Why is swiping left and right so addicting?
I used to ride public transpiration and glance down to see people swiping little pieces of brightly colored candy, but over the past few years, those candies have slowly but steadily transformed into people's faces.
Though Tinder originally had the rap of being a hookup app, I've seen it shift into a dating app where people are legitimately using it to find committed relationships.
However, I've also seen a trend of people using it like a smartphone game. Profiles are no longer regarded as real people with feelings, but rather are treated like pieces of candy you swipe to “win.”
Tinder and many of the other swiping apps, such as Bumble and JSwipe, activate the reward center of the brain. Basically, every time you get a match, it's like a hit of pleasure for your brain, which releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, making you feel excited.
You become "trained" to swipe over and over again, seeking that “high” every time you match. The more matches, the bigger the boost of feel-good chemicals. It's so addicting because it works similarly to the effects of drugs, gambling and love, which might explain why you can't seem to put your phone down.
Since many of these apps have limited the amount of swipes you can have in a certain period of time, this leaves you craving more, unless you pay to upgrade -- umm, how do you think Candy Crush became a billion dollar company? Because you never know who will swipe right, it's enticing to keep going.
In an article that describes your brain on Candy Crush, you can apply similar logic to your behavior with dating apps. The intermittent bursts of dopamine leave you craving more. You match just enough that you're intrigued or even obsessed with coming back to the app.
So, if you're swiping every chance you get -- on your commute, at work meetings, during meals, even at parties when you should be meeting people “organically,” then it's time to take control over your finger and your mind.
Here are three ways to beat dating app addiction so that you can find real love:
1. Ask yourself what you're looking for.
First, ask yourself what you're looking for -- entertainment, a hookup, a relationship? If you're looking for a more serious commitment, then you should only be swiping right after you've looked at their pictures and read their profiles.
My general rule is that if someone hasn't taken the time to fill out a short profile -- for instance, Bumble only gives you 300 characters -- then he or she isn't looking for a relationship. By investing energy into creating a quality profile, you're showing that you're a quality person.
So, if you're dating with the intent of finding someone special, skip over someone who hasn't filled out his or her profile, even if you find this person attractive. The fact that someone couldn't take five minutes to create a genuine, authentic “about me” statement suggests he or she doesn't see dating as a priority.
2. Commit to saying "hello."
If you swipe right, commit to following up with a message and actually strike up a conversation.
When I say commit to saying “hello,” I don't mean to literally just say that. Start with something witty or a question based on what the person wrote in his or her profile because just saying “Hi,” or “We have a lot in common,” is boring.
If your goal is to find a relationship, then you'll want to take it from messaging on the app, to a brief text exchange, to a “screening” phone call (an opportunity to hear the person's voice and make sure he or she is someone you want to take the time to meet in person), to meeting in person.
If after chatting you realize you're not interested, there's absolutely no pressure to take it any further. But, you don't have to be a jerk about it! A simple, “Good chatting with you,” and exiting the conversation without ghosting is classy and respectful.
3. Set limits.
It's great that you're enthusiastic about finding your perfect match, but if swiping is taking over your life, you need to find other natural ways to get that boost of dopamine.
Set some limits for yourself, even if that means activating an alarm on your phone to notify you that your "swiping time" is up.
Put your phone down, and enjoy other activities that activate the release of dopamine, such as exercise, meditation, creative hobbies, listening to music or laughing -- sometimes cat videos are way more entertaining than Tinder anyway!
When you lose the human factor and swiping just becomes an ego boost and game-like, it's frustrating and disheartening to those who have intentions of finding real love online. So, if you're just gaming on Tinder, consider going back to Candy Crush so that you can stop wasting everyone else's time!
As the Millennial Love Expert, Samantha tackles dating and relationships. Download her FREE ebook on the secret ingredients to cook up a happy love life!