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Understanding retroactive jealousy

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November 13, 2022 | View Online | Sign Up | Shop
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Yadi Liu

IN THIS ISSUE

The end of a crypto billionaire

A social media-induced disorder

Adam Conover asks if we're tired of this one answer

 

VIBE CHECK

 

"We jammed them up. We held the line."—John Fetterman in his victory speech after winning his Senate race in Pennsylvania

"Unfortunately, this did not play out the way I expected."—Mark Zuckerberg announcing a layoff of over 11,000 Meta employees

"I'm sorry I didn't do better."—Sam Bankman-Fried, while telling FTX investors that Binance would potentially acquire his company after it experienced a liquidity crunch

 

GREAT DEBATE

 

Ashwin Rodrigues

 

GROUP CHAT

 

How to lose everything in a week

How to lose everything in a week

Sam Bankman-Fried has worn many hats: CEO of crypto exchange FTX and crypto trading firm Alameda Research, major political donor, and billionaire style icon who makes Mark Zuckerberg look like Don Draper. He's been described as the "next Warren Buffett," and touted as crypto's savior.

And now "SBF" is the accidental poster child of one of crypto's biggest failures. This week, Bankman-Fried lost everything: His $16 billion fortune evaporated, as did his crypto companies.

The loss happened fast: On November 2, Coindesk reported that Alameda Research and FTX were entangled and extremely risk-laden. Online, chatter spread that FTX was insolvent, and mass withdrawals ensued. In response, Bankman-Fried assured his Twitter followers that all was fine, that a competitor was merely stirring up rumors. A couple of days later, Bankman-Fried announced that FTX would be acquired by competitor crypto exchange Binance. But the deal quickly fell through, in part because of looming investigations of FTX by the feds.

On Wednesday evening, Bankman-Fried told investors that FTX would go bankrupt without more capital. On Thursday, he announced Alameda Research would be winding down its trades as he looked to raise money for FTX. (The same day, the Wall Street Journal reported that FTX was dipping customer funds to make its own wild bets.)

It's a wild story even for an industry built on wild stories. And it speaks to the bigger problems in crypto, where fortunes can materialize overnight and disappear as quickly, with little to no regulatory oversight to ward off disaster.

When the wunderkind of crypto with a "savior complex" takes a devastating L, the ripple effect is inevitable. Bitcoin is down to its lowest in almost two years. FTT, the native token for FTX, is down more than 97% from its all-time high. (Even the celebs are taking a hit: The recently divorced Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen will lose most, if not all, of their investment in FTX.)

And Bankman-Fried's misfortune will have an impact beyond the crypto bubble. After the doomed FTX–Binance deal was announced, most of FTX's legal and compliance team quit, Semafor reported. A disclosure in this report further highlights Bankman-Fried's broad financial footprint: He is one of Semafor's investors. But his investment in journalism is just one small part of his philanthropic mission. Bankman-Fried was also becoming a major political player who donated millions of dollars to, in his words, do "what's right for the country."

Sequoia Capital, an investor in FTX, claimed that FTX could have possibly overtaken banking giants like Wells Fargo or Bank of America, which the VC firm used to justify its $32 billion valuation of the exchange. This week, Sequoia wrote their $214 million investment in FTX down to zero.

Bankman-Fried is still a poster child for crypto, but now he represents what hubris, lack of oversight, and wildly levered amounts of risk can do. "I f***ed up, and should have done better," he wrote on Twitter. That's true, but the industry should have done better, too.

Ashwin Rodrigues

     
 
Apple Pay
 

LONG READ

 

Retroactive jealousy is a uniquely online affliction

A person looking at a phone screen, crushed between two semi circles Yadi Liu

There was a period of time when Isaiah was obsessed with another man.

He would spend hours looking through the man's Instagram account, pouring over the details of his life. He examined his pictures, the tags he used, where he worked, and even his follower list. "I [was] more obsessed than a girl would be with this man," said Isaiah, a 24-year-old security worker and Navy veteran from California.

Isaiah didn't even know the man, and his relationship to him was tenuous at best: The man was his then-girlfriend's ex. "It's just very much stalker-ish. I don't know if you've seen the Netflix series called You," Isaiah said, referencing the hit show that follows a relentless stalker, "but it's very much like that same energy."

Even though Isaiah is in a new relationship now, his behavior hasn't changed. He spends his time inspecting social media content made by his current girlfriend's ex, often obsessively viewing a "girlfriend appreciation" video that her former partner uploaded to TikTok. And when he's noticed that his girlfriend is tagged in pictures with her ex, it infuriates him and often leads to his interrogating her and starting arguments.

Isaiah is one of many people who believe they suffer from retroactive jealousy, a self-diagnosed condition in which they experience extreme feelings of envy over their partners' past relationships. Those who have diagnosed themselves claim that it can be crippling, and they believe that social media, which has given them access to more information about their partners' past lovers than would have been possible in the before-times, is making things worse. It leaves them frustrated, confused, and stuck in toxic cycles, causing damage to their relationships in the process.

"Everything is broadcasted, so there's so much material out there for a retroactive jealousy sufferer to just indulge themself in. It's like junk food," explained Isaiah. "Social media is just the perfect, toxic poison that I can access at any time. I'm kind of addicted to it."

