Protect Your Mental Health While Using Dating Apps
Many of us recall the launch of the first online dating service, Match.com, but dating apps existed thirty years earlier when a team of Harvard undergraduates created the first of its kind in 1965. Over time, popularity exploded with most dating couples today reporting to have used one or more of these tools in pursuit of love. Although helpful for finding potential matches they would not have met otherwise, it’s important for the dating app user to understand that embedded within their design codes and features are components that may adversely affect mental health. Researchers have uncovered four main aspects that may pose negative effects on your mood and overall mental health.
Addictive in nature. Dating apps rely upon algorithms which enable you to become an endless swiper. They lead you to believe the next best potential date is only a swipe away without attachment, commitment, or effort. This superficial, unattached swiping alters users’ moods and reduces connectedness. Because users’ brains receive dopamine surges with simple acknowledgements, they begin to focus on superficial rewards such as messages, matches, or exchanging cute emojis. This element escalates the difficulty of dating in real life, where effort and investment remain critical.
Interferes with real life relationship skills. Dating apps encourage users to detach from reality. Because you don’t develop an attachment to a “real” person, ghosting, breadcrumbing, and love bombing all occur with greater frequency. Even after meeting in person, many users prefer their date online. This phenomenon results from a user feeling threatened or insecure that their real-life persona is not as intriguing as their online or dating app persona. Additionally, due to the lack of attachment, potential partners treat their date with less respect and compassion, reinforcing the user’s perception that they can merely disappear or swipe the person away rather than truly get to know them. When you no longer attach to someone, you stop putting in effort to become a better person, leaving you with a permanent emotionally immature, unrealistic picture of what a real relationship entails.
Reduction of self-esteem. Due to frequent swipes and low level of investment with potential dates, users often become more critical and outspoken about others’ appearance. If you don’t receive a message, match, or attention, you tend to take it personally with greatest attention placed on your looks. This aspect of dating apps increases a user’s susceptibility to judging themselves harshly and being more self-critical, which leads to lower self-esteem.
Too many choices diminish relationship success. The more individuals date, the less contentment they find in relationships. Dating apps promote the unrealistic concept that your soul mate is a swipe away; therefore, your tolerance, patience, and willingness to work on relationships decrease. A deeper, more intense level of emotional intimacy cannot develop when an app offers numerous alternative potential partner choices.
Dating apps have become an essential part of modern dating. If you use them or plan to in the future, follow these guidelines to stay mentally healthy and find a successful match.
Be honest on your profile. Research has shown that success in finding a good match increases when a user remains authentic with their dating intentions and the qualities they value in a partner.
Stick to one app at a time. Using multiple dating apps increases confusion in your dating life and relationship intentions. Choose one app, only switching to another if dissatisfied after 6 to 8 weeks.
Be upfront about your boundaries. Before download a dating app, make a list of your relationship values and boundaries. Don’t break a boundary to fit another person’s appetite. Remember: a dating app is for your convenience. If someone matches with you but disrespects boundaries listed in your profile, don’t stick around. When you’re clear about what you want, the volume of choices becomes less overwhelming.
Limit your time on the app. The addictive component of the app is real. Limit checking the app to twice daily. Respect this restriction and hold yourself accountable. More frequent checks alter mood and dopamine levels which interfere with your mental health.
Meet people in real life. While dating apps offer convenience, real life meet ups are necessary to feel connected and confident in dating. Meet people at the gym, garden center, dog park, or special events to connect with another human being. Stash your phone away, remove your ear buds, and smile/talk to people around you. Getting to know someone on an intimate level, watching their reaction to you, and feeling their emotional investment and care for you are analogous to food for your heart and brain.
Who you choose as a life partner determines 90% of your life happiness. It matters not whether using a dating app, engaging in social activities, or both to find your potential partner. Knowing yourself, what you want in a potential partner, and the aspects you are willing to change about yourself to create a relationship you both enjoy matters most. Your authenticity and transparency regarding personal gifts and flaws will give you the best chance at finding a perfect match.