I'm going through a breakup, and I kind of need to talk about it. The split was clean, I knew it was coming, and I thought I was emotionally ready to rid myself of a relationship I feared had turned toxic. It had been the source of some amazing dates, it's true, but also the source of unbridled rage — every single time I thought I had found my perfect match, I'd receive an infuriating message that would make me wonder why I was still trying so hard to make this work. And so, I decided to break up with my dating apps by deleting them all for Bustle's Appless April challenge (#ApplessApril). And, while I'm happy to be rid of the mood swings I've come to associate with swiping my way through Tinder, Hinge, and OkCupid, I wasn't prepared to experience what dating app withdrawal feels like.
According to Pew Research Center, the number of Millennials using dating sites has nearly tripled since 2013 — and yet, as an avid dating app user myself, it seemed like the more I swiped right, the more my chances of meeting someone who I considered to be partner-material decreased. I was experiencing what I could only describe as dating app fatigue, and I wasn't the only one. Rhonda Milrad, Founder Of Relationup and Relationup Advisor, tells Bustle that it's a frustration that's common among people constantly on the search to find love in a digital space. "Many people experience dating app burnout from the intensity of the experience, and take breaks for periods of time to reground themselves before jumping back in," she says.
So take a break I did. I decided to get rid of my dating apps entirely for 30 whole days. That meant no hopping on Tinder while waiting for a brunch table, no checking email notifications when someone sent me a message on OkCupid, and no casually signing onto The League to make sure my matches didn't disappear after 21 days. My goal wasn't necessarily to meet someone in real life, or to even spend my post-dating app breakup "focusing on myself," like I might after a real breakup. Instead, I wanted to see what, if anything, I would do with my free time now that I was suddenly unchained from my apps. I wasn't totally ready for what happened next. One week into the App-less April challenge, I was experiencing total withdrawal. I didn't miss my apps, per se, but I definitely could feel their absence.
Here are the stages of emotions you feel when you delete your apps for 30 days, in the order that they occur.
1. You Feel Like You Can Totally Do This
It's not like your entire life revolves around dating apps. In fact, you've gone entire hours before without even so much as thinking the words "I should check Happn." You have supreme confidence in your ability to face humankind without checking for matches every five seconds. Sure, it may have taken you a few minutes to muster up the courage to actually delete your apps from your phone, but now you feel like a free woman, and there's no turning back.
2. You Feel Endlessly Productive
You used to spend 20 minutes before bed scrolling through messages and checking to see what mutual friends you have in common with that guy who superliked you on Tinder. Now? You could use that time to read a new book! Or start a gratitude journal! Or brainstorm your plan for total world domination! Having 20 free minutes a day is power, you guys.
3. You Feel, Uh, Kind Of Bored
You never realized how often you relied on dating apps to keep you entertained throughout the day. Whether you were waiting in line for coffee, or pretending to be really busy on your phone so the person sitting next to you on the bus wouldn't talk to you, your thumbs were always swiping. Now, they're just kinda hanging out idly at your side, devoid of purpose. You briefly consider taking up a new pastime, like drawing or knitting, just to give them something to do.
4. You Feel Really Bored
You imagine you probably had hobbies back before dating apps entered the scene, but you're having trouble remembering what those were, exactly. How did you ever used to watch TV without mindlessly thumbing your way through countless gym selfies of people "just looking for a good time — nothing serious"? Who did you used to text late at night when you didn't have a limitless pool of strangers to interact with right at your fingertips? You try to summon your powers of human-to-human interaction, but it's honestly so exhausting you have no choice but to give up and cozy in for a night of endlessly scrolling through Instagram for the umpteenth time.
5. Anxiety Settles In
You deleted your dating apps from your phone so as not to invite temptation, but you still get email notifications sent to you whenever someone is checking you out on OkCupid, and it's stressing you out. What if that person is the one and only love of your life, and you're missing out all because you agreed to do some dumb challenge? It is your Millennial destiny to find romance online, and by logging off you are ruining your chances of ever finding happiness in this cruel, dark world, possibly forever. Or at least, that's what you tell yourself.
6. Pressure Begins To Mount
Since you're not meeting any new people online or through apps, you have two options if you want to keep your dating life afloat during this tumultuous time period: you can either try to meet new people in real life, or you can scroll back through the collection of phone numbers you've acquired in the last month or two, and see who, if anyone, is worth revisiting. And, on the off chance that you do snag a date, the pressure is suddenly on to see if that person wants to go on a second date. Otherwise, you have to go through this painful crossroads all over again, and frankly you're too mentally drained right now to even entertain that idea.
7. You Try To Distract Yourself With Other Things
Look, you're a creative person. You're a resourceful person. And you know what resourceful people do? They look for solutions. Since dating apps are off the table right now, it's time to seek satisfaction through other mediums, like meeting up with friends IRL, or even simply turning to other non-dating apps to help fill the void. So, you update your Snapchat story every 20 minutes, and try to figure out what the heck video chat is all about. There are plenty of more apps in the sea... or however the saying goes.
8. You Begin To See The Bigger Picture
You realize that while dating apps are certainly a useful way to meet new people, you've been treating them more like a game than anything else. If dating is really a priority of yours, you understand that there are other ways to make it happen. You don't need Bumble or Hinge to find a match... but that doesn't mean you aren't counting down the days until you can have them back.
After just a few weeks without my usual rotation of dating apps, it became clear to me that I had been using them increasingly as a way to kill time, rather than to actually find people I had a connection with. I miss aimlessly swiping on profiles when I'm bored, kind of the same way some people might miss Candy Crush if they suddenly didn't have access anymore. I don't miss the actual interactions I had with people I found on apps. I'm hoping that, by spending a few more weeks app-free, I'll be able to hit refresh on how I view dating apps, and the reasons I use them. If I decide they were more of just a game or a time suck than a useful social tool, it might be time to say goodbye to them for good.
Want to join App-less April? Share your stories with us by using the hashtag #ApplessApril and mentioning @Bustle.
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