With the plethora of dating apps at our fingertips, it makes perfect sense that the process of online dating is so ingrained into our daily routine. During your morning commute, on your lunch break, right before bed... there's never a "bad" time to get your swipe on. But it's a slippery slope from 'I'll just download Tinder to see what the fuss is about' to waking up one day and realizing you have an entire folder full of dating apps. There's nothing wrong with being proactive about finding love (or hey, just a hookup) — but can you actually get addicted to dating?
According to Match's 2017 Singles in America study of more than 5,500 people, one in six singles said they felt addicted to the process of dating, and Millennials (the generation most likely to date online) are 125 percent more likely to admit they're addicted to the process of dating, which goes to show just how much we've all been affected by the innovation of dating apps. Swipe-based giants like Tinder and Bumble make it easy to turn dating into nothing more than a game, where the prize is, at worst, an inflated ego and, at best, a real relationship.
Although it might seem extreme to use the word 'addiction,' Melissa Scharf, a therapist at Los Angeles-based rehabilitation center Sober College, says the hyper-accessibility of dating apps can make it easy to develop an unhealthy relationship with online dating. "Years ago, I was an intern for J-Date, and [online dating] was very different then," Scharf tells Bustle. "You didn't have [apps] on your phone, you didn't obsess about it... sometimes, you'd have to wait a whole day just to check your messages. Our generation isn't going on those sites — they're going on [apps like] Bumble, where everything is quick, you're swiping away, so the obsession skyrockets."
Scharf definitely isn't wrong about the disparity between how Millennials and older generations date. The Singles in America study also found that Millennials are 125 percent more likely to say they feel 'addicted' to dating than their Generation X or Baby Boomer counterparts. Modern dating might be more convenient, but it's also plagued with everything from f*ckboys to ghosting to breadcrumbing. In spite of the drawbacks, Millennials are still relying on dating apps to connect them with potential partners. If you're a little trigger-happy with your swiping, here are five signs that your search for romance might have moved into addiction territory.
1You Spend Tons Of Time On Dating Apps
Actively dating takes a ton of time and effort, but how much time is too much? If you obsessively check your phone for new matches or messages every chance you get — or feel anxious when you're unable to — it might be a sign that you're addicted.
There's no shame in bringing your phone to the bathroom if you really want to message that Hinge hottie back, but try to limit yourself to only checking your dating apps once or twice a day (like during lunch and right before bed). That way, you won't miss out on responding to someone who's interested, but you also won't get fired for checking Tinder during a work meeting.
2You Prioritize Dating Over Other Activities
If your friendships, career, family, or hobbies are taking a backseat to your dating life, Scharf says that might be a sign that your relationship with online dating is growing unhealthy. As fun and exciting as it is to schedule three dates in one week, it's worth doing some reflecting and thinking about other productive ways you could be spending your time. After all, if you're independent and feel fulfilled and happy on your own, that might just help you meet someone who's really compatible with you and your lifestyle.
3Your Self-Esteem Has Taken A Hit
There's no shame in getting a little ego boost when a particularly fiiiine person sends you a message. But things can get tricky if your self-esteem becomes tied to your success (or failure) on dating apps. Using dating apps as a measure of validation isn't healthy, and you shouldn't let strangers dictate your self-worth. If your dating life has you down in the dumps and feeling unhappy with yourself, it might be time to take a step back and focus on bettering yourself as an individual before getting back into the dating game.
4You Feel Like You're On An Emotional Rollercoaster
In the world of dating apps, things move at lightning speed. In theory, it's awesome to have the ability to connect so quickly with so many people. In reality, the fast-paced nature of dating apps can create a sense of pseudo-intimacy, and make you get attached to someone much more quickly than you typically might. One day, you could be flying high while chatting with someone who seems seriously promising. Then next thing you know, they've moved on to the next match and you're left reeling.
"The ups and downs are there all the time because it’s never consistent... so it could be really emotionally triggering for some people," Scharf says. If you feel like you're constantly cycling through emotions — excitement, happiness, hopefulness, confusion, heartbreak — it might be a sign that you could use a break from your dating apps.
5You Depend On Dating Apps To Move On
It's never fun to get dumped, and it's totally normal to crave a distraction in the form of someone new. But if you feel compelled to swipe until you find a new crush to obsess over every time an online fling fizzles out, that might not be healthy. Relying on dating apps to help you move on after each and every heartbreak or rejection is only going to get you caught up in a vicious cycle of dependency on dating apps — which could make you more vulnerable in the long run.
"Take a good break and maybe give yourself a goal [like] for 30 days I’m going to cut off all these [apps]," Scharf says. "For someone who has a real addictive personality, 'cutting back' doesn't work, because there are all these justifications you make for your behavior. Go cold turkey... figure out yourself and what’s important to you. Hone in on who you are, what you're looking for, and what's important to you — and maybe that will re-frame how you see dating."