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How social media makes breakups that much worse

Before social media, break-ups still sucked, but it was much easier to get distance from the person.

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Photo by Nick Fewings from Unsplash.com

Imagine flipping through your Facebook News Feed first thing in the morning and spotting a notification that your ex is now “in a relationship.”

Or maybe the Memories feature shows a photo from that beach vacation you took together last year. Or your ex-lover’s new lover’s mom shows up under People You May Know.

Scenarios like these are real and not uncommon, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study exploring how breaking up is even harder to do in the digital age.

“Before social media, break-ups still sucked, but it was much easier to get distance from the person,” said Anthony Pinter, a doctoral student in the information science department and lead author of the study published in the journal Proceedings of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery).”It can make it almost impossible to move on if you are constantly being bombarded with reminders in different places online.”

The research team recruited participants who had experienced an upsetting encounter online involving a break-up within the past 18 months and interviewed them for over an hour.

Among 19 who underwent in-depth interviews, a disturbing trend emerged: Even when people took every measure they saw possible to remove their exes from their online lives, social media returned them – often multiple times a day.

“A lot of people make the assumption that they can just unfriend their ex or unfollow them and they are not going to have to deal with this anymore,” said Pinter. “Our work shows that this is not the case.”

News Feed, the primary interface that opens when one launches Facebook, was a major source of distress, delivering news of ex-lovers announcing they were in a new relationship. In one case, a participant noticed his roommate had already “liked” his ex’s post. He was the last of his friends to know.

Memories, which revives posts from years’ past, was equally heart-rending, with one participant recalling how a sweet years-old message from his ex-wife popped up out of nowhere delivering an “emotional wallop.”

Many shared stories of encountering exes via their comments in shared spaces, such as groups or mutual friends’ pictures.

“In real life, you get to decide who gets the cat and who gets the couch, but online it’s a lot harder to determine who gets this picture or who gets this group,” said Pinter.

Take A Break works – for some

In 2015, Facebook launched the Take A Break feature, which detects when a user switches from “in a relationship” to “single” and asks if they want the platform to hide that person’s activities. But people like Pinter, who don’t use the Relationship Status tool, never get such an offer.

“Facebook doesn’t know we broke up because Facebook never knew we were in a relationship,” he said.

Even when someone unfriends their ex, if a mutual friend posts a picture without tagging them in it, that picture may still flow through their feed.

And even when they blocked their exes entirely some reported that the ex’s friends and family would still show up on Facebook as suggestions under People You May Know.

“Am I never going to be free of all this crap online?” asked one exasperated participant.

The research stems from a larger National Science Foundation grant award called Humanizing Algorithms, aimed at identifying and offering solutions for “algorithmic insensitivity.”

“Algorithms are really good at seeing patterns in clicks, likes and when things are posted, but there is a whole lot of nuance in how we interact with people socially that they haven’t been designed to pick up,” said Brubaker.

The authors suggest that such encounters could be minimized if platform designers paid more attention to the “social periphery” – all those people, groups, photos and events that spring up around a connection between two users.

For those wanting to rid their online lives from reminders of love lost, they recommend unfriending, untagging, using Take a Break and blocking while understanding they may not be foolproof.

Your best bet, said Pinter: “Take a break from social media for a while until you are in a better place.”

Love Affairs

What makes a happy couple, a happy family?

Being mindful and emotionally flexible in tough and challenging situations not only improves the lives of individuals, it might also strengthen and enrich their close relationships.

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Photo by Maico Pereira from Unsplash.com

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Leo Tolstoy wrote famously in 1878 in the opening lines of Anna Karenina. Turns out the Russian author was onto something.

Cohesive families, indeed, seem to share a few critical traits – psychologists agree. Being emotionally flexible may be one of the most important factors when it comes to longevity and overall health of your romantic and familial relationships.

That’s the finding of a new University of Rochester meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, which statistically combined the results of 174 separate studies that had looked at acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness, and emotion regulation.

The researchers’ aim was to clarify how mindful flexibility – on one hand – and inattentive, mindless, and rigid inflexibility on the other – were linked to the dynamics within families and romantic relationships.

