The attention merchants: time for a new type of tech

By | Technology, The Social Dilemma | No Comments

Have you seen The Social Dilemma on Netflix yet? If you haven’t you really should. It’s about how technology has developed in the past decade from good intentions to draining our attention, creating mental health problems and dividing society. It’s time for a change and we at i2i want to be part of that change. The documentary was driven by The Center for Humane Technology and you can see more about how it came in to being here.

The Center for Humane Technology was founded by Tristan Harris, Called the “closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience” by The Atlantic magazine, Tristan was the former Design Ethicist at Google. He is a world expert on how technology steers us all, leaving Google to engage the issue publicly. Tristan spent over a decade understanding subtle psychological forces, from his childhood as a magician to working with the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, to his role as CEO of Apture, which was acquired by Google. Tristan has been sounding the alarm about technology’s dark sides before most of the world caught on, according to Bloomberg, having been featured on 60 Minutes, TED, the PBS News Hour and more. He has worked with major technology CEOs and briefed Heads of State and other political leaders. He is the co-host of the podcast, “Your Undivided Attention.”

Tech culture needs an upgrade. To enter a world where all technology is humane, we need to replace old assumptions with a deeper understanding of how to add value to people’s lives. It is essential to design new tech products with human vulnerabilities in mind as the human brain is inherently vulnerable. While social networks claim to connect us, all too often they distract us from connecting with those directly in front of us, leaving many feeling both connected and socially isolated.

Social media companies whose business models based on ads are driving the so-called ‘attention economy’ which means aggressively optimising for engagement metrics at all costs, which is what has created the ‘ledger of harms’, including loneliness, lack of self-worth and decreased focus and cognition.

We believe at i2i you can be values-driven while still being informed by metrics. You can spend your time thinking about the specific values (e.g., health, well-being, connection, productivity, fun, creativity…) you intend to create with your product or feature. Under the right conditions, humans are highly capable of accomplishing goals, connecting with others, having fun, and doing many other things technology seeks to help with. Technology can give space for that brilliance to thrive, or it can displace and atrophy it. In each design choice, we aim to support the conditions in which brilliance naturally occurs.

We believe in asking our community for feedback and involving them in the ways we move forward. We will be fully launching in the autumn with the social bubble feature that came about via our research with students from the LSE. It was originally meant to be small groups of 1 organiser and 10 participants meeting around topics that they want to discuss or learn about. However, because of the Covid ‘Rule of 6’ restrictions, we have had to reduce the participants to 5, which means we will launch a but later.

We welcome your feedback about the app and ideas for future development. Please do contact us here.

i2i June: The Comeback Of Slow Relationships

By | Changing attitudes, Dating, eye contact, Generation Z, Intimacy, LGBTQ+, Love, Pandemic reset, Slow Relationships, Technology | No Comments

What a time in history we are living in. Surely, the last thing you all expect to hear about this pandemic is that it actually did something positive. That’s right! According to a few articles published by American newspapers in June, some stand with the idea that the dating game took a step up thanks to Coronavirus! Lockdown is making us rediscover the power of relationships and the almost long-forgotten and powerful influence of true friendships and connections in our lives. Let’s see how.

Our lives drastically changed, we went from dates and drinks to video chats and Zoom calls, from awkward moments when paying the bill to not having fret about it anymore. We were so used to take things at our pace and speed, and at most times, kiss and sleep with someone before even knowing them. With the impossibility to meet comes the desire to stay connected, and that’s when video chats came in. Your haircut (or lack of haircut during these times); your tattoo; your preppy shirt; your revealing blouse: all these and many more visible traits signal your background, education and interests. The instant gratification ethos may be fine for ordering that amazing takeaway you love or some brand new clothes on Asos, but when it comes to human connections, they require an ‘unfolding’ phase and getting to know someone in their full persona to be able to appreciate the other person and form a true bond.

Now, think about it. What are the most challenging aspects of relationships nowadays? Sex and Money. And the latter also interests friendships. Before this virus hit, some 34 percent of American singles had engaged in sex before an “official” first date. That’s over — at least for now. You might have some sexy banter during a videochat but real sex is off the table. And the same goes for money. How convenient, right?

