Three ways your Dating Apps may be doing more harm than good


Here you are, smart, attractive, and recently single ready to get back into the dating pool. You could talk to friends and family asking if there is anyone they have in mind who would be a potential match for you. You could wait to meet someone at work, or in your social circle, whether at a bar, at church, or in the gym.

Then you remember this is not 1999, it is 2021. Those options just don’t sound as efficient as creating a dating profile on one or multiple dating apps and swiping right from the comfort of your home. The benefit is that there is a seemingly endless supply of potential partners who you can meet, chat with, and decide if to take the next step or not. During the pandemic which has been ongoing for the past couple years, it seems almost the most prudent way to date.

While there are many success stories from couples who found love through a dating app, it is not all roses. Here are 3 ways that dating apps could be limiting your chance of finding true love.

Problem #1: Rejection hurts!

Research has shown that rejection activates the same part of the brain that processes physical pain. That is why when you go through a breakup and describe the experience as physically painful, well, it is. Our brains cannot tell the difference between physical pain and emotional pain, it just knows there is pain. While this rejection and hurt happens both on and off apps, think of how many opportunities there are for rejection on a dating app, and how many more times rejection happens.

Instead of being rejected once this month when you find out that person you had a crush on does not feel the same way about you, or the person you had a few casual dates with abruptly end things, you now might experience rejection multiple times a week on the app, or in person.

It is not unheard of that you could be speaking with multiple people on the app at the same time, and potentially schedule 3 dates with 3 different people that same week. Those same 3 people could be speaking with 5 other people as well and after that first date decide to not pursue anything further with you.

One of the best features of dating apps is the larger pool of potential partners you can choose from. Sadly, this feature could also be one of the worst. Not only does this cause immense hurt, but think of the impact that constant rejection might have on your self-esteem and hope for finding someone.

Problem #2: There is an addictive component to it

Have you ever deleted your dating apps from your phone, swearing them off only to reinstall them weeks if not days later? Have you done this multiple times? If so, fear not – you are not alone. Like social media, the addictive nature of these apps is part of the business model.

On the other end of your smartphone could be the love of your life just waiting for you on that app. And you deleted it? You are sabotaging yourself. How often do you think about or check to see if you have a new match? What if new people joined the app that you did not see before? What if you happened to miss a message?

Before you know it, hours have passed with you scrolling through these apps or thinking about the apps. At some point, you are not even sure what you are looking for. Are you there for love like when you first signed up, or are you there for that quick hit of dopamine? Once that short-lived hit of dopamine wears off, you crave another and another.

Then let us say you do get a match… better yet, you get multiple matches. How many conversations are you juggling at once? How sincere are you really being?
Do you find yourself getting more excited by the next match, rather than the match you have started speaking with? How do you feel when you realize the match you thought was only talking to you is talking to 5 or 6 other people? Why settle for this person?
There is always someone better or potentially better a swipe away.

Problem #3: You are being matched on superficial qualities

Each dating app and website allows you to enter slightly different information about a potential match. Shared interests, race, height, distance, the list goes on. However, research from William Chopik, an associate professor at Michigan State University Department of Psychology, and Dr. David Johnson from the University of Maryland, found that most people choose a potential match based primarily on 2 characteristics: attractiveness and race. They found that it took an individual generally less than a second to decide if they wanted to get to know another person better based primarily on the looks of the other person.

Think about that, in less than a second you are deciding whether this person would be a potential life partner or not.

But let us suppose you are not one of those people. You like to read through a profile, take more time to really pick and choose. What is the criteria you are going to use? Shared interests? While it is nice to have shared interests, how you interact with one another during activities is what truly matters.

Take for example a couple who both love tennis. They are both very passionate about the sport, whether watching it on television, or playing themselves. However, when they play doubles together, they spend most of the time arguing with one another about who is responsible for them losing. When they play singles against each other, the losing player gets angry, and an argument ensues. When they watch tennis on television or even talk about the sport, it may end in an argument about who is better, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.

Do you think this shared interest is a positive? I am not saying that shared interests are not nice to have, but in the big scheme of things it has no effect on a relationship being successful or not. How a couple interact with one another has a much larger impact on the success of the relationship.

Then the question arises, can you really trust yourself to decide what is important or not? You might think height, hair color, a nice smile are all characteristics you determine to be non-negotiables. Why? Because these are some of the aspects that are highlighted by the app.

But the truth is, if you met that individual in person, you may realise those things don’t matter as much. Yes, he is 2 inches shorter than someone you would normally date, but the chemistry between you two is undeniable. However, if you saw he was 5 feet and 6 inches on the app you might have just swiped left.

Don’t get me wrong, dating apps are a wonderful tool and many long-term relationships and marriages have resulted from encounters on these apps. I am in no way suggesting that you give up on them by any means. My advice to you is simply to tread carefully and to remember there are limitations to this type of “dating” as well as potential negative effects to your mental health. If any of this resonates with you, maybe it is time to hit the pause button on these dating apps, hop into a Delorean, head back to 1999 and try one of the methods mentioned at the beginning of this article.

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Troy Stone - Family Therapy


Troy is a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of Arizona, and is also the Founder of un•think relationship consulting.

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