The principle of least interest is the idea that the person in a relationship who has the least interest in its success, has the most power. This idea governs many interpersonal reactions. Though this principle was identified in the late 1930’s, it seems that with all of our communication incredibly documented, levels of interest have become increasingly easy to evaluate. In “I’m Exhausted by the ‘Rules’ of Text Messaging” Obvi’s own Becky brought up the close attention that we now pay to our interactions with people. “Who was the last to text?” “How long did they take?” “How long should I wait?” These are all questions driven by the struggle for power in the interpersonal relationship.
The same guy who researched and coined the principle, Willard Waller, argued that the bigger the role of power in the relationship, the less room there is for love.
Not long ago, I revisited my tinder. What tinder does, more than any other online or otherwise dating source, is prove beyond any reasonable doubt, that there really are a shit-ton of symbolic men-fish in the metaphorical sea.
It started during a two-week period I was back to my home in Michigan before making a big move to Spain. My plan to fly off to the other side of the world caused my sudden and extreme single-dom (you know, when you go from nightly spooning to hugging the life out of your pillow in what feels like .5 seconds) but also made it silly to conceive of holding a conversation or meeting up with any of the few profile pictures that I swiped right. Yet, there I was, at 12am, exhausted but unable to stop speeding through the endless supply of pictures. My thumb was working double time. I could feel it cramping up. And now I can’t help but analyze why had I started doing this. Why I couldn’t stop?
I think it goes back to that same principle of power. I had had no control over the way my last relationship— or whatever you would call the not serious yet exclusive “hang out” sessions-ship that are seeming ever more commonplace. It was a breakup due to circumstances and distance. Being an almighty judge, deeming others worthy or unworthy to chat with me by viewing a single picture, puts me feel in complete control of my love life. That being said, Tinder has so far contributed absolutely nothing to my love life other than a welcome distraction.
If I am being perfectly honest, I think that all Tinder does for me is give me the exact sense of control that feels great but gets in way of any chance of love. It isn’t healthy, at least not in the way I am using it. But, I can’t promise that I won’t succumb to that simple, calming orange flame and put my thumb to work the next time I feel restless. Maybe I can let Tinder be my outlet for that lust for power, while I focus my attention on forgetting power struggles in my face-to-face relationships. Drawing that line, being aware of the difference, will hopefully allow me to love without worrying about having the upper-hand in my relationships.