What My Dating App Detox Taught Me About Intimacy
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.
App-less April, Bustle's challenge to delete your dating apps for a month, pushed me into entirely new territory — for the past few years I have been totally dependent on dating apps to meet my potential partners. Swiping right and left had become as routine a fixture in my life as my morning latte.
From the outset, it would appear that dating apps would provide everything that a young, single woman could ever ask for. For apps such as Tinder, their straightforward albeit superficial, interface, removes the aspect of uncertainty. For a shy person like me, it can assuage any fears of rejection or insecurity. People on the app downloaded it to meet new people, so you can be sure that anyone who swipes right on you is interested (unless they're one of those that swipes right on everyone). At the touch of your fingers, dating apps give you a seemingly endless amount of prospects, all of which you can filter by certain specifications. Why wouldn't you choose that over meeting someone in real life?
They were just one of the several people I was chatting with, and for me, they were solely defined by their name, age, and the handful of pictures they provided.
But as I've learned, looks can be deceiving — and dating apps have a multitude of toxic downsides. Their focus on instant gratification sets the tone for all of your interactions. There are so many possibilities you can access, and you can always keep swiping left to find the next best thing. When I used dating apps, I never truly engaged in meaningful conversations with any of my matches. They were just one of the several people I was chatting with, and for me, they were solely defined by their name, age, and the handful of pictures they provided. They were pixels behind my phone screen, and the act of finding and engaging in new connections felt like a game of numbers. If I kept swiping right and left, I reasoned, I would eventually find the right guy who wanted more than sex.
"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," Dr. Emily Morse, a sex and relationships expert and the host of Sex With Emily, tells Bustle. "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. We also tend to share more personal details at a faster pace this way. This “premature cyberfection” — or rushed acceleration of a connection — mimics intimacy, when it’s really just a rapid-fire exchange of information."
The faux intimacy that characterized my interactions with my matches on dating apps infiltrated into our interactions when we met in real life. Meeting a match for a date felt transactional and all part of the game. More distressingly, my dates never wanted anything more than quick and easy sex. My desires and needs never aligned with those of my matches.
There's nothing wrong with using dating apps for casual sex, but that wasn't my intention. My true intention with dating apps was to find forge a meaningful, loving, committed relationship with the right individual. Yet, I played along with the hookup culture of dating apps. It became so normal for my match to make moves on the first date, and subsequently ghost me, that it gradually ceased to phase me. After a disappointing date, I would immediately hit Tinder in the hopes that I would find a guy who was interested in more than sex.
My friends were constantly bemoaning the same dilemma to me. Our conversations regarding our Tinder dates always started with "but he seemed so nice over our messages." We all felt miserable and deeply dissatisfied by our sexual experiences with guys we met off dating apps, and yet we continued to feed into the vicious cycle time and time again.
My dating app detox has given me the time and space that I needed to engage in mindful self-reflection. I now recognize that by trying to fit in with the culture and mindlessly hooking up, I was not honoring myself or my needs. With my own mindset of faux intimacy, I was also not honoring or respecting the people I was interacting with.
My dating app detox has galvanized me to seek out true, authentic intimacy. The happiness and clarity I've felt during App-less April has demonstrated to me that I should no longer hookup with someone if doing so does not match my intentions or my needs. From now on, I seek to form meaningful relationships and never do anything just to satisfy someone else or play into a game. My emotional and spiritual needs are now my priority and I will no longer settle for anything less.