You just got back from dinner with your girlfriends. You had a great time catching up and hearing about one another’ lives. You sipped wine and giggled about work, boys, and The Bachelor. And yet there is a lingering anxiety in the back of your mind. All of your friends are in great relationships…Except you... One is engaged. The other just started seeing this super cool guy who started his own company. The other girl has a long term boyfriend who is apparently great in bed. You are totally happy for them, and yet you cannot quite put your finger on it, it is sort of an impending worry, quietly hissing at you to get a move on, you’re missing out!
Like any good, modern woman, you furrow your brow and recite to yourself how much of an empowered woman you are, who does not need a man to complete her and how fulfilled your life already is. And yet….there it is again… the light tap on the back of your shoulder, the worry that you will end up alone with 56 cats and gets excited for TSA to feel you up at airports. You cringe.
You quietly whisper “fuck it,” under your breath as you pull out you phone and re-download a dating app.
You swore this was not how it was going to be and that this style of dating was, “totally not for you” and yet you need the reassurance that there are options, possibilities, even hope. You don’t even have to go on any dates. Just chat with a few hotties, even if only to encourage yourself you still got it…
Pretty sure if you have been single at all since 2012 you have experienced some form of this scenario.
In theory, dating apps are great. Who does not want to judge strangers or flirt with hotties all night long without ever putting on pants? And the options… hot damn we have never been provided with so many options before! It is like an all-you-can-eat-Vegas-buffet of dating!
Yet, once the initial glow of judging random strangers on totally shallow characteristics has worn off, we rarely find ourselves excited by the prospect of tossing up a photo on the internet and hoping complete strangers will not be repulsed by us. Sure the whole swiping thing is fun and feels like a game, but after a while dating apps can start to feel less like innocent fun and more like a last-ditch alternative to dying alone or missing out on love. They certainly are not always the Band Aids to our love lives that they are sold to us as.
Sometimes dating apps become subtle ego boosters, where we seek them out in the hopes of re-affirming our own attractiveness. We really do not want to spend the evening with a stranger making small talk, but we would not mind some harmless flirty banter just to remind ourselves that we are desirable…
Dating apps effect us each on an individual basis. For some it is Camelot and for others it is the 9th layer of Hell. And yet regardless of our dating preferences, dating apps retain similar consequences for all of us. It really boils down to whether the pros outweigh the cons or vice versa. Are we willing to brave the stormy seas of ghosting and meeting strangers and vulnerability in search of love, or is modern dating the equivalent of the proverbial frog in boiling water? Are we just normalizing a negative dating environment?
So how do dating apps affect us? Are they bad news or modern marvels?
- Dating apps can lead to increased anxiety
According to dating expert, Anita Chlipala there is a correlation between increased levels of anxiety and depression. This is due to increased exposure to rejection. While dating apps have increased the sheer volume of interactions, they have also increased the volume of rejections that occur. Other things that can make us feel anxious and/or cynical about our dating prospects are low numbers of matches, excruciatingly long periods between communication, crude messages, and ghosting. While there are compliments and flattery to be exchanged, feelings of rejection or harassment often weigh heavier on participants and can impact self consciousness. Basically a few hurtful exchanges can spoil the experience.
Another factor that increases anxiety is the sheer amount of conversations and interactions one might be juggling. Sure this might sounds like most single peoples’ dreams, but for women especially this can cause stress to the point of wanting to delete the app. Lots of women experience anxiety at having to maintain several different conversations. Coupled with the fact that most interactions lack humanity (a result of not having met in person), many women come to point where they are both overwhelmed and don’t feel invested anymore and either end the conversations or ghost.
- Low Self esteem
Yes, dating apps have the potential to make us feel like desirable sex goddesses when hoards of matches message you to tell you what a snack you are. On the other hand, large volumes of rejections, ghosting, and lack of matches can do serious damage to our self esteem, especially if we believe( incorrectly) that our peers are having loads of success on dating apps and hopping into bed with every hottie they match with. Please see: Getting It on Millennial Edition.