“Put simply,” says coauthor Ronald Rogge, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, “this meta-analysis underscores that being mindful and emotionally flexible in tough and challenging situations not only improves the lives of individuals, it might also strengthen and enrich their close relationships.”

Psychological flexibility versus inflexibility

Psychological flexibility is defined as a set of skills that people use when they’re presented with difficult or challenging thoughts, feelings, emotions, or experiences. Such skills encompass:

  • Being open to experiences–both good and bad–and accepting them no matter how challenging or difficult they might be
  • Having a mindful attentive awareness of the present moment throughout day-to-day life
  • Experiencing thoughts and feelings without obsessively clinging to them
  • Maintaining a broader perspective even in the midst of difficult thoughts and feelings
  • Learning to actively maintain contact with our deeper values, no matter how stressful or chaotic each day is
  • Continuing to take steps toward a goal, even in the face of difficult experiences and setbacks

The opposite – psychological inflexibility – describes six specific behaviors, including:

  • Actively avoiding difficult thoughts, feelings, and experiences
  • Going through daily life in a distracted and inattentive manner
  • Getting stuck in difficult thoughts and feelings
  • Seeing difficult thoughts and feelings as a personal reflection and feeling judged or shameful for having them
  • Losing track of deeper priorities within the stress and chaos of day-to-day life
  • Getting derailed easily by setbacks or difficult experiences, resulting in being unable to take steps toward deeper goals.

Psychologists consider the rigid and inflexible responses to difficult or challenging experiences dysfunctional, ultimately contributing to and exacerbating a person’s psychopathology.

Photo by @suzylee from Unsplash.com

How flexibility shapes interactions

Through their analysis, coauthor Jennifer Daks, a PhD candidate in the Rochester Department of Psychology, and Rogge discovered that within families, higher levels of various forms of parental psychological flexibility were linked to:

  • Greater use of adaptive parenting strategies
  • Fewer incidents of lax, harsh, and negative parenting strategies
  • Lower perceived parenting stress or burden
  • Greater family cohesion <
  • Lower child distress

Within romantic relationships, higher levels of various forms of psychological inflexibility were linked to:

  • Lower relationship satisfaction for themselves and their partners
  • Lower sexual satisfaction
  • Lower emotional supportiveness
  • Greater negative conflict, physical aggression, attachment anxiety, and attachment avoidance

The results suggest that psychological flexibility and inflexibility may play key roles in both couples and families in shaping how individuals interact with the people closest to them, the researchers write.

The meta-analysis, also commonly referred to as a “study of studies,” cements and adds to the findings of Rogge’s earlier work in which he and a team tested the effects of couples’ watching movies together and talking about the films afterward. In that work, Rogge and his colleagues demonstrated that couples could bring mindful awareness, compassion, and flexibility back into their relationships by using movies to spark meaningful relationship discussions, leading to both immediate and long-term benefits.

That study, conducted in 2013, found that an inexpensive, fun, and relatively simple watch-and-talk approach can be just as effective as other more intensive therapist-led methods–more than halving the divorce or separation rate from 24 to 11 percent after the first three years of marriage.

Being mindful and emotionally flexible in tough and challenging situations not only improves the lives of individuals, it might also strengthen and enrich their close relationships.

“The results suggest that husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they might be doing right and wrong in their relationships,” Rogge said about the earlier study. “You might not need to teach them a whole lot of skills to cut the divorce rate. You might just need to get them to think about how they are currently behaving. And for five movies to give us a benefit over three years–that is awesome.”

Watching and discussing movies with your partner that feature onscreen couples can have a positive effect on your relationship, Rogge recently told People magazine. It’s an easy exercise that “could be a lifesaver during quarantine,” he says.

Which movies work? As Good as It GetsFunny GirlGone with the WindLove StoryIndecent ProposalThe Devil Wears Prada, and Father of the Bride are a few of the films Rogge and his fellow researchers used in their 2013 study of couples.

