Dating, Eleven Times Two, Mental Health

Swiping away my self-esteem

I’ve spoken about dating apps a LOT in the past on this blog (who could forget the 45-minute disaster date?), but since I’ve turned my focus to Mental Health issues, I’ve not really re-visited it. This time around, however, I am not going to write a scathing release of disappointment and venting that I have been prone to previously (hands up), but rather a logical look on why Tinder and Bumble et al – are basically THE WORST.

While I am a huge fan of meeting new, interesting people, I am most certainly not a fan of online dating (apart from the hilariously relatable memes that come with it). Yet, I find myself drawn back into its web time and time again. Every few months, usually as a result of a: boredom, b: misguided hope or c: plain loneliness, I download that dreaded yellow app and spend the next 732 hours (ok, 1 night) left swiping to the point of early-onset RSI. This time around I even re-downloaded Tinder for the first time in years. I lasted approximately 19 hours on both.

So why can’t I just give it a chance? Well, because it makes me feel rubbish for a number of reasons:

  • Aforementioned left-swiping Repetitive Strain Injury: Out of literally THOUSANDS of people, I maybe say yes to 15 – 20 of them, and probably match with 3-5 out of those, (great starting odds) and then…
  • Nobody speaks: Tinder is basically a digital head collection storage unit. “I’ve got 73 people that are into me, but I’m gonna play hard to get and let them speak to me first,” and so invariably – nobody does. On Bumble, the woman has 24 hours to speak first, and the match then has 24 hours to respond, which leads to 24 hours of stony silence, sporadically interspersed with sentences made up of 6 words max. “Hi, you ok?”, “not bad thanks”, “What do you do then?” and so on and so forth.
  • It’s distracting: I’ve got better things to do than sit and swipe – making judgements in nanoseconds that are based solely on appearance (and knowing that others are doing the same to me) is not something that a: fulfils me or b: is a productive use of my time
  • I’m a traditionalist: I like the old-fashioned way, the way where actual human interaction was involved, and you could tell if you liked someone based on their vibe and whether their hair was flicky!

Dating apps simply do not sit right with me, it’s largely down to the reasons listed above, but more than anything, it’s about the way they make me feel – like I am just another face in the crowd, like I’m not worth even a simple twitch of the thumb in affirmation, and that I am simply not special… and that brings down my energy, my spirit and my self-esteem. How many times have you heard someone say, “I love *insert generic dating app name*, it’s brilliant there are so many fantastic people on there!”?

I’ll wait.

Now counter that with the amount of people you have spoken to that say “OMG it’s awful, it’s so depressing and they’re all weirdo’s! Plus, NO-ONE SPEAKS!”

That second one is closer, is it not? It used to be that dating apps were considered a little ‘desperate’ or taboo – that’s certainly not the case these days, so I honestly don’t think that the negative opinion that surrounds them is rooted in embarrassment, I think it’s rooted in how utterly soul destroying they are – ESPECIALLY if you are genuinely looking to meet someone.

So, this begs the question – why do I keep going back on them? 

  • Because I feel like ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’
  • Because I get curious to see if this time I might have a different experience (I don’t)
  • Because I am human and sometimes I need a little ego boost (daft – as it has the opposite effect)
  • Because I feel like I should be actively participating in my ‘search’ for my Perfect Partner. I won’t get into the crux of why this is against everything I am – it’s too far down the rabbit hole for this post)
  • Because I can’t help myself

And in that last point, my friends, lies something very interesting. These apps are designed to get you addicted to them, and the engineers are on point because frankly, it works.

“Dating apps have been shown to be pathologically addictive: according to Tinder – by far the market leader – the average user logs in 11 times per day, spending about 77 minutes daily in pursuit of the neurochemical cocktail dished out each time there’s a match. The ‘ding’ lights up the same pleasure centres in the brain activated by eating chocolate, viewing erotic imagery, or snorting cocaine.” (3)

 I go back time and time again because I want to get that feeling. I have mistaken it for hope, for excitement, I have even mistaken it for butterflies, but nope, it’s a dopamine hit I am chasing. Awesome.

The result of this is that the actual ‘match’ or connection’ is immediately disregarded in search of the next one. Dating has actually become a game because of these apps – even when you get a match, you are instantly given the option to message the person there and then or to ‘keep playing’, and I’m telling you now, I have opted for the latter Every. Single. Time. It doesn’t matter about the person you just matched with – because there’s the possibility of finding someone better if you just keep swiping. THIS IS WHY DATING APPS ARE THE WORST.

