What Can an Online Dating Coach Do for You?

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Over video, chat and text — though rarely IRL — digital dating coaches help you create a more attractive online profile, decipher your date’s cryptic text message and boost your confidence after an unsuccessful Tinder fling.

These are not substitutes for a licensed therapist, but they’re convenient. “We strive for instant gratification,” said Liron Shapira, 30, the co-founder of a chat-based Silicon Valley start-up called Relationship Hero. “We give 24-7 service. If you want advice at 4 a.m., you can get it.”

Judy Blume used to teach young people about the world, now it’s YouTube

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Am I normal? It’s a question everyone asks at some point in their life, most urgently during adolescence. When will I get my period? Will I grow facial hair? Why do my parents argue? Can you get pregnant in a hot tub?

Bringing these questions to your mom hardly ever feels natural. Our parents got answers from scout troops, Sunday school, advice columns, Sassy magazine, and friends’ older siblings. But since 1970, one of the most influential sources was author Judy Blume…

In summer 2015, YouTube announced its users uploaded 400 minutes of video every minute, or over 1,000 days per month. Today, young people are watching more YouTube than television. But they aren’t simply catching PewDiePie’s latest vlog. They’re using the platform to seek answers in much the same way their parents once turned to Judy Blume for advice on itchy private parts. When children don’t get adequate answers to that age-old question — “Am I normal?” — they turn to YouTube for help. The video-sharing website offers a package complete with role models, entertainers, educators, and hopefully, other kids just like them.


Surprise! Online Mom Culture Might Be Helping Moms Feel More Confident


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There’s been a long held assumption that competition and insecurity, rather than camaraderie and support, are the driving force behind the rise of online mom culture. A new report from Pew Research Center suggests otherwise.

In short: Millennial moms are more assured in their parenting and most likely to seek advice online. This suggests that the digital-mom universe is not the cesspool of judgment it is often made out to be. Those long Facebook threads about breast vs. bottle or co-sleeping vs. sleep-training, the endless think pieces on work/life balance, the viral personal essays—they’re all part of a vast and growing ecosystem. Too often labeled as “mommy wars,” those conversations seem to be doing more to make women confident of the mothers they are, rather than demoralized by the mothers they are not.



Siri Meets Dr. Phil

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In just a few months, this New York software developer, operating under the pseudonym Ethan Gliechtenstein, has transformed himself into a postmodern advice columnist for the app age thanks to a free, single-function smartphone app called “Ethan.” It enables users to ask him, and him directly, any question imaginable (“Should I call my ex?” “Do penguins have knees?”) by text message, under the reassuring cloak of anonymity.

 As the downloading and use of the app went viral, “Ethan” became not just a contender for the world crown in thumb-typing, but a pioneer of a new form of Internet micro-celebrity: a human digital assistant whose cool, unflappable manner and dogged consistency give artificial intelligence a run for the money — imagine Dr. Phil crossed with Siri.

 …Like a psychiatrist who presents as a blank screen for patients to project themselves onto, Ethan is tabula rasa.

 “I’ve learned firsthand that, with lack of information, users end up filling in the details with their own imagination of what Ethan would be like,” he said.

 This spirit of anonymity, a prevailing characteristic of online culture since the AOL chat rooms of the ’90s and even earlier, seems to be a major part of its allure. But unlike of-the-moment “confession” apps like Secret that allow friends to divulge and discuss their secluded thoughts anonymously, like group therapy performed in the dark, Ethan combines the facelessness with a one-on-one intimacy.

 …“Ethan can be anyone you want him to be,” Ms. Ren said in an email. “Shrouded in anonymity, he is a mirror of yourself — always affirming, responsive, witty, and charming. He can be the best friend, confidante, and lover you never had.”

 Like an app masquerading as performance art, Ethan seems to suggest that online connectedness serves as its own end; whom you connect to is secondary.