don’t make money at it. #
  • #sunsocialyou Fundamental shift: moving customers to the center of the conversation. #
  • @templedf make sure it gets filmed. #CommunityOne #Hadoop #GridEngine in reply to templedf #
  • #sunsocialyou “Twitter lets you behave online more like you behave in real life.” No one starts a conversation with a sales pitch. #
  • #sunsocialyou well, almost no one. #
  • #sunsocialyou “Twitter is broad and shallow.” #
  • pondering how my job is different from Sumaya’s. For one, I am not professionally obliged to follow Scoble. #sunsocialyou #
  • @davewiner so create it. I’d join. in reply to davewiner #
  • Twitter as hybrid of IM and forums #sunsocialyou – yes, but Twitter’s not anonymous #
  • Shel: I don’t have to listen to anybody I don’t want to #sunsocialyou #
  • uh oh, kiss of death: Sumaya called Shel a “social media guru”! #sunsocialyou #
  • Shel: “I talk to a lot of people, share what I learned. A guru is supposed to make no mistakes, I make a lot.” #sunsocialyou #
  • huh. Twitter spam almost never happens to me. #sunsocialyou #
  • #sunsocialyou question from my bud Yvette: are Twitter et al replacing real-life relationships? [Not for me – I have made many new friends] #
  • announcing today: for 1st time, Comcast customer support is no longer in the worst 10 list. Because of Eliason on Twitter. #sunsocialyou #
  • Leverage social media to share support info to a larger audience – been there, done that: http://bit.ly/N621e #sunsocialyou #
  • learning from your customers online – yup. I never had a great idea that didn’t come from a customer. Okay, rarely. #
  • using Twitter to broadcast to customers. DellOutlet has 200k followers. But Shel recommends using Tw more for marketing than sales #
  • me reacting: the fallacy of non-techie older users. the most enthusiastic & adventurous users of CD-R software were retirees. #sunsocialyou #
  • IBM has 1000 people Tweeting, bcuz: 1. 30-35% of employees telecommute, using Tw to communicate (public) 2. IBM sees itslf as tech consult #
  • 3. enormous cultural problem due to diversity, using Tw as unifier of Blue culture 4. have own hacked version inside firewall #sunsocialyou #
  • Twitter for newbies. Useful, if not for me. #sunsocialyou #
  • tweetbacks.com possibly useful – must look into it. But how many people use Tw clients instead of website? #sunsocialyou #
  • @Dereks what is Blue culture? whatever IBM thinks it is, I guess #sunsocialyou in reply to Dereks #
  • @lchoquel #Dollhouse is very cool. Not perfect, but I’m glad it will have time to develop. in reply to lchoquel #
  • Maybe we need an association of people who do social media and community for enterprise. It’s a whole different ballgame. #sunsocialyou #
  • @reiger internal workshop on social media, this first one is about Twitter. Check out the blogtalk radio with Shel Israel #sunsocialyou in reply to reiger #
  • @sunsocialyou hello the room! #
  • @Britopian Maybe we need an association of people who do social media and community for enterprise. It’s a whole different ballgame. in reply to Britopian #
  • @darrinschaos Check
    out my TweetStats! http://tweetstats.com/graphs/DeirdreS #
  • @JoyceSolano re http://blogcouncil.org/ – I’m not an executive. Yet. ; ) #sunsocialyou in reply to JoyceSolano #
  • @Britopian OTOH I’ve probably doing social media longer than most… in reply to Britopian #
  • Just added myself to the http://wefollow.com twitter directory under: #communitymedia #videoblogger #traveler #
  • I feel as if I’m trying to run very fast while juggling Ginsu knives… sooner or later, something’s bound to get dropped. #
  • reflecting on this morning’s workshop & measuring reach: in Adaptec/Roxio days, I had 150k newsletter subscribers. THAT was reach. #