According to Robert Leahy, a clinical professor of psychology in the psychiatry department of Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City and author of The Jealousy Cure, jealousy is a common emotion experienced by a wide range of living beings, including humans, horses, dogs, cats, and even insects. "The evolutionary model is that we have to think about jealousy as a potential defense," Leahy told Morning Brew. He explained that the emotion is largely predicted by two elements: the amount of investment someone has in a relationship, and the amount of uncertainty someone has about it.

"The research shows, and again this is pretty universal," he said, "[that] both men and women are jealous."

But retroactive jealousy is an invention of the internet, tracing its origins to a post from 2008 on the dating advice site Dear Cupid. "My jealousy consumes me, I obsess over it. It affects me in ways I would have never imagined," the user wrote. Like every catchy pseudo-psychological term, retroactive jealousy caught on and spread across the website and other relationship advice forums. The term began to gain traction in 2013, when Zachary Stockill, under the pseudonym Frank Morrison, launched the website retroactivejealousy.com to ostensibly help people "get over [their] partner's past relationships and/or sexual history," and similar websites began to appear across the internet.

From there, descriptions of retroactive jealousy began to crop up in articles about "Relationship OCD"—purportedly a form of obsessive compulsive disorder in which an afflicted person's intrusive thoughts revolve around their romantic partners—after researchers began to publish work on relationship-centered OCD in the early 2010s.

By 2016, articles that described retroactive jealousy as a "condition" and a unique form of OCD had started to appear in publications like YourTango and Huffington Post. They were authored by Jeff Billings, founder of the website Retroactive Jealousy Crusher and author of The Ultimate Retroactive Jealousy Cure. (Billings still uses the website to sell his book—as well as an online course that promises to cure retroactive jealousy.) Billings doesn't appear to be a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist. Ultimately, it's unclear where the scientific basis for the "disorder" came from, since the first academic paper to use the term wasn't published until 2018. That work was, perhaps tellingly, written by two communications professors.

Still, it's a uniquely online affliction, since social media is both its source and its obsession. It's part of a broader social need to understand the digital self, both who we are on the internet and how it affects us. Researchers who study the phenomenon argue that it's distinct from the mundane jealousy most people experience, as retroactive jealousy is fueled by constant and near unlimited access to (often contextless) details of strangers' lives. Continue reading Jessica Lucas's story on retroactive jealousy.

     
 

Q&A

 

Brew Questionnaire with Adam Conover

Brew Questionnaire with Adam Conover

Adam Conover is a writer and investigative comedian who's probably best known for Adam Ruins Everything, a show that debunks misinformation and feel-good stories by ruining them, like when he told us why engagement rings are a scam. He also hosts the Netflix comedy series The G Word, in which he examines the triumphs and failures of US government agencies in an entertaining way. Plus, this show has some pretty credible producers: former POTUS and FLOTUS Barack and Michelle Obama.

What's the best advice you ever received?

When I was just starting out, a veteran comedy writer told me how to understand the psychology of TV executives when you pitch a show idea to them: "Their job is to say 'no' a hundred times a day, because every time they say 'yes,' they're risking their job." The only motivation they have to buy an idea is if you happen to be pitching the exact thing their boss told them the network is looking for this week.

So don't stress about making them happy; just pitch them your idea and hope it meets their mandate. If it doesn't, come up with something new. Rinse and repeat. Following that simple advice has kept me sane through nearly a decade working in television.

What's the most embarrassing song you'll admit to liking publicly?

I'm not embarrassed for liking any song. One of my favorite songs is "My Sharona" by the Knack. It's five minutes of pure hook, and features one of the best guitar solos of all time. The lyrics are revolting, of course, but what are you gonna do?

What fictional person do you wish were real?

I would never drag any beloved fictional character into our dirty, corrupted reality; to do so would be to ruin them. Can you imagine Jean-Luc Picard living in Los Angeles, working at CAA, and sitting in traffic on the 405? A travesty. Leave our heroes in the realm of fantasy where they belong, so that the rest of us IRL piggies can escape to them when we need a break from rolling around in the filthy mud of reality.

What real person do you wish were fictional?

As editors, how do you deal with every interviewee writing "Donald Trump" every week? Must get repetitive.

What invention do you wish you could take credit for?

You know that glowing ball at the science museum where you put your hands on it and it makes your hair stick out? I invented that, and no one knows.

What always makes you laugh?

Sheng Wang's new Netflix special is unbelievably funny. Just perfectly silly and beautifully written stand-up comedy.

If you were given a billboard in Times Square, what would you put on it?

Political action is more than just voting; it's more than just donating. If you really want to change America, join or start a group of like-minded people—a union, a political club, a mass-membership organization. Show up to meetings, and fight for change every day.

Might be kind of long to put on a billboard though.

—Interview by Sherry Qin

     
 
Fidelity Investments
 

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Money in the bank: If things like budget analysis, SEC regulations, and accounting standards get you excited, head over to CFO Brew, our newsletter all about corporate finance that helps pros stay on top of an ever-changing industry.

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SUNDAY FUNDAY

 

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Taylor Swift, the New York City Marathon, and more: This is our Sunday crossword that nods to the news of the week. Play it here.

 

✳︎ A Note From Fidelity Investments

Investing involves risk, including risk of loss.

Morning Brew and Fidelity Investments are independent entities and are not legally affiliated.

Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC.

         

Written by Rohan Anthony, Stassa Edwards, Jessica Lucas, Sherry Qin, Ashwin Rodrigues, and Holly Van Leuven

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