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Millcreek Journal

Draper professor aims to take the stress out of dating on ‘Dating Made Simple’ podcast

Feb 05, 2024 02:11PM ● By Katherine Weinstein

Draper resident and BYU professor Tom Robinson (right) was photographed in the recording studio with “Dating Made Simple” podcast co-host and fellow professor Robert Walz (left). (Photo courtesy of Tom Robinson)

America’s current epidemic of social isolation and loneliness has recently made headlines. Statistically speaking, the problem is especially acute for members of Gen Z, young people for whom social media and texting culture has too often replaced in-person social interaction. Members of Gen Z also report more struggles with anxiety and depression. 

Draper resident Tom Robinson, a professor of mass communications in the advertising program at Brigham Young University, was surprised to learn that many of the young adults he worked with every day were not going on dates. “They are scared to, they don’t know how,” he said. “People think they have to be looking for a spouse.” 

Robinson decided to address the problem first by giving talks about dating on BYU’s fireside circuit but wanted to reach a larger audience. He started a podcast, “It’s Just Dinner” with his colleague, associate teaching professor Robert Walz. The co-hosts later changed the name to “Dating Made Simple” and have created over 80 episodes.

“We asked ourselves, ‘how do we make kids more comfortable with dating?’” Robinson said. “One of my biggest concerns is that there are people sitting home alone on a Friday or Saturday night. That can result in an increase in depression and anxiety. We need to help people get out and have fun.” 

While the podcast’s target audience is 18 to 30 year olds, Robinson feels that older folks could find it useful as well. “People who are divorced are often in the same situation,” he said. “They don’t know how to ask someone out.”

The title “It’s Just Dinner” came out of Robinson’s core piece of advice to take some of the pressure off of getting to know someone. “Forget about dating, just ask someone to go to dinner,” he explained. “The dinner itself isn’t important, it’s an opportunity for you to sit and talk with someone. If you feel a spark, you ask them on a date.” 

Robinson relayed the fact that he met his wife by following his own advice. “I was divorced and alone,” he said. “I decided I needed to practice what I preached and set up a couple of profiles on online dating sites and apps. I started meeting people and having fun. I know it works!” 

In each episode of the podcast, Robinson and Walz engage in lively and candid conversations with special guests who have expertise in different aspects of dating and relationship-building. One recent guest was professional dating coach Tripp Kramer who specializes in helping shy guys approach and engage in conversation with prospective dates. Online dating coach Erika Ettin appeared on the podcast to give helpful tips on building a successful dating profile. Body language expert Blanca Cobb will be a guest on the podcast in February to teach listeners how to read body language and better express themselves. 

The producer currently in charge of finding guests for the podcast is BYU junior Macie Thelin, a student in the advertising program. She identified what she believes are roadblocks to dating among her peers. “I’ve seen a lot of people not going out,” Thelin said. “It can feel like a lot of pressure, people are focusing on their careers, it’s too expensive. It hurts my heart to see such great people not going out.” 

She belongs to the It’s Just Dinner Club which is an off-shoot of the podcast on the BYU campus. “We come up with events where we meet, learn to improve our communication skills, make new friends and meet dating prospects,” she said.

Thelin said that she has found the club and podcast to be helpful in her own dating life and isn’t afraid to take the first step in asking someone out. “The podcast teaches people how to communicate and date better,” she summed up.

Robinson emphasized that even though the podcast is produced at BYU, “We are not centered around the Church at all. Seventy-five or 80% of the guests we have on are not LDS. We’re trying to expand our audience.” 

“Dating Made Simple” is available on Spotify, Apple and all other major podcast platforms. Follow @datingmadesimple_ on Instagram for more content on dating as well as links to the podcast. λ