  • very exciting speakers lined up for Open HA Cluster Summit – http://bit.ly/k8K1A Will we see you there? #
  • WANT!!!!! RT @monkchips: omg. Frank Lloyd Wright Lego sets. http://bit.ly/sfSuf via @moleitau @hostler #
  • Could use help getting the word out about the FREE OpenSolaris deep dive tracks at OpenSolaris at C1 West. Schedule on http://bit.ly/6kl7N #
  • in dry run for Scott Tracy’s C1 talk on Open Storage with the Solaris ZFS
    File System and COMSTAR iSCSI http://bit.ly/6kl7N – much coolness #
  • btw, if you want a preview, draft presos mostly available now on http://bit.ly/6kl7N #
  • someone gave Bill F an energy drink. Making this dry run on Built-in Virtualization for OpenSolaris highly entertaining. #
  • registration for the FREE OpenSolaris Deep Dives got easier: sign up here http://bit.ly/ZiNHa (1st register for C1 http://bit.ly/kRhgu ) #
  • watching the operators operate. Kind of awe-inspiring. #
  • cultures coliding – and complementingl http://bit.ly/wEM58 #
  • @JulieScardina looks like a young emu to me in reply to JulieScardina #
  • guess I should go to sleep soon so I’ll wake up for 6 am walk with Lynn, breakfast, all hands mtg (JJ), last dry run, plane, plane, Sue! #
  • @darrinschaos been busy: walk w Lynn, breakfast, packing, repacking (what can I leave here so I can get thru the wkd with only a backpack?) in reply to darrinschaos #
  • @tara_kelly is this the same event my colleague @DaniloP is going to? You two should meet. in reply to tara_kelly #
  • @JulieScardina here’s how I knew it was an emu: Shotgun Wedding – Part 2: Coca-Cola, and an Ostrich http://bit.ly/aBOTo in reply to JulieScardina #
  • Oh right, it’s a holiday. Traveling with all the amateurs #
  • A 4 yr old named Luella. Her folks get an unusual baby name prize #
  • @nonstick depends. Is their last name ziegler? #
  • team accomplishment for the day: persuading an exec to be very, very silly at C1. No, I’m not going to tell you how. I sure love my job… #
  • @glynnfoster you need to be resting up for the post-launch festivities! in reply to glynnfoster #
  • flying to Kansas City to see a very dear friend, then Enrico will join us. Looking forward to an offline weekend #
  • @trine my highlights are platinum and pink. It almost looks natural, right? in reply to trine #
  • RT @Roland_Hedley: Before I open my eyes in a.m., I like to guess where I am. I usually get it wrong, but it’s a little game I like to play. #
  • @robbogio the fact that you think of them as “your” customers & “your” products is a v important first step in reply to robbogio #
  • @trine natural dishwater blonde with natural highlights, but my hair is darkening as I get older. Want to go all pink, but maintenance… in reply to trine #
  • @baratunde aaannd… bingo! someone’s figured out how to monetize Twitter in reply to baratunde #
  • @trine your new haircut looks rather like mine! Also bored. Need to go back to Hairy Situations in Austin to get something more radical in reply to trine #
  • CommunityOne West – a preview: Sun Video http://bit.ly/dkJDT #
  • working from the offices of a mental health org in KC which my friend happens to be CEO of. Gives me a very different perspective. #
  • @alecmuffett okay, so what’s the good news? in reply to alecmuffett #
  • in all modesty, gotta say: CommunityOne is gonna be great! Lots of very smart people putting a lot of work into it. #
  • Marketing thought: building traffic/followers is expensive and slow. Employees should valued for the networks they already have. #
  • Bought new jeans, one size smaller than last time – yay! #
  • @lskrocki happy holiday , dear! #

