Online dating has been around for a long time…for about as long as the internet has existed, actually! However, the rise of online dating didn’t happen until 1995 with the arrival of Match.com and didn’t really become normalized until the 2010s, when dating apps started popping up left and right. Now that we’re well into the renaissance of online dating, we have some questions! And…maybe some concerns? While online dating may seem to work for a lot of people, a recent study by Pew Research finds that it can actually be a mixed bag for many, especially female users, with 48% reporting a positive experience and 51% reporting a negative experience.
Overwhelm and Disappointment of the Online Dating Experience
Pew Research’s study also found that 54% of female respondents felt overwhelmed by the messages they received on dating apps, whereas 64% of male respondents felt insecure about their lack of messages. Most users also reported feeling disappointed by their connections when they met in person – almost 90%. If you’re feeling that way or ever have felt that way – you’re not alone. The New York Times also reported on the narrative of several dating app users who felt that the promise of connection was “just out of reach” years after using dating apps.
The usage of dating apps can promote a kind of “binge-dating” where users are swept up in a cycle of messaging and potentially meeting a lot of new matches in a very short amount of time, only to be met with nothing long-lasting. Users may then go dormant for a while until the cycle begins all over again, resulting in burnout and a negative self-image. Many individuals also spend serious emotional investment in an online match only to be “ghosted,” which can exacerbate existing mental health issues or create new feelings of distrust, alienation, insecurity, and low-self esteem. It’s okay to be sad and disappointed – don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help if you need it.
Burnout and Online Dating
Christina Maslach at UC Berkeley has spent decades studying burnout – a term that is typically applied to the workplace and recognized by the WHO as prolonged stress that has not been effectively managed. This type of stress can manifest into emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and more. Maslach and her colleagues recommend a few tips to protect yourself from burnout while online dating.
1. Don’t forget about your friends and family
Social support can play a large role in the safety net against burnout. Don’t forget to pursue other interests unrelated to dating – meet your friends, visit family, or join a hobby group. A common symptom of burnout is fatigue, which can make it feel difficult to pursue other successes.
2. Don’t swipe mindlessly
When you are using online dating apps, don’t cast a wide net. Practice mindful swiping. Set a limited window of time aside so you can be present and engaged with your matches – and if you feel bored or tired – stop! Listen to your mind and body, and try to stop before you feel weary. If you do feel weary, practice some relaxation techniques to regain your sense of calm.
3. Reframe your perspective
Not every connection will be a love match – but every connection, good or bad, should teach you something about what you want and don’t want in a partner. Dating takes practice – plenty of people feel awkward or fall on their faces while getting the hang of it! The trick is to learn to regulate your emotions and reframe your perspective.
How Dating Apps Can Shape Mental Health
A 2020 medical study found that dating app users face 3x the amount of stress compared to non-users. If the user is on dating apps for longer amounts of time, the rate of stress increases. Users who spend more time on the apps are more susceptible to rejection simply because they use the app more and contact more people. Some users interact with dating apps purely for external validation, which can be correlated with emotional distress.
Another 2018 study found that many online daters were swiping based on whether they thought the other person would be attracted to them. In other words – they weren’t evaluating what they thought of the other person – they were also attempting to look at themselves through the other person’s eyes and appraising their own self-image. This approach, combined with long-term usage, can easily lead to burnout and negative self-esteem, leading to poor mental health.
You’re Not Alone
If you feel stuck in an endless cycle of online dating and you’re shaken by the journey – you’re not alone. If you are struggling with feelings of low self-esteem, loss of motivation, or other negative consequences of online dating, it’s okay to reach out for help.
Maybe you’re among the 30% of committed Americans in relationships that met online – that’s wonderful! Maybe you and your partner are seeking informed couples counseling with a professional that understands the world of online dating and its differences from other traditional methods.
No matter the role that online dating has played in your life and your relationships – if you need help, Love Heal Grow Counseling is here for you. Schedule an appointment today to learn more!