“Addicted to dating apps? No way. I just swipe for a little while,” you may think. But before you know it, those “few swipes” turn into a two-hour-long scavenger hunt, by the end of which you say, “Why is everyone so weird?”
And when you think you’re done traversing through a cesspool of “Not sure why I’m here” bios or guys posing with their friend’s pets, you think you’re done for good. But the next time you open up your phone, muscle memory sets in, and you can’t help but open Bumble/Tinder/Hinge, “just for a little bit”.
Just like that, a dating app addiction can creep up on you. When was the last time you went to the washroom without taking out your phone to find a potential life partner (how romantic!)? In this article, psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle (Ph.D., PGDTA), who specializes in relationship counseling and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, talks about how and why we may get addicted to dating sites.
Why Are We Addicted To Dating Apps?
Human beings have a tendency to get addicted to anything that simplifies a process. When something makes a previously-tedious selection process so transparent, they’re bound to get addicted to it.
According to a survey by Match, 15% of singles in America say they feel addicted to the process of looking for a date. As of 2021, Tinder has more than 75 million monthly active users worldwide. When you take into account studies that tell us swipe-based dating apps are associated with declining mental health, those numbers pose a problem.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the addictive nature is that these dating apps have commodified something that was largely hush-hush and not talked about, especially in a country like India.
Dating is still largely done without parental approval. When you turn something so taboo into an app-based formula, you’re essentially bypassing that extra layer of vigil that may be directed your way by family. In a way, it’s the apple of Eden in your pocket. The forbidden fruit we’ve been told not to pursue.
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1. Dating apps can simplify an otherwise embarrassing process
Dating can be, in its very essence, just an auditioning process. The moment you ask a human being to audition or put themselves out there, it can get potentially very embarrassing.
So, the reason why you might be addicted to dating apps is simply that they make the entire process accessible and convenient. Plus, they bypass the taboo of dating, which in turn triggers the whole exciting aspect of it.
2. Self-esteem on demand
“I love the way you wear your hair!” “I love what you’re wearing in that picture!” You’d be lying if you said these compliments didn’t keep your sore fingers coming back for just another swipe, which potentially promises just another compliment. In a way, it’s like an illusion of security, a boost of self-esteem, and a dose of validation at the press of a button. It’s like getting a hit of the good stuff.
In the real world, it’s very difficult to find someone who will genuinely compliment you about how you look or how you work or any other aspect. That’s mostly because people aren’t too liberal with it, since most might not even know how to give compliments to someone. And when you’ve got a quick fix for it in your pocket, the reasons behind a dating app addiction are clear to see.
3. The socially anxious are more susceptible to becoming addicted to dating apps
According to reports, socially anxious people are more susceptible to non-stop swiping. If you have trouble carrying out a conversation in person, you’re going to be a lot more comfortable doing so behind the supposed anonymity of an app.
Through dating apps, you won’t have to risk physical exposure. And the minute this match of yours sends one too many “Hi, wyd?”, you know the unmatch button is right next to their name.
Without ever having to step out of your comfort zone, finding the best fit for your own personality and own requirements has been made possible. When things eventually progress to you having to go on a first date, however, that’s when the dating anxiety is going to make you think, “Alright, I’m done with dating apps.”
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4. A play on human psychology, one-bright swipe at a time
The UX/UI design of these apps plays a role in solidifying this addiction. Anything that’s quick is usually seen as helpful. Anything that’s efficient is seen as elegant.
These apps are designed with a very specific mandate to keep as many users sustainably hooked as possible. The makers of the app do not value the connections that people make, they value the time people spend on their applications.
So the next time you see bright colors shine up with the words “It’s a match!”, know that the sudden influx of dopamine hitting your brain is doing more damage than you think. Get ready to get infatuated with a profile, while trying to figure out how to make this person fall in love with you.
5. Dating apps are also treated as a sport
The multitude of options now available for things like casual dating have turned the entire experience into a sport. A competition of sorts. “How many likes did you get?”, “How many guys hit on you today?”, “Do you even get any matches?” are just some of the ways in which online dating addiction signs manifest.
The need to be liked is a very natural human need. And when you don’t get pings on your phone with the dopamine-inducing words, “It’s a match!”, you’re bound to try and play around with your profile, as though it’s a sport that you’re trying to perfect.
Have Dating Apps Ruined The Experience Of Love?
Has the non-stop swiping, the ghosting, the double-texting, the crazy expectations all ruined the experience of dating and love? All it takes is one weird reply, and you can bet your top dollar that the person is already swiping for a replacement.
That’s where the “connoisseurs of love” step in. The ones who love the push and pull of it, the ones who are all about the chase, and the not-knowing-where-this-is-going feeling. To them, the experience of dating has been cheapened.
It’s like bringing a can of instant cup noodles to someone who’s trying to make hand-pulled noodles with a braised sauce. When all you need to do is add water, the majority is going to toss the gourmet out the window.
But, is there even a right way to date? Is there a rulebook for dating on Tinder? Ultimately, it’s two people who have to deal with each other. It’s two people who get to know each other’s limitations, quirks and figure out how to navigate them. How they go about it is theirs to establish.
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A person addicted to dating sites might argue, “Why are you trying to force dating to fit into parameters it has long outgrown?” Certainly, these apps do have their merits. You can say it’s convenient to not have to go somewhere and spend money only to know from the outset that you are not compatible with your date.
The other side says it’s a fun experience, where romance gets a chance to “naturally” blossom. To them, dating apps are nothing but an impatient attempt at commodifying love. Think of it this way: Some people enjoy surprise parties. But some get more excited when they know a surprise is being planned, and they’d like to plan their reaction. Some people like to be in control, some people like to let things flow.
At the end of the day, all you can hope for is to meet someone who hates surprises as much as you do. Perhaps you’ll meet on the dating app “Hater”, where you connect with people who hate similar things. Convenient, right?