Why We Choose The Wrong Partners When We Use Dating Apps

by Clarissa Silva

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. Today's topic: Clarissa Silva, Behavioral scientist and author relationship wellness blog, YOU'RE JUST A DUMBASS, discusses why we're choosing the wrong partners when we date online.

Are you single AF and wondering why you keep meeting ~*suboptimal*~ people online? Don’t worry — the problem is not you! It’s how we use with these dating apps. We all have an ideal partner in mind and some of us have lists to help us narrow down our search. But what is up with trying to apply those rules in our online dating search?

According to a study I conducted with 500 Millennials that are active online daters, 85 percent reported having a list of seven main requirements that they use when searching through apps. The main seven requirements were: hair color, eye color, body type, education level, personality type, political view, and religious affiliation. However, when they searched for potential dates using their apps, 70 percent reported selecting people based on just one or two of their list requirements. Even when they abandoned their own requirements, after their first date 90 percent reported their selection lacked chemistry when they met IRL.

Here's why this happens:

Dating apps are creating a paradox effect: giving off the illusion of many choices, while making it harder to find viable options. Apps have become the new bar, but sometimes we unknowingly walk into a frat party; a drunk feast; 2 a.m. stragglers; or a concubine expecting to find decent people. This is not just disempowering, it erodes your self-esteem and alters your decision-making ability. The end result is not making you pickier, it's making you choose based on lowered expectations.

Since some are interfacing digitally more than physically, it is much easier to emotionally manipulate others because they are reliant on what I call “Vanity Validation“. Their digital persona is constantly seeking more validation through electronic likes/swipes, and not life experiences. The paradox effect in dating is creating the illusion of having more social engagement, social capital, and popularity, but masking one’s true persona. The one you portray on social and the true you, which creates a double consciousness for some. Which one is seeking dates? Can you have a better sense of what you want when you’re experiencing cognitive dissonance?

The shiniest object is what we briefly focus on, then move onto the next shiny object. Yes, we are an immediate gratification culture, but our needs aren’t being met when we scan, swipe, and dismiss. We’re overlooking good candidates for those that photo filter better. You aren’t in the market for best camera skills, you’re searching for someone that can life co-create with you.

In my study, 60 percent of Millennials reported feeling FOMO as one of the primary reasons they were overactive online daters. Women expressed feeling FOMO about not having a partner more than men. Men expressed feeling FOMO about not having as much sex as they’d like to have. If you’re comparing yourself to someone else’s profile, aren’t you discounting yourself?

The process of several serial dates with people that you lack chemistry with or experience rejection from people that you think are potential candidates can be very frustrating and result in online dating fatigue. But, don’t let the fatigue inform who you choose. You shouldn't force fit someone into your life because you are experiencing online dating burnout.

...and don't forget about windowshopping and haunting. All of these trends continuously show how many people on apps aren't serious about dating. And a recent LendEDU survey found that 44 percent of the 9,761 Millennial college students they surveyed use Tinder for "confidence-boosting procrastination”. That’s right — they are only looking to boost their confidence by racking up matches with no real intention of meeting you.

If we only broadcast the “look at me”, are we able to deal with the side of rejection, detachment, and non-commitment? Are we able to really know what we need versus what we want? Each swipe and date is us collecting data on what combinations of qualities will truly make us happy. Do you have a strong sense of what that would look like?

Approaching dating as though it is testing out what I call, Your Happiness Hypothesis: Your Personal Love Algorithm, where you will treat dating like you are collecting data on what you want and don’t want. It will provide you with a map of combinations of qualities and characteristics that better complement you. In this way, you are reversing the process of what random pool gets sent to you or selects you.

Create an equation (just like the dating sites) or a list that includes the elements that you absolutely require and the elements that you think you want. For example: a friend of mine has the following requirements of her ideal partner: ivy educated, graduate degree, professional, shared religion, family-oriented, certain age range, and certain height requirements. Physical appearance, sense of humor, adventurous, and work-life balance are not priorities for her.

App-less April, Bustle's challenge to delete your dating apps for 30 days, has shown us that we can empower ourselves and find what we need on our own terms — we do *not* have to be relegated to who selects or responds to us.

Clarissa Silva is a Behavioral Scientist, Founder of C Silva Solutions LLC (a research consulting firm providing business and human solutions) and the author of a very tongue-in-cheek relationship wellness blog, "YOU'RE JUST A DUMBASS". She is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post, where she shares her latest research findings on current dating trends and it’s impact on self-esteem.

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