Five Ways to Stop Dating Apps from Messing with Your Head
Updated: Aug 14, 2019
Dating apps have radically transformed how we behave and find love, and for better or worse, with more and more singles using dating apps every year, it looks like dating technology is here to stay. Despite dating technology being widely accessible, there are more singles on the dating market than ever before and an unprecedented number of people suffering from dating-related mental distress.
It’s great that the stigma of meeting a serious romantic partner online has dissipated (phew!). But with many users reporting that some dating apps are negatively impacting their mental health and self-esteem, dating technology may be making dating more difficult instead of easier (uh-excuse me?!). One theory as to why online dating is becoming more difficult is that dating apps create the misconception that users have a limitless number of options. So, too much choice is ruining dating for us? Yes! You’ve heard of the “paradox of choice” – the theory that more choices you have, the more difficult choosing can be and less satisfied you become (we’ve all seen The Cheesecake Factory’s menu!). Well, modern online dating culture is the perfect example of this paradox in action.
While technology is supposed to make our lives easier, some apps have actually just added another lengthy layer to the dating experience. For example, tons of dating apps are built around the swipe-to-connect premise. By its very nature swiping is a great way to keep users engaged on those apps, but leads users to falsely believe there is an infinite availability of matches, which ultimately keeps them single longer. Users are dating with the idea that another match, date, or opportunity to find “the one” or “the better one” is just one more swipe away. Some (and by some, I really mean many) jaded swipers now long for more traditional and authentic ways of finding love.
It's not me, it’s the dating app culture. There are some mental health issues that are caused or exacerbated by the current online dating environment – narcissism, anxiety, attention–deficit disorder, and depression to name a few. Aside from the dopamine boost many get from collecting likes and matches, frequent and regular rejection on dating apps can lead to feelings of disappointment, insecurity, loneliness, and lower self-esteem.
But, is this environment a result of an intentional design flaw or simply bad user behavior? The truth? It's a bit of both. Some popular dating apps indeed have a major design flaw in common - they are designed to keep users engaged on the app, not with the intention of helping them make meaningful connections. In fact, many dating apps are just exacerbating our addiction to tech and psychotherapist Denise Dunne believes they are “designed around non-emotional online communication rather than offline communication and they’re about ubiquity and endless promise.” (Ha, so it's not my fault! Yes, but wait, there’s more...)
The online dating environment is also designed to allow users to hide behind their profiles and use online communication to misbehave and then blame their misbehavior on the nature of online dating. Bad online dating behavior (like ghosting, breadcrumbing, submarining, benching) is highly damaging and yet is being normalized in online dating apps and pop culture.
Mental health expert Jacob Moore of NoStigmas, says “as a single guy I’ve definitely gotten caught up in the dating app game. It’s like we’re in a co-dependent relationship with swiping on profiles. Compulsively, and even obsessively, checking the apps gives us that immediate feeling of connection because of the release of 'feel good' chemicals in our brain, but that isn’t mentally healthy or sustainable in the long run. By really defining what our needs and wants are before we begin the partner search, we can preemptively avoid all of the non-starters, in turn, saving a ton of time (and potential heartache). While we may miss that 'swipers high', the potential for a deep and lasting relationship is much more likely with a bit of investment and patience.”
What can you do to make online dating technology work for you and your mental health? Now, I’m not telling you to ditch dating apps completely. I’m simply suggesting that you to take advantage of the positive aspects of modern dating technology and ditch the negative behaviors.
Singles are busier than ever – juggling careers, family, friends, social calendars, and the desire to find love or companionship – and need a better way to make those meaningful connections. There are many positives to online dating. For example, dating apps allow you to find your mate from the comfort of your home or office (don’t worry, I won’t tell your boss). Modern dating technology is also great because it gives you virtual access to people you may not have otherwise encountered in real life!
Also, contrary to belief, online dating, when used efficiently and in a healthy manner, can lead to successful relationships. People who use dating apps may be more interested in finding a meaningful relationship than perhaps someone you meet at a random social gathering. Maybe that’s why studies show “[p]eople who met their spouse online said their marriage was more satisfying than those who met their spouse offline. Plus, marriages that began online were less likely to end in separation or divorce.” Great, right!
Okay, now that you know the paradox of modern online dating, here are 5 tips to stop dating apps from messing with your head.
1. Be compassionate, empathetic, and kind. We need to humanize online dating and the only way to do that is to change the way we interact by re-constructing the online dating process and infusing it with increased feelings of compassion, empathy, and kindness. Being compassionate, empathetic, and kind are also basic human instincts that increase your mental wellbeing. With a healthier and safer online dating environment – users will experience less anxiety and self-consciousness.
2. Reduce your virtual reality time and matches. Try spending less time on dating apps and limit your matches at any given time. Thirty minutes a day is all you need. Nine is the maximum number of people your brain can handle dating at one time. So after you meet nine people, stop, and really get to know them better. And if you start feeling overwhelmed, take a break from online dating. There’s nothing wrong with taking stepping way for a while – there will be plenty of singles online waiting for you when you’re ready to date again!
3. Be honest in your online dating profile. We’ve got to stop exaggerating and lying in dating profiles. We all know dating profiles are curated to appeal to as many matches as possible. They are filled with our best pictures and sassy descriptions of our lives. But, at some point, you will have to be honest and vulnerable about who you really are and what your life is actually like. The truth is (and the truth may be harsh) you don’t look like your Snapchat filtered photos in real life, you’re not actually 6 feet tall, and you may not have life all figured out the way your photos imply you do. If we all start being more honest about what life is actually like, we can stop comparing ourselves and feel less self-conscious about our less than perfect fulfilling lives.
4. Meet in real life as soon as possible. This is another way to humanize dating again. The person you’re speaking to through your screen is in fact a real human being with feelings and emotions (well, unless it’s a fake bot’s profile) so treat them like one. You’re more likely to act with compassion, empathy, and kindness once you’ve met and interacted with your match in real life. So, my advice is that you only select matches you intend to meet in real life! Also, let’s face it, you can’t determine whether you have chemistry with a match through protracted texting. If meeting in person early in the process makes you nervous, host a video chat (or “mini-date”) first to quickly gauge chemistry and weed out incompatible matches, so that you invest in matches with real potential. You could try hosting a mini-date on CarpeDM, our video-based dating app (sorry, I just couldn’t resist a shameless plug here ;)).
5. Be clear and honest about what type of person and relationship you’re looking for. It’s important to communicate your wants and needs up front so you don’t waste anyone’s time, especially your own! Don’t be afraid to talk about what you’re looking for early in the dating process, even if you think it may be a turn off to a match. If your match is turned off by the conversation, you’re obviously not compatible with each other. There’s also no point in moving forward with a match who doesn’t have what you’re looking for in terms of values, relationship and #Sundayfunday goals.
So, dating apps can work for you and your mental health. But it’s up to you to take the lead in your relationship with dating technology. Always keep in mind that you – not the dating app – are the captain of your dating ship. It’s your adventure so chart your course wisely.