This Is The Hardest Part Of Deleting All My Dating Apps

It's been a few weeks since I decided to delete my dating apps and join Bustle's App-less April challenge, and I'm happy to report that I'm not spending my time holed up alone in my apartment, bemoaning the fact that I don't have any Tinder dates lined up for the weekend. I'm not living a loveless existence devoid of any human contact, or spending my nights staring forlornly at my phone, wondering how I'll ever find my perfect match in this world if not in a digital space. In fact, all of my initial hesitations and doomsday predictions of what could possibly go wrong if I deleted my dating apps for 30 days seem pretty silly, now that I think about them — sex, love, and dating do indeed go on, even if Tinder does not — but that's not to say App-less April has been a smooth and bump-free road to self-actualization. The hardest part of deleting my dating apps so far? I'm... kind of bored.

Actually, I'm really bored. I'm positive that, in a life before dating apps, I had other hobbies and creative pursuits that didn't revolve around my smartphone, but can someone please remind me what those were? Because I'm having trouble remembering them as I try to come up with creative ways to kill the 10 minutes I have waiting for the bus to come, or for a brunch table to open up, or for a friend to arrive at happy hour. How did I used to bide my time when I was tired but not ready to go to sleep, and didn't have dozens of strangers to browse through before bed? What did I used to do with my thumbs when I was only half-watching TV, or sitting in the back of a cab, or standing in line for coffee? Without dating apps, how did I keep myself entertained?

According to a recent survey conducted by Odyssey, 83 percent of Millennials currently on dating apps say they spend up to two hours a week using them. To me, this number sounds about right, given my own personal experience. While I didn't spend huge chunks of time during the day on Tinder, Happn, or Bumble, those stolen minutes of downtime spent swiping certainly added up. I wasn't a dating app junkie by any means, but I was becoming dependent — for all the wrong reasons. Instead of seeing apps as tools to facilitate conversations with people I might potentially be interested in pursuing romantically, or even just meeting up with for coffee, I was using them as a way to kill time. I enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing that someone I had swiped right on had liked me back, but not enough to actually chat with any of the people I matched with, or plan dates. I wasn't even really reading anyone's profile. I was treating my dating apps the way I might a game of Sudoku, and that right there was the problem. Above everything else, dating apps had become a game.

My goal for App-less April was to see if distancing myself from dating apps would help me take them more seriously — and dating too, for that matter. As relationship expert Francesca Hogi tells Bustle, it's hard to connect meaningfully with someone in any medium if you aren't in the proper headspace.

"If you're feeling depressed or bored with your experience on the apps, you're unlikely to be in a good mindset to be successful anyway," Hogi says. "Eliminating that source of stress will give you some good breathing space."

It's possible, I realize now, that dating apps aren't the problem, it's the constant need I feel to be connected, to check in with the world as often as I can, to say "hey remember me? I'm still here — please like me" that keeps me chained to my apps.

And now? Well, that particular source of stress is gone, but it's been replaced by another struggle — trying to find a way to fill the void that's actually useful. For a while, I found myself overusing other (non-dating) apps as a quick substitute. Having only used Snapchat a handful of times, I was suddenly updating my story three times a day, and obsessing over how many views each post got. I refreshed Instagram endlessly. I checked my email every half hour. It's possible, I realize now, that dating apps aren't the problem, it's the constant need I feel to be connected, to check in with the world as often as I can, to say "hey remember me? I'm still here — please like me" that keeps me chained to my apps.

To answer my own question, of course I have hobbies that don't revolve around my smartphone. More importantly, I have relationships that a right swipe didn't facilitate — friends who, while not romantic interests, are still ideal matches, the loves of my life, the people who'd rather text me to know how my day was than throw out the standard "sup, you out?" midnight message. Going into the second half of App-less April, that's going to be my focus — to use those spare minutes between errands and before bed to reach out to people I already have a meaningful connection with, and use those exchanges to enrich my day. For me, the real challenge this month isn't getting rid of my dating apps — it's finding a better use of my time.

Want to join App-less April? Share your stories with us by using the hashtag #ApplessApril and mentioning @Bustle.

Images: Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle (3)