Whether dating apps are causing a "dating apocalypse" or are merely the easiest way to get a date, there's no denying these tools have been total gamechangers in the dating scene within the last few years. And 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.
I've proclaimed that I'm done, so done with dating apps more times than I can count. "I'm doing it," I tell my friends time and time again, "I'm deleting Tinder, for real this time." There are variations, of course — sometimes I say I'm deleting OkCupid, sometimes it's Bumble, and there was even that one time that it was Hinge — but the result is somehow always the same: The day that I proclaimed so confidently that [insert random dating app here] was out of my life for good always ends with me laying in bed after 11 p.m., bored, re-downloading said dating app to my phone. I'm basically like a hamster in a wheel who can't stop — only instead of running and getting nowhere, I'm swiping right and left on a phone and getting nowhere. Both, I imagine, are equally exhausting in their own ways.
I'm not doing it with the intention of learning how to meet people offline, but instead with the intention of learning how to date in a healthier manner.
But guys, I'm for real this time, I promise: I'm deleting all of my dating apps for 30 days as part of Bustle's App-less April challenge, and I'm not looking back. I'm also scared as hell. Unlike many who are joining this challenge with me, I'm not doing it with the intention of learning how to meet people offline, but instead with the intention of learning how to date in a healthier manner, and how to strengthen my relationship with myself before I seek out one with someone else.
"I suggest a break to my clients all the time," says Ravid Yosef, dating and relationship coach, tells Bustle. "Sometimes our energy is what's attracting others and if we don't have enough self-care in our life or get obsessive with our notifications, we start looking for validations outside of ourselves. Which in turn attracts the wrong kind of attention."
None of this is to say my two years in the wild, wild world of online dating haven't been educational AF. Since made my first online dating profile ever in Feb. 2015, I've been on 86 first dates. (That number is exact, too — somewhere around first date number 23, I began keeping a list because I'm a writer and this sort of stuff fascinates me.) I've had my heart broken a handful of times, I've learned that many men who say they're feminist are really just mansplainers in sheep's clothing, I've had some perfect rom-com moments, and I've accidentally choked a date with a cucumber during pub trivia. No experience has been the same, and for that, I feel pretty lucky; dating apps gave me a crash course in dating in NYC like no other.
That said, however, there has been one common thread that has run through each of these dating experiences, and that's been the lack of long-term relationships. There's nothing wrong with being perpetually single — as aforementioned, I've often enjoyed the freedom of meeting new people and being partnerless. But, when I was asked to participate in Bustle's App-less April challenge (in fact, multiple co-workers told me I absolutely had to participate, as someone who in the past has been known to go on up to six first dates in a single week), I froze at the thought of deleting the apps despite my constant proclamations that I was going to do just that for real this time just wait and see. See, despite being someone who's never had trouble finding a date after about an hour or so of swiping on the dating app du jour, dating has always been extremely tough for me as someone who struggles with body dysmorphia and anxiety, and apps like Tinder have always provided a great safety net for me when I want to completely ignore that fact.
Sure, I've dated people consistently for a couple of months at a time, and there have been times where I haven't wanted anything resembling a relationship (mostly because I really enjoy not having to compromise about what to watch on Netflix, but also because I truly believe that someone needs to fully learn how to love themselves before they can open themselves up to others loving them) — but those circumstances all packed together has resulted in me being the perpetually single girl amongst all of my friends, and I contribute part of that to the fact that I've never truly tried to get off of dating apps for extended periods of time. So something like App-less April sounds, on paper, perfect for me. I don't know what it's like to meet someone offline, and I feel that most of men I end up meeting on apps like Tinder, Bumble, and OKCupid are in a similar place to me in the sense that they don't know what they're truly looking for either. There's something to be said about having too many options, after all, and that absolutely rings true when it comes to dating in a city as giant as New York.
A challenge like App-less April encourages everyone to get out of their comfort zone and learn to meet people offline, learn to really date, and perhaps even love themselves in a healthier way — it's everything I've been telling my friends I wanted out of my dating life since I first hit "Get" on Tinder in the iTunes app store two years ago.
But, still, I found myself fearful at the idea of being without dating apps. When I say that dating has been tough for me, I don't just mean in the sense that consistence between men I date has been spotty at best, but also that I struggle with not blaming myself or things that I'm not so confident about in myself when things inevitably end with them. There's a rush that comes with getting a new match on Tinder, or making a potentially romantic date on OkCupid with a promising new hottie; the validation you feel when someone you find interesting and attractive finds you interesting and attractive as well is addicting in a way I can't even describe. (My therapist would probably have an aneurysm if she read this right now.) And I'm not alone. A recent LendEDU survey of 9,761 Millennial college students found that 44 percent of Tinder users are on there for “confidence-boosting procrastination."
Struggles like body dysmorphia and anxiety won't be cured overnight, sure, but deleting apps that contribute to me being caught in those vicious cycles certainly won't hurt.
But the rush fades, as does the infatuation; when that inevitably happens and I'm left with what was usually just a shallow connection masked by hormones and excitement and Tinder notifications, pesky struggles like body dysmorphia and anxiety rear their heads. Things end. Rinse and repeat, start over again.
I'll admit I almost turned down the opportunity to participate in App-less April due to this fear, but, eventually, I decided it was high time I actually carried out my promise to delete dating apps — and even higher time I confronted my habits in dating and cut out my unhealthy behaviors. Struggles like body dysmorphia and anxiety won't be cured overnight, sure, but deleting apps that contribute to me being caught in those vicious cycles certainly won't hurt. And with this challenge keeping me accountable, there's even more at stake if I at any point feel tempted to redownload my dating apps before the month is over. (I'm nothing if not competitive.)
So there you have it: Me, the perpetually single, serial casual dater, is taking a Tinder sabbatical. An OkCupid furlough, if you will. A Bumble leave of absence, even! And I'm doing it for real this time. As for whether or not my quest to become a well-adjusted member of the New York dating pool will end with triumph, however, I guess you'll have to tune into my updates here on Bustle to find out.