With lockdowns also comes more time. Who thought we’d actually have time to get bored! However, with more time, people also want to talk about more relevant and important things, and chitchat and small talk have become far less relevant. during this pandemic, singles are likely to share far more meaningful thoughts of fear and hope — and get to know vital things about a potential partner or friend fast.

Finally, Coronavirus is extending the so called “get to know you” time both in friendships and love. We have re-entered the era of slow relationships. Some even called it “the comeback of slow love”. The latter is adaptive — because the human brain is soft-wired to attach to a partner slowly. In short, feelings take time to develop and doubtlessly this pandemic is helping the process.

Now, we want to hear your thoughts on love and relationships during this time. Do you agree? Let us know!

Stay connected with your friends even from abroad, and form new meaningful relationships. Download i2i app, find your tribe and enter the magic zone!
‘Till the next time!

The i2i Social Media Team

Are we in a sex recession?

By | sex and relationships | No Comments

Stats show that university students are having less sex than previous generations

The finding of a 2014 study was that Millennial college students weren’t having more sex or sexual partners than their Gen X predecessors. It also tracks with data from the Online College Social Life Survey, a survey of more than 20,000 college students that was conducted from 2005 to 2011, which found the median number of hookups over a four-year college career to be five—a third of which involved only kissing and touching. The majority of students surveyed said they wished they had more opportunities to find a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend.

Adolescence has changed so much in the past 25 years that it’s hard to know where to start. As Jean Twenge wrote in The Atlantic last year, the percentage of teens who report going on dates has decreased alongside the percentage who report other activities associated with entering adulthood, like drinking alcohol, working for pay, going out without one’s parents, and getting a driver’s license.

These shifts coincide with another major change: parents’ increased anxiety about their children’s educational and economic prospects. Among the affluent and educated, especially, this anxiety has led to big changes in what’s expected of teens. “It’s hard to work in sex when the baseball team practices at 6:30, school starts at 8:15, drama club meets at 4:15, the soup kitchen starts serving at 6, and, oh yeah, your screenplay needs completion,” said a man who was a couple of years out of college, thinking back on his high-school years. He added: “There’s immense pressure” from parents and other authority figures “to focus on the self, at the expense of relationships”—pressure, quite a few 20-somethings told me, that extends right on through college.

Has the ‘hook-up’ culture put people off?

Over the course of numerous conversations, Alexandra Solomon, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, has come to various conclusions about hookup culture, or what might more accurately be described as lack-of-relationship culture. For one thing, she believes it is both a cause and an effect of social stunting. Or, as one of her students put it to her: “We hook up because we have no social skills. We have no social skills because we hook up.” For another, insofar as her students find themselves choosing between casual sex and no sex, they are doing so because an obvious third option—relationship sex—strikes many of them as not only unattainable but potentially irresponsible. Most Marriage 101 students have had at least one romantic relationship over the course of their college career; the class naturally attracts relationship-oriented students, she points out. Nonetheless, she believes that many students have absorbed the idea that love is secondary to academic and professional success—or, at any rate, is best delayed until those other things have been secured. “Over and over,” she has written, “my undergraduates tell me they try hard not to fall in love during college, imagining that would mess up their plans.”

Over rosé and brownies, students shared thoughts on topics ranging from Aziz Ansari’s notorious date (which had recently been detailed on the website Babe) to the ambiguities of current relationship terminology. “People will be like, ‘We’re dating, we’re exclusive, but we’re not boyfriend and girlfriend.’ What does that mean?” one young woman asked, exasperated. A classmate nodded emphatically. “What does that mean? We’re in a monogamous relationship, but …” She trailed off. Solomon jumped in with a sort of relationship litmus test: “If I get the flu, are you bringing me soup?” Around the conference table, heads shook; not many people were getting (or giving) soup.

