What a year’s worth of swiping and liking taught me
Let’s face it: The life outside of college can be a little lonely at times. For starters, you’re no longer interacting with thousands of people your age on a regular basis. And your friends are also no longer a block away— if you live in Los Angeles, you know how hard it can be to coordinate plans.
So, in an effort to meet new people and maybe find someone compatible along the way, I turned profile swiping into a second job of mine. I didn’t start using apps looking for a long-term relationship, although I was open to seeing where dating could eventually take me.
Over the course of a year, I tried out four dating apps — Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and The League — and went on dozens of dates.
There’s no doubt I learned a lot about myself through the process and became a better “dater”; but a year later, I started questioning the efficacy of digital dating. To be clear, my experience using dating apps may not be similar to yours. In fact, the city you live in, alone, can have a huge impact on your overall dating experience. So take what I say with a grain of SoCal sea salt, but I’m willing to bet you’ll reach some, if not many, of the same conclusions.
These were mine:
Dating apps intensified my levels of commitment anxiety. Think about it. Imagine matching with a person, starting a conversation with them and then matching with someone else who, at least on the surface, seems more compatible (physically or socially). Chances are you’ll probably start focusing your attention on the new match and leave the other one behind before you even get a chance to meet them.
Even if you do end up going on a date, knowing there could be someone better around the corner makes it easier to dwell on the person’s small flaws, which could mean no second or third dates. After all, you’d probably find a new match in no time anyways.
The commitment anxiety I felt with — and received from — nearly every woman I met wasn’t felt by my parents when they were dating in the 80’s. There were less potential matches to choose from, no social media and a lot more random encounters at bars and other public venues — at least the socially acceptable ones (that’s a whole different story).
The amount of time I spent getting from a match to an actual date almost made it not worth my effort, unless I paid for features that increased the volume of matches I received.
Call it high standards, my profile, the algorithm or a little bit of all three: I only matched with one or two people organically a week. A little frustrated, I tried out the paid tiers of each app and got much better results in terms of quantity. The quality, however, didn’t always follow suit.
In general, Tinder yielded the most matches and Bumble, the least. The League and Hinge were both somewhere in the middle. Most of my in-person dates came from Hinge, while the highest rates of ghosting came from Tinder.
It would take 5 to 7 conversations with different matches before I got a single in-person date. And out of every three planned outings, one date would flake out.
Needless to say it became a huge time burden to stay active on the apps every week just to show up higher in the algorithm, only to get sub par results.
Approaching women the old fashioned way in public settings started to feel awkward. Take phone calls, for instance. Once texting became the standard of casual communication, giving people a call started to feel awkward, excessive or even intruding at times. People now want to communicate and connect when it’s convenient to them, even if that a means having a day-long conversation over text that could have taken 30 minutes over the phone.
Apps have done a similar thing to dating. Since there’s a way to romantically connect with random people whenever and wherever you want, there isn’t the same need — or desire, for that matter — to go to bars and other public spaces to meet people. If you’re the person who still does things the old fashioned way, you stand out. And unless you’re a total pro and look like Bradley Cooper, you might even come off as creepy.
Are dating apps completely to blame for the cultural shift? No. But are they actively fostering organic interactions in person? Not really. Even dating mixers — an attempt by apps to encourage in-person engagement — don’t attract enough people and tend to lean older (in my experience).
I started questioning myself a lot more and becoming robotic I can’t dismiss the role dating apps had in chipping away at my romantic self esteem. Every time I was ghosted by someone or a date fell through, I’d wonder, “Did I do something wrong? Was there something I could have done better?”
More often than not, I’d put the blame on me. I knew I was jaded by the whole process when I started asking the same questions and using the same opener with every woman I met. The reason: It was more efficient. After all, the odds of a conversation falling off were far greater than securing a date.
The truth is I wasn’t being fair to myself or the process, but it took months to realize that. What I recommend
All of this probably makes it seem like I think dating apps are evil. I do not. But apps should never have become my primary way of seeking romantic fulfillment, and I don’t think they should become yours.
Through my own experience, here’s some advice:
1. To keep dating apps fun and interesting, only check in once every few days to prevent an addictive habit from forming.
2. Try to get conversations off the app sooner than later. If you’re into someone, ask for their number after a day’s worth of messaging. If they hesitate or aren’t interested, move on.
3. Don’t let apps stop you from going out with a few buddies and meeting new people. Virtual conversations will never replace ones in person.
4. The amount of dates you go on shouldn’t be your indicator of success. Ask other dating app users: ghosting and flakiness is a problem EVERYONE deals with.
5. If apps aren’t adding to your experience in a positive way, you should delete them. Don’t let your FOMO on social media trickle into your dating life.
6. Most importantly, be kind to yourself! Don’t let your worth be defined by your success on a dating app. It’s easy to underestimate the impact being rejected again and again (even virtually!) can have on our mental health.
Be the person you want to attract. The rest will come when you least expect it — and that’s OK!
Nobody is on the same timeline. We need to stop trying to artificially change ours and, instead, relish in our unique journey, be it romance, our careers or life itself.
It’s a hard realization to accept, I know. But when you do, you’ll start focusing more on yourself (weird, right?) and less on how the beaten path of others dictates the course of your journey through life. It doesn’t.
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