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SxSWi: Is Privacy Dead, or Just Very Confused?

I attended this session because : danah boyd (one of my heroes) and Judith Donath of MIT Media Lab and Harvard’s Berkman Center (whom I happen to know personally) were speaking. Also on the panel (and interesting in their own right): Siva Vaidyanathan (author of the forthcoming “The Googleization of Everything”), who said (among other Read More…

I attended this session because : danah boyd (one of my heroes) and Judith Donath of MIT Media Lab and Harvard’s Berkman Center (whom I happen to know personally) were speaking.

Also on the panel (and interesting in their own right):

  • Siva Vaidyanathan (author of the forthcoming “The Googleization of Everything”), who said (among other things) that privacy is not the opposite of publicity. Privacy is not a substance. It means different things in different contexts.
  • Alice Marwick, doing her dissertation on the Effect of Social Media on Social Status

What follows is a transcription of my notes, with [my own thoughts and comments].

CEOs these days expect their staff to be familiar with social technology. [Yay! I can haz job!]

There is social value to online relationships – people get real emotional support online.

But the information we put online is valuable to marketers.

[D here: So what? I just wish they’d make it valuable to me. Personally, I would be happy to see advertising that I’m actually interested in.

Take car advertising. How often does any of us buy a car? Yet it seems that every other ad on TV or at the movies is for a car. I’d like to know which is larger: the number of cars sold in the US each year, or the number of car ads shown? For most people, buying a car is a relatively rare event. Much of that advertising must be a waste of car companies’ money, and it’s certainly a waste of my time and attention, which I resent.

I was intensely interested in information about cars for a few weeks last summer, and again this March when I was buying a first car for my daughter. For myself, I ended up leasing a Toyota Rav4. I knew I liked this car because I had driven it as a rental for several weeks, but I didn’t feel comfortable with the sticker price. Then I discovered (on the Toyota website) a great lease deal that I qualified for, so I was able to get my dream car. I only test-drove one other (a used Hyundai SUV). No doubt the fact that the Rav4 was available as a rental at that time and place was part of a marketing effort – in my case, a very effective one.

For Ross, I did a lot more research, entirely online, for a good “starter” car that would last a while. She drove only one model – the Honda Fit – and that’s what she now owns (or rather, what the bank owns and I’m now paying for). A key selling point was Consumer Reports’ safety rating on this model (a big concern for me as the mother of a new driver).

If I’ve ever noticed either of these cars advertised in print or media, I don’t remember it. I do remember examples of advertising that had a negative impact on me, e.g. the painfully obvious product placement of Lexus in Desperate Housewives and Fiat in Montalbano.

So all the money spent showing me car ads was wasted. As Judith Donath said, there should be rewards for accurate targeting. In fact, there would be: I would buy!]

Judith Donath is interested in visualization of online identity/history.

Is online identity meaningful? You have different public faces for different spheres. We try to maintain control of our various public personas, but the web is causing the collapse of personalities.

[Which is to say: It’s hard to be one kind of person in your private life and a very different kind of person in your professional life, if much of both is viewable online. Coincidentally, a woman at another session I attended described trying to juggle two identities in Second Life. She said: “I’m trying to live two lives. And it’s killing me!”

I guess I’ve been lucky that I’ve always been myself, online and off. ]

It’s hard to know how others see you. We need technology to show us a mirror of the trails we have left behind (an area of research interest for Judith right now).

SV: There was a movement towards privacy in the mid-70s which resulted in current laws, e.g., no branch of government can share information about you with any other branch.

danah boyd: Young people see privacy differently. They do not see their homes as private spaces because they do not have control there – their parents can invade their rooms at any time.

Young people are also very aware of the role of power imbalances in privacy, and they find ways to trick the system.

“Because she puts so many things online, people think that’s all that’s going on.” [Now there’s a topic I could write reams on. But not today.]

SV: personal information is a currency.

JD: Time is also a context.

Discussion on health insurance, privacy and employability [ a topic I’ve written about myself].

Privacy and personal presentations of the self:

Privacy is a historically recent concept. People used to live in small tribes/communities in which everyone knew everyone else’s business.

[Me again: If you’ve ever lived in a small town, you know exactly what this is like.

It seems to me that the solution is simply not to do anything that you would be ashamed to have held up to public scrutiny. Obviously, this requires a society in which very little is grounds for shame. And this may be exactly what is happening in America. As Judith said: “We are creating what may be the most open and accepting society [in history] because we can see so much [online] about people’s divergent behaviors.”

The film “Milk” portrays how (some) young gay people living in middle America in the 1970s saw Harvey Milk – an openly gay man – on the news, and realized that they could go and be themselves in larger cities that had gay communities. For that to happen, Milk had to make enough of a stir to appear in the national news, and perhaps he died for it. Nowadays, all sorts of “differences” can be researched online, and anyone can find kindred spirits and support. (Yes, there are some cases in which this is worrying.)]

JD: In a society of millions of people trying to keep up with what their norms are, that’s the function of celebrity: to give us a basis for comparison/discussion. [D: I find this idea frightening. Paris Hilton and Britney Spears as social norms?]

We want people to pay attention to us. What is the value of that?

“It takes a while…”

Jenny Holzer, selections from The Living Series, 1989 Beh, truth be told – not that long. You might also like: When Trouble is in the Air Hurry Up! Unkind Cuts Funny Sign: Chica Sexy

Jenny Holzer, selections from The Living Series, 1989

Beh, truth be told – not that long.