In many situations, following your gut instincts can lead you to the best decisions, such as whether or not to accept a job offer, buy that item you've been eyeing forever, and so on. In others, those closest to you can offer crucial intel and feedback, especially in instances in which you may be inherently biased — as is often the case with dating. Based on that, should your friends pick your date? Are they able to see something about you — or about a potential mate — that you can't?
In order to answer this question, as well as to open herself up to new and exciting opportunities during a decidedly dark time for many, digital media expert and content creator Serena Kerrigan started what has become a viral sensation, an Instagram live series called Let's F*cking Date, in which she allows friends and followers to both select and weigh in on potential suitors. Not only that, she also invites her 15,000+ followers to watch her go on blind virtual dates in real time.
As for what prompted this bold move, Kerrigan explains that she became aware of certain limitations she'd put on prospective partners. "Due to our unconscious bias, we tend to go into a date with an idea of who that person is, instead of going in with an open mind and genuine curiosity," she says. By putting others in the driver seat, there was less opportunity for such bias.
Rachel Thomasian, therapist, relationship expert, and author of BreakUp & BreakOut tells TZR there's actually proof of this concept's effectiveness. "Fun fact: The only type of marriage in which satisfaction levels go up after getting married are arranged marriages," she says. "Blind dates are similar in that people matchmake based on who they think might be compatible in a holistic way."
Left to your own dating instincts, the therapist explains that you could get stuck in a rut, following a pattern that's proven to be unsuccessful. "I think especially when we look at dating based on gut instinct or looks, these things rarely give us a big picture of a person," she shares. "We may pick someone that not a great partner but helps us play out an attachment need or feels comfortable based on previous unhealthy patterns or even trauma. An outsider might help eliminate those factors."
That said, it seems like perhaps Kerrigan is actually onto something. She admits that, previously, the majority of her relationships were with those within her social circle, and this experiment allowed room to meet those that fit within her familiar boxes — but still with the understanding that those setting her up had her best interests in mind. "When you get set up by a friend (or in my case, followers too), there is a layer of trust that puts your mind at ease," she says. "You have confidence that this person knows you well enough to make the connection."
Relinquishing control not only lessened the possibility of a bias, but also simply allowed Kerrigan to sit back and enjoy the activity for what it was: Getting to know a new person. Perhaps this is the biggest takeaway for anyone, whether you're letting friends choose for you or just dating while social distancing in general. "I embraced dating as a fun activity to connect with people, instead of this laborious chore in order to find a partner," she explains. "This isn’t to say I wasn’t open to dating someone seriously, but during these uncertain times I was willing to date someone in Los Angeles or someone who I probably never would’ve crossed paths with otherwise. The key difference in dating right now is that we all have this common shared experience."
How has the experiment fared so far? Kerrigan admits that she's had good and bad dates, but her greatest lesson learned was to take the pressure off the dating experience in general. "Dating shouldn’t be frustrating, it should be a positive experience," she says. "I think this 'frustration' stems from a notion that if we are single, something is wrong with us. As a result, we put so much pressure on ourselves to find a partner and it sucks the magic right out of the process."
As for her advice to others who relate to feeling like they've been in a slump and/or are picking the wrong partners on their own, Kerrigan says scheduling a FaceTime date — before meeting your friend-selected match IRL — is a great first step. "This saves you so much time and energy; It also takes the pressure off the date, because you are meeting someone from the comfort of your own living room, and can exit the date whenever you want," she explains.
Additionally, Thomasian suggests managing your expectations going into such an experience. "It's good to remain hopeful and excited that you could meet someone great but not completely forget that it could be a dud," she says. "Remember this is not your last shot at this, even if it feels exhausting to meet new people." Oh, and for those of you wondering if any of Kerrigan's matches make the cut for IRL dating, you'll just have to stay tuned to LFD's regular programming.