Sometimes, instead of giddiness or hope that you're one step closer to finding your next partner, dating apps can make you feel lonely AF. It's normal to feel disappointed when you're looking for compliments and flirty banter, but get sucked into small talk about pets, unpredictable weather, or Brooklyn Nine-Nine instead. Maybe you turn on your notifications so you don’t miss any matches, but your phone rarely pings. If dating apps just make you feel lonely instead of excited, you're not alone — there's a concrete explanation for your feelings.
Todd Baratz, a sex and relationships psychotherapist, points out the abundance of potential matches on dating apps can make using them stressful. If you or your match are overwhelmed with options, meaningful, deep conversations can be hard to have. "Flooded with choices based on two dimensional profiles, any person will easily become overwhelmed and spread thin," Baratz tells Elite Daily. "Some people are using five apps and talking to three people on each. This is too many. This is how dating apps exacerbate or reveal preexisting loneliness."
When dating apps are making you feel more isolated than connected, here's what you should keep in mind as you continue your dating journey.
If every conversation feels unfulfilling and superficial, Baratz recommends pausing and reflecting on why you're using dating apps to begin with. What are your intentions? "What is the story behind this experience?" he asks.
In answering these questions, you may realize your intentions are impacting who you swipe on and how the conversation plays out. Are you ruling people out just by their physical appearances? Is your mentality negative and making you jump to conclusions, thus, impacting the effort you put into conversations? Ask yourself what is holding you back. "[These behaviors] may not be working for you. Throw out all rules, and focus on being vulnerable and open with your feelings," Baratz says.
While venting about match mishaps and telling ghost(ing) stories might not be particularly fun, it can be liberating. "It can be a relief to share dating app struggles with others," Baratz says. "Make an attempt to invite your friends and family into your dating life, so you aren’t entirely alone."
A 2019 study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships cited a 1979 study titled Blueprint For A Social Psychological Theory Of Loneliness. In it, the researchers noted, "Individuals who report high levels of loneliness tend to feel that their social networks are not sufficient to meet their social needs, and are typically more likely to experience disappointment in their romantic relationships."
Researchers also found that people look to online social interactions when they feel like their IRL relationships aren't meeting their needs. So if dating apps are frustrating the hell out of you, it's probably time to re-invest in your IRL relationships and re-connect with your friends and family.
One small way to begin changing your approach to dating apps is to limit your screen time. "You define what feels like a reasonable amount and stick to it," Baratz says. "I encourage folks to reserve a specific amount of time for swiping."
He also suggests taking conversations that are going well off the app, "so you aren’t having to constantly reopen." Dating coach Jess McCann suggested taking it a step further by talking face-to-face. "Dating apps are only going to mitigate loneliness if you use them as a vehicle to get on a virtual date," McCann previously told Elite Daily. “Just texting back and forth is not going to make you feel any less lonely because there is no human-to-human contact. While that can keep you busy for a couple of hours, it's not going to feed your soul."
Another big way you can shake up your dating life in the face of loneliness is to try meeting people outside of dating apps. "Consider putting in your effort to other means of meeting potential partners," Baratz suggests. "That includes everything from spending time in groups with friends, to experimenting with involvement in community organizations."
No matter how you approach dating, putting yourself out there and being open can be daunting. But just because it's hard, doesn't mean you should write it off entirely. Self-reflect, switch up your approach, or seek social interaction elsewhere until you find the right match.
"When we feel lonely, we are craving closeness and meaningful connection. While it is unpleasant, this is never a bad thing," Baratz says. "This is a reflection of our great capacity for love and attachment."
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