While some may be kicking off the new year by upping their efforts to find love, others may find it's actually time to take a break from online dating. It's the peak season for dating apps until Valentine's Day, but all the clicking and swiping just doesn't hold a significant enough return on investment for some of us, even when that return is at its highest.
I personally have a love-hate relationship with online dating. When I first joined OkCupid five years ago, I thought it was pretty much the greatest thing ever. All the messages in my inbox gave me a self-esteem boost, and all the dates made my life exciting. But after a while, I got addicted, and the app became a time-suck. Plus, as I've gotten older, my standards have gotten higher, and I can no longer find several people per week I want to date.
Over the past five years, I've deleted and reinstalled my dating apps five times, and I don't see that as a sign of wishy-washiness. It's a sign that some stages of my life are well-suited for online dating and some are not (and that it worked, since relationships accounted for two of my deleting-and-reinstalling sprees).
Here are some signs that let me know when it's time to forgo dating apps temporarily and that might suggest you're due for a break as well.
1. You're Relying On Matches For Your Self-Esteem
You may not even realize it but Tinder right-swipes and OkCupid stars can serve like Instagram "likes," affirming your desirability without leading to a connection. Plus, if you let your virtual popularity influence your perception of your self-worth, what happens when someone swipes left or doesn't respond to your messages?
Using dating apps for a self-esteem boost is understandable but puts you in a very fragile state. If you find your number of matches influencing your confidence, it's best to focus on developing a positive self-image without the help of online dating (or dating of any sort, actually).
2. You Wish You Were More Productive
If you're looking to devote more time to work, a side project, friends, or family, one easy way to free up more of your time is to cut online dating out of your routine. Otherwise, you can end up spending a surprising amount of time examining profiles and crafting messages, and that can eat into the rest of your life. Even if you don't want to give up dating altogether, you may be better off fitting it into your busy schedule by meeting people in places where you're already going anyway.
3. You're Not Excited About Your Dates.
After a series of dates that don't go anywhere, it's really easy to get jaded and burnt out. I knew it was time to take my last break when I found myself hoping someone would cancel a date. If you find yourself anticipating all the possible ways a date could go wrong — they don't look like their pictures, you have nothing to talk about, etc. — before the date even starts, that's another sign you shouldn't be dating, at least not online. It might be better to only date people you've already met, so you can know in advance if you like them or not. The unpredictability of how a blind date will go can make you lose enthusiasm, and what's the point of dating if it's not fun?
4. You Haven't Taken A Break From Dating In Years
I'm not just talking about a break from relationships — I'm talking about a break from merely looking for one. If you've spent the past two years regularly going on dates, spending even just a few weeks not even looking can change your perspective. It can make you more self-reliant, free up your time, and push you to do things you normally don't. Even when you're not in a relationship, it's easy to start to rely on dating for excitement, self-esteem, and a sense of purpose. I myself have noticed that not having someone for my mind to fall back on leads to more self-reflection and more prolific work. Sometimes, it can force you to confront your demons, but then, you can put them behind you, and you end up a better partner for your next relationship.
5. You Spend More Time On Apps Than Meeting People
The whole point of dating apps is to meet people, yet it's very easy to spend more time scrolling through photos than actually talking. When this happens, your return on investment feels very low and you might get bored. In that case, stop what you're doing and go out to a bar — or a cafe or a meetup or wherever you prefer to meet people — and meet someone in real life. Even if you don't end up finding anyone, it's much more fun to sing at a karaoke bar or take an art class than to sit on your couch looking at your phone.
Spending a lot of time online can cause stress, depression, and sleep disorders, and chances are, you're probably already spending a lot of time online without dating apps. Since we all know the chances of an initial meeting leading to a relationship aren't very high, the only way to make meeting people worth our time is to do it in settings where we're having fun anyway. That'll leave you far less burnt out, and you won't need breaks from it.
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