The conversation proceeded to why soup-bringing relationships weren’t more common. “You’re supposed to have so much before you can get into a relationship,” one woman offered. Another said that when she was in high school, her parents, who are both professionals with advanced degrees, had discouraged relationships on the grounds that they might diminish her focus. Even today, in graduate school, she was finding the attitude hard to shake. “Now I need to finish school, I need to get a practice going, I need to do this and this, and then I’ll think about love. But by 30, you’re like, What is love? What’s it like to be in love?”
Simon, a 32-year-old grad student who describes himself as short and balding (“If I wasn’t funny,” he says, “I’d be doomed”), didn’t lack for sex in college. (The names of people who talked with me about their personal lives have been changed.) “I’m outgoing and like to talk, but I am at heart a significant nerd,” he told me when we spoke recently. “I was so happy that my college had nerdy women. That was a delight.” Shortly before graduation, he started a relationship that lasted for seven years. When he and his girlfriend broke up, in 2014, he felt like he’d stepped out of a time machine.

Have dating apps ruined romance?

Before the relationship, Tinder didn’t exist; nor did iPhones. Simon wasn’t particularly eager to get into another serious relationship right away, but he wanted to have sex. “My first instinct was to go to bars,” he said. But each time he went to one, he struck out. He couldn’t escape the sense that hitting on someone in person had, in a short period of time, gone from normal behaviour to borderline creepy. His friends set up a Tinder account for him; later, he signed up for Bumble, Match, OkCupid, and Coffee Meets Bagel.

He had better luck with Tinder than the other apps, but it was hardly efficient. He figures he swiped right—indicating that he was interested—up to 30 times for every woman who also swiped right on him, thereby triggering a match. But matching was only the beginning; then it was time to start messaging. “I was up to over 10 messages sent for a single message received,” he said. In other words: Nine out of 10 women who matched with Simon after swiping right on him didn’t go on to exchange messages with him. This means that for every 300 women he swiped right on, he had a conversation with just one.

At least among people who don’t use dating apps, the perception exists that they facilitate casual sex with unprecedented efficiency. In reality, unless you are exceptionally good-looking, the thing online dating may be best at is sucking up large amounts of time. As of 2014, when Tinder last released such data, the average user logged in 11 times a day. Men spent 7.2 minutes per session and women spent 8.5 minutes, for a total of about an hour and a half a day. Yet they didn’t get much in return. Today, the company says it logs 1.6 billion swipes a day, and just 26 million matches. And, if Simon’s experience is any indication, the overwhelming majority of matches don’t lead to so much as a two-way text exchange, much less a date, much less sex.
When I talked with Simon, he was seven months into a relationship with a new girlfriend, whom he’d met through another online-dating service. He liked her, and was happy to be on hiatus from Tinder. “It’s like howling into the void for most guys,” he explained, “and like searching for a diamond in a sea of dick pics for most girls.”

Read the full article on The Atlantic here.

Photo by Mikael Gresset from Unsplash.

Design a T-shirt for i2i and win £50!

By | competition | No Comments

UPDATE! WE HAVE EXTENDED THE COMPETITION UNTIL FRIDAY 1ST NOVEMBER. ENTRIES IN BY 6 PM ON FRIDAY PLEASE.

Are you ready to unleash your inner Picasso? Well, here’s your chance. We’d like to have a new i2i T-shirt and we’d like you to design it for us. The only criteria are that it should fit on the front of a white T-shirt and have the i2i logo and our Instagram name @i2iapp. It should be eye-catching and somehow convey the ethos of i2i which is inclusivity (it’s for all sexual orientations), friendship and love. We encourage people to do 30 secs of uninterrupted eye contact when they meet at our events or on their own, as it’s a simple and yet profound way of connecting more deeply with other people. There’s a lot of non-verbal exchange that goes on between 2 people when they gaze into each others’ eyes, which bypasses the ego-judgement part of the brain. People connect heart to heart when they do this and who doesn’t need more heart?

The competition is open from today 2nd October, until the closing date October 24th. Send your entries to info@wesee-i2i.com The winner will be announced on Tuesday 29th and the winning design posted here.

Good luck everybody! If you need the logo jpg please contact us on info@wesee-i2i.com and we’ll send it to you.

