As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, dating apps have become an essential component of the U.S. dating scene over the last year. Dating sites and apps like Tinder, Bumble, and OkCupid are suited to different tastes and preferences, with options for daters from every stage of life—from college students to older adults. The basis of dating apps is simple—all you need to do is create a profile, add some pictures, and write a short description. Then, potential partners can “like” or “dislike” your dating profile by swiping left or right.
Today, meeting new people doesn’t require going to singles bars or social mixers—and online dating is one of the easiest ways to meet people with similar interests. Whether you’re searching for a long-term relationship or a fling, here’s how dating apps can affect your mental health.
Some research suggests that dating apps expose singles to considerable rejection. In one study, researchers found low rates of matches from potential partners, especially for men. The study also found that approximately 50 percent of matches do not message back. As a result, dating app users are constantly being “disliked” or ignored, contributing to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Moreover, interviews of dating app users have found that respondents often find first dates awkward and unrewarding. Although dating sites provide a unique opportunity to compare interests and compatibility with a potential match before meeting them in person, many people have reported demoralizing experiences when online dating, noting that in-person meetings can be vastly different from online chats.
In addition, many dating site users experience “ghosting“—the sudden end of a romantic relationship without any kind of explanation. According to dating experts, ghosting can be a dehumanizing, psychologically damaging mental health experience.
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Loneliness and Low Self-Esteem
Negative dating site experiences, such as ghosting, lead plenty of people to question their physical traits, communication skills, and compatibility with potential dates. According to a University of North Texas study, Tinder users experience more mental health problems than non-users. These mental health issues could be related to regular rejection and frequent self-doubt.
Essentially, dating sites contribute to feelings of hopelessness and loneliness. All of this is driven by the overwhelming choices that Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, and other apps offer. These sites have millions of users, and most users are simultaneously messaging other people. Even for users with high standards, this can lead to an artificial breadth in connections instead of meaningful depth.
These overwhelming choices can even lead to self-doubt regarding potential daters. Many users are asking themselves, “Is the right person on the next swipe?” or “Should I buy super likes to get noticed?”. In turn, this leads to a vicious cycle of short-term romantic relationships.
Anonymity and Deceit
Before the rise of Tinder gold, Facebook dating profiles, and other matchmaking services, single people tended to meet potential dates in real life at work, through mutual friends and family members, or at social events, such as weddings. In other words, their relationships had pre-existing foundations that provided a sense of trust.
Unfortunately, these foundations don’t exist in the virtual dating world, with some dating site users hiding under anonymity and deceit. They might lie about their physical traits, age, profession, or even their intentions. For example, potential mates might lie about their desire for monogamy, their exclusivity with other daters, or their past relationship history. Daters today even worry that potential mates may be dishonest about vaccine status or Covid-19 exposure.
In turn, deceit can damage mental health, leading to low mood, trust issues, and self-doubt. This can interact with constant rejection, the stress of courtship, and the pressure of finding the right person—all taking a toll on your mental well-being.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help.
Dating apps can open up a new world of people seeking new friends, connections, and relationships. These matchmaking services can be beneficial for single people who are introverted, new in town, or struggle to meet different people. However, dating apps can take a toll on your mental health, and blind dates aren’t for everyone.
Whether you’re experiencing a low mood or you’ve been diagnosed with a severe mental health condition, consider reaching out for professional mental health care before diving into your next relationship. Some mental disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can lead to low self-esteem, rumination, and increased anxiety, which can make dating mentally challenging.
To find a mental health professional, reach out to a licensed therapist through The Therapy Group of NYC. We know that first dates and new relationships can feel overwhelming. Whether you’re experiencing social anxiety or struggling to sustain a serious relationship, one of our compassionate, experienced therapists will help you every step of the way.