I very much enjoyed how psychologist Esther Perel defines today’s popular dating game as “stable ambiguity”. A definition that applies to many more situations than the dating game, but I’ll start by hanging my hook on Esther’s relationship wagon.
Esther uses stable ambiguity to describe people who in relationships do not truly commit to one person and instead hop around from one to the other, sometimes in parallel. Guided by the fear of missing out, those people attempt to find “the one” by sampling, bragging about their popularity, and appearing in full control of their destiny. On the surface at least.
Completely suppressing any kind of empathy and respect, those people feign their independence and, in self-adulation, celebrate their escapism combined with hide-and-seek as the ultimate free-will power you are supposed to admire. The game is; you use people until you use them up, in the words of the late and forever great Bill Withers, and move on to the next.
As I described ten years ago in the multigeneration debacle depicted by the Millionaire Matchmaker television dating show, the plethora of online dating sites, such as Match.com, promote ambiguity even more by allowing you to swipe people in and out of your life with remarkable irreverence.
Having experienced ghosting, icing, and simmering myself, many people have attempted to push me into that fray to recover. No thanks, is my response. I refuse to surf the waves of flatlining ambiguity whizzing by at internet speeds. When I am ready, I will go for a connection that shall not be captured by a facial swipe in what Esther astutely calls a race to the bottom.
I have experienced too many pretty faces with false credentials.
Of course, the pursuit of ambiguity comes back to haunt all people involved in this popular scheme.
Except for those pretending to live in a fantasy world, the quality of a relationship is actually based on overcoming a variety of struggles to calibrate and perfect the relationship. The depth, openness, and sincerity of how two unique individuals connect and relate defining the quality, renewal, and endurance of their relationship.
Hordes of aloof people skimming the surface of life induced by ambiguity will not divulge who they truly are or who they could be to each other. And worse, it will turn the unpicked selection of available candidates quickly subprime.
That scenario has long been cleverly depicted in the HBO hit show “Sex in the City,” where the main characters became even more clueless about life than when they started.
Stable ambiguity is a dangerous societal oxymoron.
The big downside of stable ambiguity is that it greatly diversifies interests based on pancake economics. Wide in circumference, shallow in depth.
In finance, we know those investment strategies to yield the sub-priming of investment returns and a rat-race for the cascading value of an index-of-self, diametrically opposite of what the expanding fractal of humanity requires. The best of the worst soon becoming the most plausible definition of financial excellence.
In Venture Capital
Ambiguity is also practiced by venture capital investors excessively diversifying, fragmenting, and syndicating investments—a thesis of innovation arbitrage as capable of producing consistent returns as winning consistently in Las Vegas. A sector now relying on a chain of ambiguous greater-fool investors hoping not to be the last in the pump-and-dump schemes of valuations without tangible socio-economic value.
The Ambiguity Plague
I see ambiguity everywhere, promulgated by social media and practiced by people incapable of challenging themselves. Without learning much, they quickly end an endeavor and jump into another, spreading their aloof inaptitude and self-inflicted insecurity like wildfire. Are you surprised suicide is at a 30-year high in the United States?
As explained by NYU professor Jonathan Haidt, the aforementioned behavior protected by a coddling culture, of not rocking the boat of life too much is precisely what sets our generation and the shallow relationships we engage in up for personal and grand scale societal failure.