AI in dating apps, can it really be the equation of love?

By | AI, Dating, Food for thought, Love | No Comments

I went to an inspiring talk last night organised by AI for Good. The founder, Kriti Sharma, talked about how many data scientists and AI engineers had joined their community because at a certain point in their career they realised that all the work they were doing was just pushing people to buy more. They wanted to do something for the benefit of humankind and make a net positive contribution to society.

AI or Machine Learning is just a tool but it can be used for the benefit of us all or not, depending on the people designing the tool and what their intention is. This is particularly true in online dating. For some time the swiping mechanism invented by Tinder has been seen as potentially damaging as it leads to addiction. Last year Psychology Today wrote an article The Science Behind What Tinder Is Doing To Your Brain, “And consider the element of unpredictable rewards associated with the use of Tinder. Unpredictable rewards cause more activity in reward regions of the brain than rewards we know are coming. Casino slot machines are one example of this effect at work. Players do not know when, while pulling a lever or pressing a button, they will hit a jackpot. They play knowing that eventually, but not exactly when, someone who pulls the lever will win. Tinder operates on the same principle: Users do not know when, while swiping, they will match with an individual they deem attractive. And users do not know when, after engaging in a conversation, a match will respond. Moreover, an individual’s profile will still appear in the apps of other users who are swiping, even while the individual does not have the app open. This means that when users check their apps after a prolonged period of time, they often discover that they have gained new matches. This unpredictable quality keeps users curious and hooked.”

The dating app Hinge has been testing a feature that uses machine learning to find better matches for singles. It’s called Most Compatible and according to multiple reports, plans to use your in-app data to match people with each other. Most Compatible has been tested once a week for at least this past month, but it will now become a daily feature. Hinge founder Justin McLeod said that this new feature mainly relies on the classic item matching algorithm Gale-Shapley, which was developed in 1962 and is nickname the stable marriage algorithm. It basically tries making successful matches by choosing the most seemingly compatible person.

I think that Hinge is going in the right direction but AI could help people to connect better by collecting much more in-depth data that wouldn’t be shared with other users but could be used to nudge people in the right direction and help them reflect on the way they are coming across to others, which sometimes they are blissfully unaware of.

Relationships with others are ultimately a journey of self-discovery as other people reflect back to us elements of ourselves. Those with poor relationships have an unhealthy relationship with themselves. They have not found their true identity within themselves, but look towards others to define them.

“Relationship is a mirror. Every moment the other reveals you, exposes you. The closer the relationship, the clearer is the mirror.” — Rajneesh

At the moment dating apps are just a tool to connect you with the highest number of people near you. However in the future, a dating app, and I hope this one, could be a resource to help you connect more, communicate better and thrive within meaningful relationships both for friendship and love.

By Julia, i2i Founder

What same-sex couples can teach straight couples

By | Changing attitudes, same-sex couples, sex and relationships | No Comments

A few weeks ago Josh Glancy wrote a piece in the Sunday Times in which he said “The real story here, in my view, is one of growing sexual dysfunction. Of men and women not understanding each other – mostly men not understanding women – and becoming lonely and vulnerable in the process. Something is misfiring badly. Growing equality between the sexes does not seem to have generated a notable increase in carnal thrills. More and more women (including a slightly concerning majority of my ex-girlfriends) seem to be turning to other women to give them what they want. And why wouldn’t they? Many men, porn-obsessed, yet sexually illiterate, just aren’t getting the job done.” Something major is shifting in male-female relationships and same-sex couples have something to teach straight couples.

There are a number of ingrained cultural beliefs about the inherent nature of women and how women should relate to love and sex. Both men and women are socialised based on templates of behaviour that remain largely unquestioned. It is usually taken as a given that men are sexually enthusiastic, sometimes to an uncontrollable extent, and a large number of sexual partners is appealing to the average guy. On the flip side, women are expected to be passive, coy and to seek out sex only within an emotionally committed context. These gender-normative templates are established and reinforced by religion, advertising, mass media and often our own families and peer groups. However, they are no longer valid in the modern day where women are no longer financially dependent on men and can be independent. It’s time to throw out the old script!

