Even though dating apps are most popular among Millennials, according to a recent SeatGeek survey of 1,000 singles, 95 percent would rather meet people IRL versus online or on an app. 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.
I've been a serial dating app user for years. Those who know me see my bubbly and outgoing side, but to strangers, I simply appear as the demure girl in the corner who's nursing her drink and silently observing the room. Social situations that put me in the precarious, terrifying position of potential rejection. It leaves my heart pounding and my stomach knotted. In real life, meeting people requires that I break out of my shell and put myself in a position of vulnerability. On dating apps, however, I was protected through the veil of my phone screen. Unlike in real life, I was in control of who I interacted with. My feelings were not at mercy of the strangers I would try speaking to at a bar; I was in control, safe from rejection.
For years, dating apps served as my sole means of connecting with new romantic partners. It has only been during App-less April, Bustle's challenge to delete your dating apps for a month, that I have recognized the extent to which dating apps determined my mindset regarding men and dating. Because of dating apps, dating had become transactional. The concept of dating apps like Tinder are simple: you take a half second look at someone's appearance and you make a quick (and mindless) determination over whether you find them attractive. I found it brutal, superficial, and downright dehumanizing. Indeed, the hundreds of matches who filled my phone with pick-up lines seemed like pixels on a screen, rather than human beings with unique personalities.
"Texting and messaging has almost entirely replaced actual speaking; we don’t even know what this person sounds like until we meet them face to face," Dr. Emily Morse, a sex and relationship expert and the host of Sex With Emily, tells Bustle. "We’ve been chatting with this person for weeks, but if they called our name in a crowded room, we wouldn’t be able to decipher who it was. That’s how it is with dating apps — it’s created this impersonal element that’s supposed to be personal at the same time. This way of communicating creates a ‘faux’ intimacy because we’re exchanging all of this information, yet we have no idea what this person is really about."
During App-less April, I've been dedicated to meeting new people by attending events and social outings that I otherwise would've avoided at all costs. I've left my safe corner of the room in order to socialize and connect with new people. I've learned that the strangers I have so feared are actually just as friendly and are just as eager to engage in conversation as I am. I now see that my interactions with potential romantic partners should not be confined to pithy, one-word messages.
Dating is not a transaction and no one's worth should ever be defined by their presence on a dating app. From now on, during my interactions with potential romantic partners, I will listen closer and seek to learn and truly delve into their personalities.
I'm no longer going to present myself to the world as, "Kaitlyn, age 21, with three photos." Instead, I'm going to let my personality and my energy attract love and light into my life.