The Most Important Thing I Learned After Deleting My Dating Apps For A Month Isn't About Dating
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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.

For the past month, I've been doing Bustle's App-less April challenge. During this time, I deleted all of my dating apps and thereby rid myself of the mindset that I *need* technology to meet new romantic partners. I am now taking all of my toxic energy that I would have wasted on haplessly swiping right and left and engaging in meaningless social interactions, and investing it instead in attracting the right people in real life.

Dating apps have been a fixture of my life for years. As a person with a shy demeanor, the interface of dating apps functioned as a social crutch for me. Before the challenge, the mere idea of approaching strangers in a social setting gave me crippling anxiety. In my social interactions with new people, my deepest fear was that I was not good enough or not likable. I deeply feared that someone would validate these beliefs by rejecting me. Thus, I his under the facade that was provided to me by dating apps. On my profile, I was defined by my name, my age, and photos — I wasn't revealing any vulnerability or any true aspect of myself. With a simple right or left swipe, I was in control of who was being rejected. If a match didn't answer my messages, it never carried the same sting that comes from being rejected in person. Dating apps were methodical; I was given a plethora of options and I made my choices purely based on appearances. Any semblance of "rejection" was of no importance, as there were hundreds of other potential matches I could interact with.

The very knowledge that someone had matched with me — even if I had never had any authentic interaction with them and we would never meet in person — helped boost my sense of self-worth.

Dating apps gave me a sense of security and comfort. They were my safe space from the frightening world of bars, events, and real-life interactions. Even more, they placated my feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. There was always someone I could talk to — even if our interactions lacked any substance. The very knowledge that someone had matched with me — even if I had never had any authentic interaction with them and we would never meet in person — helped boost my sense of self-worth. "Getting rejected through swipes does take a toll on our self-worth," Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and author of relationship blog You're Just A Dumbass, tells Bustle. "Sometimes that impacts how we see ourselves. Do you think they chose someone that was prettier, sexier, etc. than you? If so, it’s time to remember that apps are games of probability. It’s not based on who would be ideal... it’s based on who says yes/no."

The App-less April challenge has pushed me head first out of my comfort zone, and fostered my growth as an individual. If I want to meet new people and socialize, I no longer can hide behind the comfort of my phone screen. I have no choice but to venture out into the real world.

The most important thing I have learned this App-less April is I am capable.

"We need to practice the art of real conversation," Dr. Emily Morse, a sex and relationship expert and the host of Sex With Emily. "That means actually talking with people face-to-face, in the flesh. Dating is a muscle,and just like any muscle, the more we use it and work it out, the stronger it gets. Relying on conversation through text alone makes our ability to connect in the real world more challenging because we’ve completely halted ourselves from having real life interactions. The more you get out there, the less awkward you’ll feel meeting people organically, and the easier it will be to make those connections and have those real conversations."

Above all, the most important thing I have learned this App-less April is I am capable. I am capable of far more than what I have previously allowed myself to believe. I do not ever need to rely on a dating app to meet new people. I am perfectly capable of approaching new people and engaging in a conversation. The friends that I have made over the past few weeks demonstrates to me that I am capable of overcoming my fears and letting my personality shine through. My social anxiety does not dictate my life or control me; I am indeed capable of engaging other people without the world imploding. I am capable of attracting amazing new people into my life all on my own, without 140 characters or glossed up photos. I have learned that life is richer when I believe in myself and take risks. I can, and will, live (real) life vibrantly and without inhibitions.

Join the campaign and share your stories with #ApplessApril and ​by ​tagging @Bustle.