According to a survey done by Match.com, millennials are 125% more likely to get addicted to dating apps than previous generations, so I know I’m not alone in this. I’m totally addicted to scrolling and swiping through potential partners and no matter how much I want to quit, I haven’t been able to.
It’s immediate gratification. I like dating apps partially because they offer immediate gratification. There’s a rush that comes from getting a match, getting a message, or getting my hopes up about someone. I could be feeling down and in a terrible mood but then when I pick up an app, it helps to lift me right back up, mostly because of the hope it fills me with.
I spend hours on them. When I say hours I mean HOURS. I use a screentime counter on my phone and it captures how much I’m using each app. Tinder is usually two to three hours a day and Bumble is an hour or so, then ten minutes here and there on other dating apps. It really adds up to be a long time. It’s a damn sinkhole for me. I know there are better things I could be doing with my time but it’s like I get in and I just can’t get out.
I’ve fallen into some classic patterns. Spending so much time on dating apps means that I fall into some classic dating app behavior traps like ghosting and getting excited only to be let down. I regularly ghost people and get ghosted. I do it when we’ve just been talking for a little bit, but I also do it after a bad first date. Also, being excited only to be let down is such a common experience on dating apps and it happens to me all the time!
I always find myself redownloading them. Even when I make the proclamation that I’m done with the apps and I delete them, I still end up with them downloaded again a couple days later. I just can’t seem to walk away from them permanently. This is one of the indicators that I’m utterly addicted to them.
I go back to it whenever I stop seeing someone regularly. One thing that does get me to walk away from dating apps is actually seeing someone. If I’ve gotten to the point where I’m talking to someone a lot and it feels like it’s going to go somewhere, I can take a break from apps. However, right when it doesn’t work out, one of my only coping mechanisms is to jump right back on the apps to self-soothe. It’s a vicious cycle.
It’s definitely a way to fill a void. I believe as humans that we all have this void. Some people’s are bigger based on circumstances. My void can be monstrous, especially as a recovering addict. I crave so many things to fill me up and make me feel OK. Dating apps fit this function because they satiate that need to feel wanted, good enough, and attractive.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with dating apps. I want to go on the record saying that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dating apps. They aren’t evil or all bad—I just know that my reaction to them is very extreme. Many people can use dating apps in a way that’s healthy for their lives. I seem to not be one of those people.
They’re meant to be addictive. David Greenfield, the founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, said, “Dopamine is a powerful neurotransmitter—it’s wired into the circuits of survival like eating and sex, so you’re talking about going against something that’s been biologically evolved in the brain for tens of thousands of years.” That makes sense to me.
This hasn’t always been the case. A few years ago for a whole year (maybe even longer), I wasn’t dating at all. I wasn’t using dating apps. I was going through a period of emotional, mental, and spiritual growth and knew I needed room to let my process unfold. It’s only been in recent years, maybe even just the past year, that I’m totally obsessed with them.
I don’t have the willingness to quit them altogether. Although a big part of me desires to stop using dating apps, a bigger part of me is stomping my feet and rejecting this. Willingness is a tricky thing—it’s needed to quit something altogether. Without it, I’ll keep returning back to old patterns. I hope one day I become willing to either quit altogether or take it down a bunch of notches.
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