Where Is The Internet's Good Relationship Advice?

This is sort of the start for a blog post, I’ve been meaning to get something up but have been busy figuring out some apartment issues.)

Relationship advice online is pretty terrible. Clickbait upvoting mechanisms, selection bias, and unhinged sociological ravings dominate relationship advice online, not only for romance but every relationship you might have.

I can think of a few people who are trying to fix this. Visakan Veerasamy is the frontrunner just based on this post and related links. A lot of people are optimistic about making friends online, myself included. Other than that, though, my side of the internet seems somewhat pessimistic about using online advice, or advice in general, to benefit ordinary relationships. Occasionally, it seems downright hostile to human interaction at all. Here is the internet’s defining piece on office talk. Here’s Tyler Cowen on dating coaches. Here’s Conrad Bastable, explaining why good relationship advice is not online, and never will be.

Conrad is right: Publishing relationship commentary is insanely dangerous , to you and the other person. Frame it as advice, and now it’s dangerous to everyone who reads it. Pretty much everything you say to your significant other is based on mutual trust and trading that for the worship/ridicule of strangers is a massive risk. Visa is a unique case, he is Extremely Online in the best way possible, and we should not expect many to replicate him. (Even some of Visa’s links support Conrad’s criticism.) Furthermore, relationships involve two people, which makes it less valuable to read, write, and act upon. Then there are the problems Tyler mentions. Even if r/relationship_advice had good advice, you cannot go on a date if you’re lurking on r/relationship_advice all the time.

Even taking all that into account, online advice still seems to underperform. I am willing to concede a lot. I think any good advice would be “single player” and trivially tactical, nothing too sweeping, but I am okay with that. That’s kind of my jam. I am surprised there isn’t a widely-known collection of these small tips.

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Makes sense. There is a neat startup working on that: relationshiphero.com

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I’ve been running a blog and FB community focused on breakup advice for men 1. As such I’ve given out quite a bit of advice over the years, read a lot of questions and seen a lot of other people give advice as well. There certainly is a lot of terrible advice out there, but I’ll also share some of the gems I’ve found.

It’s hard to imagine an area where people are more emotionally involved than relationships (or the end of a relationship). I see this in the questions I get in our community of via email, people happily spend hours crafting long messages explaining their situation and asking for help.

A common occurrence in the case of a breakup is the dumpee resisting the reality of the breakup. Often they become obsessed with salvaging the relationship or with the other person, in spite of all evidence pointing to their being no likelihood of reconciliation. I’ve found that the worst possible thing for these people to do is to continue to pursue their ex. It puts them in a position where they get hurt over and over.

Part of this obsessive state is that their mind tries to find evidence everywhere and despite everything that there is still hope. It’s confirmation bias squared.

And this is exactly what the shitty advice givers latch on to. You only need to search for “how to get my ex back” on google or youtube for instance to get inundated with videos of “coaches” telling you you can control how your ex feels about you and that you have the power to salvage the relationship.

Remember, in my experience this is the worst possible thing you can tell someone at that stage. And Youtube is replete with it.

There is good relationship advice out there however. I’ve found that if you look at the most upvoted comments on certain relationship reddits you’ll find some gems. I think Esther Perell’s podcast, where she let’s you listen in on a couple therapy session is amazing, and I’ve heard a lot of great advice on the Dad Edge Podcast. I’ve also read some solid stuff from Evan Marc Katz for women. And Elliot Hulse also gives out some good advice on relationships.

I agree with Tyler’s assessment: Aspirational is easier to sell than honesty. Easier to produce that type of content too.

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Thanks for the reply! It’s nice to hear from someone on the other side of the equation who’s trying to make or foster good advice/content. I guess the thing I find so strange about relationship advice online is how much digging you have to do to find it. Increasing productivity, for example, is a problem that has wide swathes of the internet working on tips and experiments. I didn’t have to look hard for this site, I just kind of found it through the productivity web. Dealing with ADHD lies somewhere in the middle, where there’s a lot of confirmation bias and consolation, but also a fair amount of good advice and tips for practical day-to-day stuff. Relationships don’t really have that at all. Maybe there’s just too much detail in a relationship to make generalizable content, but the sheer volume of content out there is surprisingly deplete of small, tactical suggestions for being in a relationship.

This is all true for dating, but also for intra-family stuff. I have yet to read a great essay on why there are so many daughter-father fights, father-son fights, sibling fights, etc., even though this dynamic plays out millions of times a day. I have yet to read one good one that doesn’t involve straight-up abuse. On the other hand, there are tons of articles explaining why your kids are out of line and need your guidance, or your dad’s backward, old-fashioned ways are ruining your life. Is there anyone thinking of ways to solve these problems?

On a maybe-related note, I think this is what made Jordan Peterson a phenomenon, a guy who was willing to take on the pressures of fame just to tell people “You have got to clean your room and be polite to your family members, make that a priority. Don’t forget that’s important.” Is there any way to get that same excitement and sense of discovery going, but online in the same way rationality or productivity are?

(I’m obviously nowhere close to a finished draft on this, but thanks to forum and readers for bearing with me.)

I strongly recommend Alain de Botton and his The School of Life. Those two are the pinnacle of what I’ve personally seen in terms of relationship advice and emotional intelligence. I was lucky enough to discover them during my youth so that I was able to integrate the major topics deeply into my daily social interactions. Alain still touches my life today, and he shaped it for the better. Butterfly effects not to speak of.

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