Today, online dating has been accepted as part of making human connections, and has proven to be a convenient way to meet new people. However, this convenience comes with its own disadvantages too, one of them being that dating applications can impact both your mental and physical health. Husain Minawala, Founder of Beyond Thoughts, Counsellor, Vastu Consultant, and Sacred Geometry Expert, says, “Dating applications can be very beneficial when used correctly, but oftentimes, may leave a negative impact on one’s mental health if not properly monitored or regulated. So, make sure you’re aware of the possible downfalls before you go all out swiping!”
Husain shares how exactly dating apps can affect a user’s mental health.
Cause Of Stress And Anxiety
Sometimes, choosing a potential candidate from a wide pool of choices may end up overwhelming rather than intriguing you. You may feel pressured to respond to every match or visit the site every single day. That pressure can amount to lot of stress.
Body Image Issues
Online dating is often associated with poor body image and body dysmorphia. Many view dating applications as putting your best face forward and believe matches are only made based upon physical attraction. This leads to self-judgement and comparison to others.
Lack Of Self-Esteem
Rejection is a common thing on dating apps. It’s impossible to match with every single user. “Some individuals may start doubting themselves and take each non-match very personally. On dating applications, people’s profiles are evaluated, which can impact self-esteem and confidence, and make users feel objectified,” says Husain. Further to this, numerous studies have linked lengthy periods of Internet use, including time spent on dating application, to negative mental health consequences. “Positively engaging with the world outside of your devices is critical in balancing your outlook and your sense of self,” he advises.
The Real Effects of Rejection
All individuals fear rejection, making it a common emotion the world over. Social rejection is painful, and actually activates the same pathways in the brain that physical pain does, affecting your emotional, cognitive, and physical health. Note that the occasional rejection is a normal experience and it can ultimately help us better understand ourselves and what kind of personalities we are compatible with. “The unlimited choices that dating applications offer makes rejections easier to handle as users search for a better match, and more time is spent looking for love than focusing on a potential connection. The feeling of rejection usually intensifies when the two individuals have met twice or thrice and then either of them rejects the other,” says Husain.
People who use dating apps are likely to be more distressed, anxious, or depressed. These feelings increase if the dating app user is on the app more often (i.e., daily use) and for longer periods of time. “Users who seek validation are more vulnerable and sensitive to rejections and are positively impacted by attention. The pursuit of external validation through online dating or social media correlates with emotional distress,” adds Husain.
Frequent and regular rejection can lead users to question their physical appearance, conversational skills, and the reliability of the opposite sex. Husain says, “Dating apps contribute to a culture of human disposability, with users becoming part of a ‘throw-away society’. Dating apps have millions of users, and users may be simultaneously messaging many other users. This can lead to a superficial breadth, rather than meaningful depth, of connections. Many users may be constantly asking themselves, ‘Is there someone better than this on the next swipe?’”
Anonymity And Deceit
Earlier, individuals used to meet at work, through mutual friends, or at social venues. As such, their relationship was rooted in a pre-existing social ecology where others could generally be trusted. However, no such social ecology exists within the world of dating applications, which encourages anonymity or deceit. “This can include deception about personal characteristics such as age or profession, as well as dishonesty regarding intentions. Such experience of deceit may be damaging to mental health, leading to painful emotions, being less trusting, and generating more self-doubt. Compounded with a cycle of constant rejection, overwhelming choices, and transient relationships, it can contribute to decreased psychological wellbeing,” shares Husain.
Avoiding The Pitfalls
Husain shares some tips to help you navigate dating apps:
- Social media fatigue is a serious problem. Rather than mindlessly swiping for an hour, set aside a 15-minute break to truly engage in using the app correctly.
- Make sure you’re in the right headspace before swiping. If you’re already having a bad day, it may not be the best choice to use a dating app. Check in with yourself before opening the app to make sure your mental health is at a place that can handle making these connections.
- It is okay to cut off a conversation if someone begins to make you feel uncomfortable or ignores your boundaries. Don’t feel like you have to continue talking to every single match because you don’t want to be rude.
- If you feel like you may have a connection with someone, make an effort to connect via phone, video chat, or in person. This will help both of you get a better sense of who you really are.
- If you’re feeling frustrated, rushed or just having a bad day, forego any chats. Reach out with positivity and kindness.