From Bumble to Tinder, Mutual, and Hinge, every dating app boasts love and excitement. But their effects can be diverse – some users leave with a relationship, while others end up with the emotional weight of loneliness, anxiety, low self-esteem, body insecurity and depression. .
I tried dating apps when I turned 18. I trudged through every photo I put on a profile, wondering if my eye was too cross-eyed, if maybe my smile was crooked, if that shadow on my face made my skin look bad. I read and re-read – and re-read again – the biography and wondered if it read as “clever” or “trying too hard”. I worried more about what my own profile looked like than who I swiped on.
I’ve been on dates – bad dates with uncomfortable people, better dates with people who made me laugh, cringe dates that should have ended quickly but which lasted for hours.
But my primary emotion wasn’t excitement, connection, or love. I felt stressed – like I had to prove myself in a certain speed to get to know you before they snuck up on the next person in line. And what increased my anxiety was what one Huffpost writer described as the “informal communication” problem.
Who has been here?
They start a conversation with an effortless “hey,” they don’t bother to respond, they don’t invest, they’re ghosts.
And why not? Matches will expire and they never have to emotionally invest if they don’t want to. On dating apps, the dead ends pile up — and I quickly became emotionally drained from slipping.
In 2002, Wired Magazine wrote that “twenty years from now, the idea that someone looking for love won’t be looking for it online will be silly”. It’s been 20 years now, and it might seem like dating apps are the only way to meet new people. But they can also present you with a host of mental health issues.
From my short spurt with dating apps, I quickly learned that they brought out an aspect of my personality—high attention to detail and a background of body image insecurity—that made me a exact match for dating app anxiety.
I left the world of dating apps shortly after joining and jumped into what I called “networking dating” where I met people through friends, social gatherings and school events. Instead of giving someone five photos of me and a line bio, I relied on the art of verbal banter.
It was not easy to get into it every time. I still felt nervous talking to someone new, but it wasn’t anxious or anxious nervousness – it was excitement. This unhealthy hyperfocus on my own insecurities faded as I spoke with new people, face to face.
In a dating app, you have a few seconds (if any) to show someone who you are. In person, you get as long as you can hold their attention. I felt that my expressive skills were stronger than my selfies.
The day I met my husband was a humid summer day before my senior year of college.
My roommates and I met at Mona rope swing for a potluck. I walked around, putting grapes in my mouth as we talked and watched people flip, dive and fall into the water.
From a short distance I saw a guy coming in a brown T-shirt. I didn’t know him, but I liked the way he smiled and convinced myself to walk up to him. While it occurred to me that I was wearing 90s boys denim shorts, no makeup and third day hair, I didn’t feel the anxieties I had felt about the dating apps. I felt confident in my ability to charm him with conversation.
And I charmed him, if a slight embarrassment is charming. We talked for 30 minutes and I accidentally gave her a friend’s phone number – a mistake I was only able to correct just before leaving the potluck. Our first conversation was novel, awkward, and funny, but it meant something to both of us. We built a relationship on conversations.
Dating apps are great for many people, but the mental health effects can make them counterproductive for some of us by replacing the excitement of dating with anxiety and stress. According to a study conducted by BMC Psychology in 2020, swipe dating apps contribute to significantly higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety, and depression. A 2019 study from the Journal of Eating Disorders showed that dating app users have significantly higher odds of engaging in unhealthy weight control behaviors. Pew Research in 2020 reported that 25% of dating app users found it made them more insecure.
Dating doesn’t have to be one-sided. It can be daunting to go back to a good old good morning, but it may be the refreshment some of us need instead of paying a heavy price for sanity.