Looking for some LGBTQ recommendations? Rogge suggests The Kids Are AlrightThe Wedding BanquetThe Birdcage, and episodes of Grace and Frankie.

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Love Affairs

How to have an intimate wedding

If you are having to rethink your wedding this year, or have always been attracted to the idea of a small and intimate wedding, here are some tips to help you pull it off.

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Unfortunately 2020 has meant that many couples have had to rearrange their original nuptial plans or cancel them altogether. For those that had been dreaming of their big days for months or even years, this was a devastating blow. While this kind of disappointment can be heart-breaking, changing big wedding plans to something more intimate does have its perks, and some couples would prefer this kind of celebration altogether. 

If you are having to rethink your wedding this year, or have always been attracted to the idea of a small and intimate wedding, here are some tips to help you pull it off.

Limit the Guest List

Deciding who to invite to your wedding can be one of the harder parts of the planning process. Of course, every bride and groom want their immediate family members present, as well as their closest friends, but then you need to think about aunties, uncles, cousins, colleagues, etc. Although you might be worried about offending people if you want an intimate wedding you need to cut the extended family members and colleagues from the list. Only those you have a close relationship with should be present at your wedding.

Choose a Personal Venue

Grand manor houses and fancy hotel ballrooms are all great options for wedding venues, but they don’t exactly scream ‘intimate’. If you want your wedding to feel truly personal to you and your partner, choose somewhere that means something to you both. Where did you go on your first date? Is there a cute B&B where you spent your first weekend away together? You could even get married at a family home in the gardens if you wanted to, and you could hire bartenders from a company such as eventbartenders.com and caterers, too.

Handmade Décor

For further personal touches to your intimate wedding (and to help you save some pennies!) consider handmaking some decorations for the special day. Simple candles and flowers always make gorgeous centerpieces for the tables, and you could spruce up a plain notebook or photo album to transform it into a pretty guestbook, or fill mason jars with twinkly lights and petals for some elegant, rustic lighting. It might take a little more effort on your part, but with the help of some friends and family, you can create pretty, unique decorations that will add to the romantic atmosphere.

Menu

A menu of simple yet delicious dishes is perfect for keeping things low-key on your big day. Italian cuisine is always popular and a great crowd-pleaser if you are opting for a sit-down meal rather than a buffet. If you want more of a festival vibe for your wedding, which seems to be a growing trend, hire a few different food trucks for your wedding instead, and give your guests a choice. 

Consider a Registry Office

If you want to save money and keep things small, marry at a registry office and head to a bar or restaurant for your reception. It might not sound very grand, but this is perfect for intimate weddings and allows couples to relax a little more on their big day. 

For the perfect intimate wedding, think about the points above and whether they could work for you.

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Love Affairs

Safety precautions to take on your first date

So, how do you stay safe when going out with someone for the first time? Here are some tips.

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We all have a perfect sequence of events lined up in our minds when going on a date. You definitely want to be sure you have made the right choice, but you also want your first date to be a memorable one for the right reasons. Unfortunately, dates can be a nightmare. Apart from dealing with an obnoxious or rude date, reports of date rape have risen by 450% since 2016. This means that without taking the right safety precautions, you may end up being assaulted or worse.

IMAGE SOURCE: PEXELS.COM

So, how do you stay safe when going out with someone for the first time? Here are some tips.

1. Keep your friends and family informed

No matter how much you trust your date companion, it is best to keep your friends, family, and loved ones in the loop about where you’re planning to go and when. Ensure that they have necessary details like the location, contact number, name of your date, and the day and time of your date. If you make any sudden changes concerning your planned date location, let your loved ones know immediately. Also, ensure that your smartphone’s location services are always on.

2. Meet in a public place

First of all, pick your preferred location and ensure that it is in a public place. Also, make sure that your preferred location is as close to your home as possible. You may want to choose a romantic restaurant that meets your fancy, but it might not be the best option if it is too far away from home. Instead, you can go to a local restaurant, a cafe, or a park close to home. If you’re meeting someone for the first time, please avoid following them to their homes immediately. It would help if you also took time to research social distance date ideas to protect yourself during this pandemic. 