“Dating apps have created a culture of human disposability.” (2)

This is not how I want to meet the love of my life – it cannot be the way I meet the love of my life.

“Despite 26 million matches made each day on Tinder alone, Pew data reveal that only 5% of committed relationships began online.” (3)

I used to say, and firmly believe that “you don’t spot a personality across a crowded room”, and it’s true – you don’t. You spot a face in the crowd that for some reason, you connect with. Yes, it is probably because you find them attractive, but what I have come to realise is that you connect with their energy. These people stand out to you for a reason – because of their VIBE. When someone stands out to you on your phone because they’re a certified ‘hottie’ in your mind, and then they’re as dull as dishwater, or worse they don’t even speak to you in the first place, it can lead to disappointment. Why? Because you cannot replicate that vibe, that energy or that connection with a photo.

These sites take ‘attraction’ down to the one thing that matters the least – what we look like (or at least what we want to show people we look like). Then when we get ‘left-swiped’, or worse left on read, we think it’s because we’re not attractive enough! Is it any wonder they have such capacity to bring us down?

“A 2016 study of the psychosocial effects of Tinder, psychologist Dr Jessica Strubel found that the app’s “hyper focus on physical appearance” may be contributing to the worsening mental health of some users. The study showed a possible link between the app use and poor self-worth, particularly in relation to body image.” (2)

 What do we do when we get ‘rejected’? We think there is something wrong with us. There is nothing wrong with us – the true, genuine, real-life connection was not there in the first place! THAT is the first step to finding someone, not a right swipe! And so, we get into this pattern of trying again, and looking through more people, changing our settings (aka – lowering our standards) and convincing ourselves that we should just give people a chance, only to be left disappointed by the outcome time and time again.

Let’s say you’ve matched with someone, chatted to them off the site and even met up, and the second you walk into the room, that initial ‘attraction’ disapparates faster than Harry Potter out of the Weasley’s collapsing house! We’re back to the point I made earlier – you cannot recreate that vibe through your phone. What do you do then?

Me? Well very recently I decided to give someone a chance who seemed half decent, and he was a decent guy, but when I sat down in the pub I just knew it was a dead end. I feel awful saying that, but on the other hand I have to be honest. Normally I tell people after the fact that it’s not going to work for me, but this time I did something that a: I never do and b: I hate when it happens to me. I ghosted. I simply stopped replying to his messages and I walked away. (If you’re reading this, I’m really sorry!)

“The lack of commitment involved means people are constantly being ignored or deleted, and ‘ghosting’ after a date or two has become the norm. With all of this going on, it’s no wonder people might be feeling down on themselves.” (2)

 This is why I cannot go back onto a dating app – because of the person I am in danger of becoming if I do. Unfortunately, this half-hearted approach to online dating is what keeps the industry so successful. If we all went on there, gave people a decent chance and met our soul mates then it would be out of business pretty quickly wouldn’t it?

So, what now? If I am so opposed to dating apps for both my gut feeling and the statistics and facts listed in this blog – how do I meet someone? To be honest with you guys, I don’t know, I just know that I will, because I believe in good energy, I believe in the vibe you get from strangers walking in the street, I believe in natural connection and most importantly, now I am away from the damaging effects of swiping, I believe that I deserve to.

If you are stuck in the same cycle that I have found myself in so many times, consider the facts above, consider how swiping makes you feel and ask yourself if it’s beneficial to your Mental Health. If it is making you feel bad, unworthy or is affecting your self-esteem, then maybe it’s time to back away and do what I do – focus on yourself. I would love nothing more than to find that special someone – but it does not define me. That’s the critical point. Furthermore, dating apps do not cause low self-esteem, but they definitely exacerbate it if it’s already there. Work on getting yourself to a place where you are secure in the knowledge that you are worthy, that your person will come along, and that you have to simply do what sits right with your soul – it’s not an easy journey to this place, and you may have to re-walk the route all the time to get back here, but if I can do it, then so can you.

 

Sources

(1) https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-mating-game/201609/the-ugly-truth-about-online-dating

(2) https://www.medibank.com.au/livebetter/be-magazine/wellbeing/swiped-out-are-dating-apps-hurting-your-mental-health

(3) https://www.newstatesman.com/2018/02/one-thing-dating-apps-will-give-you-sure-addiction

(Swipe Image Credit: http://uk.businessinsider.com/bumble-dating-app-walkthrough-photos-2017-8?r=US&IR=T)