We start to question what is wrong with us and worry that we are missing a crucial ingredient to our dating life. We are often left under the impression that those on dating apps are hooking up right and left and getting loads of matches and exchanging nudes on the daily. This perception leaves many feeling inadequate or undesirable based on a false comparison. The truth is that most users only use apps sporadically and most people do not engage in random hookups with strangers. Generally most people get ghosted or stood up just as often as their peers.
- Easier to become dissatisfied
It is all about expectations. When there are soooo many possible dates, apps can create feelings of dating abundance. Yet, this often promotes higher expectations for dates and matches. When we assume there could always be someone better this can inspire users to move on quickly from prospects without truly giving them a chance. The idea that there is always someone hotter, smarter, cuter, richer out there keeps us swiping and keeps us continually dissatisfied with results. This is not to say that we have to go out with everyone we match with, only that an attitude of “never good enough” creates unhappiness and excuses us from challenging ourselves to work on our current relationships.
Another consequence of this is dating fatigue, where we become swamped with so many choices, and so many possible choices, that we fail to invest in any of them. Combined with continually unmet expectations, users can become fatigued with dating and either quit or become cynical.
Ugh so are dating apps a total drag?
Not at all! We all know that engaged couple that met on an app. In fact it is 30% of couples these days….The point is to recognize toxic situations, attitudes, and behaviors and either make changes or get away. If dating apps are making you feel miserable, anxious, insecure or overwhelmed feel free to delete the app. Trust me when I say it is not the necessity to a full dating life that pop culture makes it out to be. You can still meet people IRL.
It is also important to recognize your dating style. We all date differently. Dating apps work really well for some people and for others they cause crippling anxiety and fear… and that is okay! It is perfectly okay to meet strangers online if that floats your boat, and it is also totally okay to need to get to know people and have some mutual history first. It is okay to feel like dating apps are not for you and to reject them entirely, this sentiment will not make you a Puritan or a prude. The important thing is to recognize this and own it.
But are there ways to make the dating app experience better?? For sure!
- Don’t try to talk to everyone all at once. Just because you matched or they reached out, don’t feel like you are missing out or have to respond. This is a good way to avoid getting burned out or overwhelmed.
- If people are crass or rude, do not engage. There will always be jerks, but learn to pick your battles.
- Reject any notion that dating apps are the end-all-be-all of your romantic life. They are not a necessity or an indicating factor of whether or not you are hot or desirable or cool or destined for a life of loneliness.
- Remember that most people are experiencing the same frustrations you are. It is a false comparison to feel that you are “failing” at dating while everyone else is banging and going out on cool dates and meeting their soul mate.
- If you do start chatting with someone that peaks your interest above the rest, it is better to meet sooner than later. The sooner you meet in person the sooner that individual becomes a real person and not just an icon on your screen. The sooner you meet up, the quicker you can determine real chemistry or attraction, as opposed to guessing and making assumptions via vague texts and unclear syntax, emojis, tone, etc.
- Meeting strangers for sex might seem like a easy solution to a lackluster dating life, but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the false reality that everyone is doing it. Meeting strangers is always dangerous. And “meaningless” sex with strangers can not only be physically dangerous but also mentally and emotionally.
So there you have it.
Dating apps have their pros and cons, but the most important take away is that we use the marvels of modern technology as discerning consumers, bearing in mind their effects, influences and implications.
Dating apps should not feel like a plea-bargain to not be alone any longer, or a desperate attempt to get out of single hell. Dating apps shouldn’t be viewed as a “quick fix” solution to a crotch that might be overgrown with cobwebs. Just because it might seem like anyone and everyone are shacking up these days, does not mean you need to rush into the arms of the first person who gives you attention or “super likes” you. You are wayyyy better than that, and just believing that for yourself is enough to exude the type of confidence to lure in other confident, successful hotties (like yourself) IRL.