One evening, Plato and a group of Greek intellectuals gather around an alcoholic table, and together they descend into the origin of love through a feverish excavation work. In the historical work, The Symposium, we witness the mythical explanations of the origin of love. Aristophanes, who comes across as a character in the work, comes up with a myth that is woke enough create the effect of a plain Turkish coffee on the intoxicated minds. According to the legend, when people who are created with four arms, four legs and two faces grow strong enough to take the gods off their thrones, Zeus, who decides to punish them for this greed, splits them in two. And these wistful people, start to look for their other halves to complete themselves. So the concept of ‘soul mate’ which is at the base of countless films, series, Hallmark cards and therapist bills, has been dipped in ink for the first time and written onto paper, around 370 B.C., by Plato.
People are still talking about the concept of soul mates at alcoholic tables, but the way they search for soul mates, which are considered synonymous with love, is changing a bit with technology that has developed over the past thousands of years. In the present day, when romance can be comprehended as much as a Korean film without subtitles, and ‘soulmate’ becomes a Norwegian word without a translation, the question of “How did you meet?” is followed by a list of apps from the App Store. So begins a digital love hide-and-seek in the age of matching but not matching.
With these new soul mate search techniques, which are the subject of the researches by scientists and fill the sofas of psychologists, we immediately descend into our childhood. In the game of hide-and-seek, one person closes their eyes, allows others to hide, and then looks for someone to tag. The interfaces of dating apps such as Tinder, Hinge and Bumble are actually designed to gamify this search for love. And given that the percentage of people who text and don’t get a response is 49%, in this game of love, people get lost in a spiral of searching, hiding, then searching and hiding again, just like in the game of hide-and-seek.
New love no longer knocks on the door, but soul mate candidates pop up on our phones with notifications. And scientists are discovering that these notifications fall within the DM of the pleasure center in our brain, stimulated by chocolate, sex or various chemicals. If we go from hide and seek to playing tag, the cliché of ‘the more you ignore me the closer I get’ is coming to gain a scientific explanation for the first time. Dopamine, which is secreted in anticipation of the prize rather than getting it, is released the moment you pair up with someone on the dating app, and when this chase is over, it decreases and the whole situation turns into something that should have stayed platonic.
Dating app, which can be considered an ego-based and distraction-flavoured neurochemical cocktail, turns into something sour, if not used in moderation. The hangover of this can occur as burnout syndrome. The new version of burnout syndrome, which came as a result of overworking until a few years ago, is being released as ‘dating burnout’. Because the human brain can’t handle trying to recognize more than 9 people and introducing the best version of itself at the same time, the cognitive load reaches a point of extreme plethora.
In conclusion, we don’t know if Aristophanes was right, that we really have a soul mate… but maybe we should connect with people as we did in the olds days, Wi-Fi free, cash in on the currency of the law of attraction, the internet, and look at people’s faces, not their profile pictures.