3. Provide your transportation 

It feels romantic to have someone pick you up right from home, open the doors for you, and hand you a rose. But that can wait for now, as your safety is the most important thing at the moment. If you’re planning on meeting someone you don’t know very well, go with your own transportation. There have been several instances of people being picked up by strange vehicles and not making it back home. If you own a car, drive yourself to the location. Alternatively, you can use an Uber. 

4. Leave when you’re uncomfortable

If your date makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, then it is time to leave without hesitation. There are times when you need to trust your intuition and instincts, and when it comes to your safety, one red flag is more than enough. Pay attention to signs like your date’s body language, demeanor, and the kind of things they say. For example, if they’re being too physical or trying to invade your personal space, then that’s a no-no. 

Finally, before setting off from home, put your investigative hat on and conduct a thorough background check.

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Love Affairs

Romantic partners influence each other’s goals

Over the long-term, what one partner in a two-person relationship wishes to avoid, so too does the other partner – and what one wants to achieve, so does the other. These effects can be observed regardless of gender, age and length of the relationship.

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Choose your partner wisely.

Over the long-term, what one partner in a two-person relationship wishes to avoid, so too does the other partner – and what one wants to achieve, so does the other. These effects can be observed regardless of gender, age and length of the relationship, as researchers from the University of Basel report in a study of more than 450 couples.

The research team from the University of Basel’s Faculty of Psychology wanted to examine the short- and long-term interdependence of approach goals and avoidance goals within couples. The participants reported whether they had tried to avoid conflicts or share meaningful experiences with their partner that day. This was followed by an analysis of how the information affected the goals of the partner.

When one person within a couple avoids distress and conflicts, for example, the other tries to do the same. And conversely, when one person seeks personal growth and meaningful experiences, the other wants to achieve them too.

The goals of each person were recorded daily over the course of two 14-day measurement periods at an interval of 10 to 12 months; 456 male-female couples took part. The average age of the participants was just under 34 years old, and the average relationship length was almost 10 years. The study appeared in The Journal of Gerontology.

The study showed that when one person within a couple avoids distress and conflicts, for example, the other tries to do the same. And conversely, when one person seeks personal growth and meaningful experiences, the other wants to achieve them too. The team of psychologists, led by first author Professor Jana Nikitin, found significant delayed effects between the partners. These appeared regardless of gender, age or relationship length.

It was notable that the daily goals of one partner – which can change – mainly coincided with the medium- and longer-term goal trends of the other partner. It therefore takes several days to months for the long-term relationship goals of one partner to have an impact on the goals of the other.

“This could be an adaptive mechanism to maintain the stability of the relationship,” says Nikitin, “by not being influenced by every momentary shift made by the partner.”

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Love Affairs

Are you still waiting for the one?

If you feel like your time has come and you’re desperate to meet someone new, we’re here to help. If you keep on reading we’ll give you some great tips on how you can meet the love of your life.

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It can feel so disheartening to know that you’re the only one without a stable relationship. Even if you aren’t the only one, the single life just isn’t for some people. You could spend your days scrolling through dating apps, perhaps even messaging girls through different social media apps, and you might not find the one for you.

But we will reassure you of this, there is someone out there for everyone. Just because you haven’t found your ‘one’ yet, it doesn’t meant they aren’t right around the corner waiting to meet you. It also might be the case that you’re too nervous to meet new people, or you find it hard to maintain conversation long enough to do so.

If you feel like your time has come and you’re desperate to meet someone new, we’re here to help. If you keep on reading we’ll give you some great tips on how you can meet the love of your life. 

Be Less Particular 

This is one of the things that gets in the way with people the most when searching for someone new. You have to be prepared to compromise and to think about the bigger picture that someone has to offer. If you’re basing your search largely around looks, you’re never going to win. The personality plays such a big part, as cliche as it might sound. You need to know that you’re going to be able to talk to someone for hours and hours on end into the night and have an incredible time.