There’s a lot that goes on in same-sex relationships that’s more egalitarian because it’s all up for negotiation. Same-sex couples are forced to communicate about their desires and needs. There’s no script. Even monogamy isn’t a default setting, it’s an opt-in. A lot of straight people avoid that conversation and in same-sex couples that can’t be ignored. When two gay guys get into bed they have to ask ‘What are you into?’ Says Dan Savage, host of The Savage Lovecast, when interviewed on the Gender Knot podcast recently. For same-sex couples, the range is much broader and doesn’t just revolve around one main activity as in heterosexual sex (PIV or penis in vagina.)

In same-sex couples, there aren’t any stereotypes and thus no clear division of labour in the home. They divide up the chores and roles in their relationship on who is best at them, rather than ‘that’s the man’s job’ or ‘woman’s job’. The result is they work better as a team – and there’s less resentment over silly, sexist things like secretly thinking ‘He should be earning more than me’ or ‘She should be the one emptying the dishwasher’. Why are they so much better at it than heterosexuals? One reason is that power is equal. There’s less bullying and less blaming of problems on gender because you don’t have set expectations of each other’s roles. Same-sex couples tend to let whoever is best at something take over.
Dan also said that heterosexual men are expected to perform a perceived hyper-masculinity, which is now is recognised as leading to toxic masculinity, causing pain and isolation in men who are made to feel it’s unmanly to express feelings and show vulnerability. He said there is a certain amount of policing going on in hetero male groups for any signs of non-masculine behaviour which causes high amounts of stress. He says he also gets letters from women asking if their boyfriends are gay because they express feelings. It’s time to let go of old-fashioned concepts of male and female behaviour and recognise we are all made of both male and female energy and everything is on a spectrum.

Lesbians, on the other hand, are much less penetration orientated and more orgasm orientated, and get much higher orgasm rates than straight couples, according to a US study ( see below the men’s rates are in green and women’s in pink so lesbian couples reach an 86% orgasm rate against 65% for straight couples.)

Gay men are far more experimental with different types of sex rather than sticking rigidly to the ‘vanilla’, basic type of sex straight people in long-term relationships tend to have.

These are exciting and perhaps confusing times when gender attitudes and roles are changing. We can learn a lot from couples who have had to negotiate roles and sexuality in each relationship, finding a way for each person to have their needs and desires met.

Find out more about the new masculinity and the new femininity on the Gender Knot Podcast

How early and late millennials differ

By | Changing attitudes, Generation Z, millennials | No Comments

As we all know, a millennial is someone who was born between the 1981 and 1996, in other words, someone currently aged 22 to 36. However, the generation after this – generation Z, is slightly less known. There’s a lot more relevance to these ages than just a time period in which they were born – they come with completely new sets of opinions and attitudes towards society today. Having had the pleasure of being born a generation Z member myself, I find it fascinating to compare the difference in opinions that I have with older generations. These differences cover a myriad of topics, including money, lifestyles, jobs and of course – dating.

