Even though dating apps are most popular among Millennials, according to a recent Bustle survey with dating app Happn of over 1,000 dating app users, 78 percent of women and 85 percent of men still want to meet people IRL. That's why for the second year in a row, Bustle is deeming April, "App-less April" and encouraging our staff and readers to delete their dating apps for 30 days and meet people the old-fashioned way: offline. With participants tracking their progress and tricks and tips from dating experts, we'll be helping you feel empowered to meet people IRL all month long. Today's topic: what a first date is like when you're off from dating apps.
As popular and easy to use as they may be, dating apps have a way of messing with us. According to a study presented at the American Psychological Association's convention last year, it was found that Tinder users had lower levels of self-worth than non-users. To break it down, they were more likely to think of themselves as sex objects, were less satisfied with their faces, more ashamed of their bodies, and internalized societal ideals of beauty by constantly comparing their looks to others. Tinder responded to the study saying that the sample of men and women who use Tinder was way too small (102: 70 female respondents and 32 male respondents), to even draw any conclusions and it wasn't representative of their global user base. Still, there's no doubt dating apps can certainly have negative effects on our well-being.
"Dating apps make it easier to get dates in some aspects due to the nature of having hundreds of possibilities at your fingertips," NYC-based individual and couples therapist, Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, tells Bustle. "However, when you're swiping through a dating app at home or work and get no responses (or worse, inappropriate messages), it can have a major effect on your self-esteem because it's happening to you in a place where you usually feel safe."
That's why Bustle's App-less April, a challenge to delete your dating apps, could do you a lot of good. Because dating apps do have a way of affecting our well-being. Here are some signs they're affecting you, according to Hershenson.
Dating apps have a way of making you feel like the sexiest thing within a 15-mile radius when you're matching with everyone you "like." But your mood can do a quick 180 when no one's contacting you first or even replying to your attempts at starting a conversation. "If you start feeling sad, depressed, or angry by not getting constantly asked out or responded to, and then feel a sense of euphoria the more people reach out, your self-esteem is being affected," Hershenson says.
Rejection is part of life. Everyone goes through it, especially in dating, and especially on dating apps. But if you find yourself uncharacteristically bingeing on junk food or downing an entire bottle of wine to make yourself feel better after receiving a rude message or being ghosted, Hershenson says that's an obvious sign that dating apps are affecting your well-being.
When you start overanalyzing on dating apps, it's going to drive you crazy. Unlike in person, people can't see how you'll react and tone doesn't usually come across on apps, so messages are always open to misinterpretation. "Since the written word is often worse then the spoken word due to its permanency, it may feel like you can't escape negative or inappropriate messages," Hershenson says.
When it comes to dating, everyone likes to tell you to be yourself. But let's be real. "It's all too easy to exaggerate your life on an app," Hershenson says. "No one intentionally puts up bad pictures or showcases their negative qualities. In reality, people only present their best selves on app."
How can you find someone you genuinely click with when you're obsessing over your "imperfect" looks or your "boring" interests? If you find yourself questioning whether you're good enough for random strangers you may or may not even go out with in real life, you know dating apps are messing with your self-confidence.
If you find yourself accepting dates from people you otherwise wouldn't be interested in or are tolerating behaviors that would normally be unacceptable to you just because they're showing interest, your self-esteem is being affected, Hershenson says.
That's why taking a break from dating apps is important for your well-being. Whether you're using this month to meet people IRL or just trying to focus on yourself, Hershenson gives the following tips to help center you:
1. Make a daily gratitude list by writing down 10 things you are grateful for. It can be anything from your family, legs to walk on, or even reality TV. Focus on what's good in your life as opposed to what's going wrong or lacking.
2. Read affirmations every morning. Beginning your day with positivity can start your day on the right foot.
3. Work on your bucket list. Write down things you've always wanted to do and begin tackling them.
4. Start a meditation practice. Search guided meditations on YouTube or download a free meditation app.
5. Practice acceptance. Make a list of what you can control in the situation (i.e. putting yourself out there to meet new people) and what you can't control (i.e. someone not reaching out for a second date). Focus on what you can control to make change and accept what you can't control.
And hey, once you delete your dating apps, you might gain a new attitude or decide that dating apps aren't for you. Either way, there's no harm in doing changing your well-being changed for the better.
Join the campaign and share your stories with #ApplessApril and by tagging @Bustle.