Hookup with Dr. Jess

Online dating has changed the way people pursue relationships. Dr. Jess offers solid advice.

By Michelle Valigursky

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Navigating a relationship that starts online can be complicated – and tricky. Jess Carbino 07C, a sociologist known to her television and radio audiences as “Dr. Jess,” shares online dating and relationship advice with singles.

A candidate for PhD at UCLA, Carbino’s dissertation is chaired by Bill Roy 68C. Her work “explores how individuals meet and mate in the 21st Century. Technology has always influenced the way we date, but meeting a partner online is increasingly common,” she writes. Her work explores how “facial attractiveness, gender, and third parties structure online dating interactions.”

Carbino says, “The dating landscape has changed so much over the past 40 years. Women and men are extending the time till marriage and many women now feel like the clock is ticking once they reach a certain age. The literary world has picked up on this trend and now there are so many books marketed to women about the rules they should follow to nab a guy and they read those books as though it was gospel. My book aims to discuss the dating landscape for young women in their 20s from a different perspective. Rather than providing women with mandates and directives, I try to discuss the critical issues twenty-something women face when navigating sex, dating, and relationships. Even though I am discussing serious issues like the orgasm gap, infidelity, and online dating, my book approaches these issues from a cheeky and fun perspective.”

Carbino’s expertise is widely recognized. She is the sociologist for the dating website Three Day Rule. In addition to hosting her own radio show “Hook Up with Dr. Jess,” she is a regular featured guest on Pivot TV’s Take Part Live’s Love Bytes and often participates in NPR programming. Cited in TIME, The New Yorker, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, New York, and Huffington Post, Carbino understands her audience.

“I want to understand what men and women desire and how institutions influence relationship formation. I decided to try to share my research in a public forum because romantic relationships are critical to many areas of an individual’s life. I really want Joe Q. Public to receive valid information about dating from a real expert---someone who has done empirical research not just used an online dating site,” Carbino explains. “I love talking about dating and relationships on television. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be on The Today Show or Good Morning America. While my path academically has taken me off the road to becoming Hoda or Kathie Lee, I am hoping my expertise and passion will bring me in front of the camera to share my work. My ultimate goal is to have my own TV show. I feel as though someone needs to fill Dr. Ruth’s shoes. We are both petite, Jewish women who aren’t afraid to say anything so I think I’d be perfect for the job.”

Naughty or Nice?

Used to be, two people grew sweet on each other. They may have traded a few chaste notes in class, perhaps whispered during clandestine phone calls on the hall phone, maybe even held hands at a pep rally or ball game. After months of courting, the big kiss might symbolize their commitment to a true relationship.

Now, human bonding often skips the luxury of getting-to-know-you time. And so, the big naughty-or-nice question remains. When relationships begin between people on computers, can real intimacy develop at a “normal” rate? 

“One of the concerns people initially have when starting these long-distance online dating relationships is that things accelerate really quickly once you meet in person,” Carbino said in response to a viewer question on a recent talk show. “We know that online dating and online interactions can really accelerate physical intimacy. The concern she should have moving forward maybe once they meet each other, they should try to really get to know each other, see how they interact together in person. Screens can certainly indicate very different things than physical attraction.”

Though sexual attraction can spark in the artificial environment of cyberspace, Carbino is quick to remind people that “All good things happen in the moment. The way an individual presents themselves also varies according to context. While you may be in close physical proximity to your phone or computer when communicating with someone online or via text messaging, true intimacy is achieved through face-to-face interaction and spending a significant amount of time with someone. Real intimacy is not easy to achieve. Intimacy involves being close to, familiar, and vulnerable with another individual. Individuals can achieve real intimacy through direct communication and candor. If you cannot achieve intimacy within a relationship, it’s going to sink - not swim.”

Maintaining Emory Connections

At Emory, Carbino appreciated the interconnectedness of Emory students and alumni. She was a Phi Beta Kappa political science major with a sociology minor, a Goodrich C. White scholar, and completed her degree in just three years. Now, even though it’s been years since she studied at Emory, Carbino understands the wealth of Emory resources available to her. Carbino still keeps in touch with professors like Thomas Walker, Harvey Klehr, and Regina Werum, all of whom were invaluable mentors to her as a young student.

In developing her radio show, Carbino turned to her fellow Emory alumni. “Dominic Rossetti 08C has been my legal expert on my radio show, quick to keep me on my toes, and a great cheerleader. He is presently working at the US Attorney's Office in Mobile, Alabama,” she says.

Carbino also selects guests who offer a range of viewpoints. “These have included actor and web producer Farhan Arshad 06Ox 08C and body language expert and author Vanessa Van Edwards 07C. Maggie Reeves 08C has been a guest of the show to discuss domestic violence,” she says. “Danielle Berman 08C was influential in connecting me to matchmakers in LA.” Alicia Clark 00Ox 02C is a producer on Take Part Live, the television show on which Carbino is regularly featured, and John-o Goldsmith 04B is a friend who connected Carbino to the Huffington Post.

Jess says, “I am always telling people how proud I am to be an Emory alumna. The digital world is so expansive and difficult to navigate, but my Emory connections have made the digital community seem so much less overwhelming. While I study romantic relationship formation online, the maintenance of social ties online is critical for a variety of relationships."

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Michelle Valigursky