People are fixated on what millennials want (which is often avocado on toast or moaning about the difficulty of owning their own home) but the generation Z is often forgotten about. The younger, 18-27 group, are obviously a lot more tech-savvy, but so much so that it is a detriment to their health. As Herbert Simon once said “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention” and this couldn’t be more true for the gen-z. Thanks to social media, we consume around 10,000 pieces of data every day – some of which may be false (photoshopped/edited) and this can be damaging. It’s no wonder that we struggle with mental health issues more than any other generation. We not only have a fear of missing out, but also a fear of being offline – in case we miss a social media post, revealing something fun that we are missing out on… its a vicious cycle! And one that only the more aware generation Z’s are realising. Whilst half of us are going travelling and taking ‘gap years’, to desperately try to find ourselves again, the other half are drowning in a mass of digital media.
In terms of money – what is it that we are doing so differently to our older counterparts? Well, according to a number of studies, us millennials/generation Z are actually poorer than our parents’ generation were – despite supposedly having been better educated. Of course, some of the reasons for this may not be entirely within our control – e.g. the economy as a whole. However, there are some facts that stand out as being relevant. Firstly, 60% of millennials will leave their jobs within 3 years of being employed. We don’t recognise job security and company loyalty as important anymore because now, we selfishly value our own needs more. And with the ever-growing abundance of zero hour contracts available, we have been able to fully embrace the notion of a flexible work-life balance.
Now – lifestyle. Firstly, I will needlessly point out the main difference between us and our parents’ upbringing… the internet. Generation Z has never known a life without the internet, making it hard for them to even fathom going about their daily routines without access to a phone, tablet or laptop. Our smartphones are our memories and Google is our second brain. 9 out of 10 of us don’t let our smartphones leave our side for the entire day! Whats more, 80% of us admit to reaching for our phones every time there is a silence or moment of inactivity. Compare this with the 10% of our parents’ generation (people aged 60+) who do the same and you are left with the main difference between our thought processes.
And finally, our relationships. The way in which we have relationships has changed dramatically, from the first time we lay eyes on our partner (or, in our case, decide to swipe ‘like’) to the way that
we choose to reside with them. With the increasing difficulty of being accepted for a mortgage, many couples are choosing to rent long term. And what’s more… they’re choosing to split the rent 50/50. With the average couple both working full-time jobs and the rise of feminism, we are choosing to ditch our parents’ old-fashioned views on home-making and inequality. We tend to be less religious, less broody and less excited by the idea of ‘settling down’. We are a generation of digital nomads and independent thinkers – who are all about lifelong learning, being on the move and being in control. Specifically, in terms of gen-z dating, some people think that they are fussier than their older counterparts – because they can afford to be! Thanks to the new digital dating era – everything feels temporary, meaning that gen-z members are less likely to compromise when finding the ‘right one’. People are more disposable than ever and dating isn’t seen as such a long-term thing, because we know that the next match is just a swipe or two away. Perhaps this is something that millennials can learn from…surely learning not to settle is a positive thing?

by Annabelle Beaumont, 24, for i2i

Changing Attitudes and Sexuality Today

By | Changing attitudes, LGBTQ+, Love | No Comments

Despite sexuality being one of the most intimate and personal of topics, the world has always passed judgement on those that do not fit the ‘100% heterosexual mould’. Unfortunately, we all know that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and ‘other’ (LGBTQI+) people suffer discrimination and stigma on a daily basis. And this is a worldwide issue – particularly in developing countries. So, is it really true that attitudes are changing?

I believe, the answer to this is: it depends on where you are from. If you are lucky enough to be from a country or city that is deemed liberal, you will have grown up knowing that sexuality is just one of those things that you are born with, that you do not choose it and that it is part of who you are. Whether you are gay or straight is neither here nor there in the likes of Brighton or Manchester.

However, many others have not been as fortunate. For example, if you were born one of India’s estimated 700,000 transgender women, you will have received little or no schooling and most likely faced rejection from your family. Because of this, you will have been forced into marginalised communities where your options for employment are sex work or begging. And, as if this existence didn’t sound unhappy enough – you will later find out that because of the nature of your work, you are likely to die young from acts of violence.

Luckily, many places in Asia are changing for the better. And Thailand – which is known as the gay capital of Asia, has been a leader in the region for LGBTQI+ rights. It is often promoted as a safe haven for gender and sexuality minorities and this is partly because the Buddhist belief in karma and reincarnation. These beliefs push society into being much more tolerant of peoples’ differences.

Only with a proactive approach, can we start to tackle the worldwide stigma that LGBTQI+ carries. Action is needed to address these problems and ensure that everyone – regardless of gender identity, age and sexual orientation – has an equal chance to live a healthy and prosperous life.

So, what can you do as an individual to fight for what is right?

The answer is simple, become an activist! Sign a petition, volunteer for a gay rights organisation, challenge peoples’ opinions and start a debate… or failing the above, just talk about it!

By Annabelle Beaumont, who is studying at The Chelsea School or Art