You also need to make sure that their life matches up to one that you’re going to want to live. If they don’t have the same drive and ambition as you, it’s likely that the pairing isn’t going to work. You might also like to consider their social life and what they get up to, and if they have any hobbies. A key component to a strong working relationship is each having your own life to live.

Broaden Your Horizons

Sometimes it might be worth thinking about where and how you’re looking. Some people spend their lives searching on dating apps, refreshing every day to see if someone new has come up. To really broaden your horizons, think about meeting somewhere everywhere that you go. You could meet them whilst eating lunch with a friend, or bump into them in the supermarket. You could meet the love of your life in another country, that happens so often. Dating someone that lives in another country is not difficult, nor is settling down. You can aquire a spouse visa application that makes it simple for them to be able to live with you.

There are tons of ways of getting around obstacles that means a relationship with someone outside of your town could easily work.

The Art Of Dating

Finally, you need to master the art of dating. The trick is to make sure you’re not being too overpowering, but also not too relaxed. You want to make sure that you’re complimenting, organizing dates, checking in on how they are, and generally being attentive and involved in all aspects of their life. The more interest you show, the more interested they’ll be.

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New study explores if flirting is real and shows it can work

Although flirting is mentioned a lot in the general media, and examples are everywhere, there is relatively little scientific work on the topic of flirting, its underlying mechanisms and function.

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Photo by Dede Avez from Pexels.com

“She was totally flirting with you,” my friend told me after the hosts left our table.

“No, she wasn’t. She was just being polite,” said another friend.

Misunderstandings about flirting can potentially result in awkwardness or even accusations of sexual harassment. How can we figure out what other people mean when they smile at us? Is there a unique, identifiable facial expression representing flirting — and if there is, what does it convey, and how effective is it?

Although flirting is mentioned a lot in the general media, and examples are everywhere, there is relatively little scientific work on the topic of flirting, its underlying mechanisms and function.

Now, a new paper by researchers based at the University of Kansas has been published in the Journal of Sex Research examining if flirting has a particular facial cue effectively used by women to indicate interest in a man.

“There are very few scientific articles out there that have systematically studied this well-known phenomenon,” said Omri Gillath, professor of psychology at KU, who co-wrote the paper. “None of these studies have identified the flirting facial expression and tested its effects.”

Gillath’s collaborators were lead author Parnia Haj-Mohamadi, a doctoral student in psychology at KU, and Erika Rosenberg of the University of California-Davis.

The researchers found internal states — such as being romantically or sexually interested in someone — can be conveyed to others nonverbally through facial expression.

In other words — flirting works.

Some women are more effective than others in effectively conveying a flirtatious facial cue, while some men are better at recognizing this cue. Beyond these individual differences, a few expressions were identified by most (if not all) men as flirting.

“Across our six studies, we found most men were able to recognize a certain female facial expression as representing flirting,” Gillath said. “It has a unique morphology, and it’s different from expressions that have similar features — for example, smiling — but aren’t identified by men as flirting expression.”

In the studies, women — some professional actresses and some volunteers from the community — were asked either to spontaneously pose a flirting expression (similar to what they’d use at a bar to get attention from a potential mate) or to follow instructions based on existing anthropological literature for what researchers define as flirting.

The team found some women are more effective than others in effectively conveying a flirtatious facial cue, while some men are better at recognizing this cue. Beyond these individual differences, a few expressions were identified by most (if not all) men as flirting.

The researchers used the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) to classify the morphology of highly recognized flirtatious facial expressions. The coding showed the most effective flirting cues include a head turned to one side and tilted down slightly, a slight smile, and eyes turned forward toward the implied target.

After identifying these most recognized expressions of flirting, the researchers used them in experimental studies.

“Our findings support the role of flirtatious expression in communication and mating initiation,” Gillath said. “For the first time, not only were we able to isolate and identify the expressions that represent flirting, but we were also able to reveal their function — to activate associations related with relationships and sex.”

The new paper puts flirting in the same category as other well-studied emotions and provides researchers with tools to further study the functions of flirting. It can also give sometimes-clueless men, like the one in the example above, a more concrete way to figure out if a woman is truly flirting.

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