By Susan Guillory
It’s a conundrum: it becomes harder to meet a single, straight, and interested man the older I get…and yet after two years struggling with dating apps, I haven’t found a valid alternative.
Maybe it’s my age: I’m just over 40, and when I read articles written by and about single Millennials, they seem to be getting a ton more messages and dates than I have through online dating.
But it’s not just me: dating apps (and how we use them) are inherently flawed. Here’s why.
They Amplify Bad Behavior
Now I’m sure that a man I would meet in real life would be just as likely to ghost me as a man I meet on a dating app, but the instance seems a lot higher there. And if you follow the Instagram account @ByeFelipe (or buy the book), you’ll see so many sickening examples of men talking trash and belittling women on dating apps (probably women do the same, but this book deals with the horrifying experiences women have had with men on dating apps).
And don’t even get me started with dick pics.
Are dating apps turning good men into bad seeds, or is there something else going on here?
I chalk it up to these men (who may already be unhappy with their lives) being able to hide behind a screen, which makes it easier to be jerks. There are no consequences. Imagine if you could show up at a man’s house after he insults you online and give him a piece of your mind. I bet that would cut down on the problems!
Certainly, it’s not all men (or people) on dating apps that are behaving badly, but enough of them are doing so that 42% of women on dating apps say they’ve been harassed. #MeToo.
They Create False Hope
I, sadly, have become an expert Catfish Spotter. I can tell if a man is a catfish — that is, using a fake profile photo, name, or information — within the first message, if not sooner. I’ve gotten good at it because I’ve been catfished so much!
The reasons for men lying about who they are on dating apps aren’t clear: some speculate that they’re trying to scam a person. Others may want to hurt women because they’ve been hurt…or they’re too painfully shy to actually go out and meet women so they have pseudo relationships online.
The problem with catfishing is that, on the other end, there is a person who may be hopeful that this could turn into a relationship. Catfish are usually very flattering and complimentary. So here’s a woman who thinks, hey, this guy is really sweet. This could have potential!
Finding out that he’s not legit means some level of heartbreak and disgust. It’s no wonder people are starting to delete their dating apps in frustration.
They’re Not All That Fun
Yes, at first I was so excited that all these attractive men were swiping right on me! I’m validated! Hooray! But then I realized that many men swipe right on all women on dating apps. I know this because several men who had previously ghosted me after a date or two swiped right when I opened my Bumble account again. I have to assume they weren’t looking to tell me that they’d made a horrible mistake in letting me go…
Dating apps can feel like a full-time job. You open them daily to see today’s catch. You come up with witty opening lines meant to spark conversation…and still, 95% of the connections you make don’t bother to engage.
When I realized how much time I was wasting on dating apps with little to no reward, that’s when I shut down my accounts. I could have walked around the world — twice — in the time I’ve spent on dating apps!
Too Much Choice Leads to Analysis Paralysis
At first glance, swiping through hundreds of attractive photos of the opposite sex seems amazing! It’s like going into a candy store with an unlimited budget…or is it?
Science has proven that having too many choices can overwhelm us and makes it difficult to make a decision. A sexy man might choose me today, but then wonder what else he’s missing out on by not swiping more profiles (there’s that darn FOMO). And so I’m left wondering where he went and why I wasn’t enough for him.
It Wears on the Self Esteem
And speaking of not feeling like enough for a total stranger: if you’ve spent any time on dating apps, you’ve probably suffered a loss of confidence. You spend hours selecting photos that highlight how stunning you are and carefully craft a witty profile…so why aren’t you getting dates??
A research study found that both men and women who used Tinder were not as satisfied with their bodies and looks, compared to people who didn’t use Tinder. It’s constant judgment when people are swiping based on your profile pictures (and hardly anyone reads those bios!).
But Are the Apps Really to Blame?
I know I can’t really blame technology for my single status and frustration at how impersonal these tools have become, but it feels good to do so!
Tools are only as useful as the way they’re being used, and humans have quickly adapted to abuse dating apps. They feel like games, to a degree, which makes it easier to act differently than we would in real life.
Let’s Change the World, One App at a Time
So what’s the solution? For me, one of my resolutions is to stay off of dating apps. Sometimes the lure is great: the idea that within minutes, I can have a stack of notifications telling me that, even superficially, someone digs me, is tempting at times, but then I remember that I don’t base my self-worth on what strangers think of my looks.
I think dating apps can be effective if used mindfully. There are also apps like Jelato that take the focus away from the physical and help people connect through more meaningful data points like interests. Rather than creating profiles on every. Single. App. Out there, select one or two that really resonate with you. Be selective about how you let people talk to you, and report and block anyone who doesn’t respect you. Period.
Make an effort to take the conversation offline as soon as possible. Start by exchanging phone numbers (that way, you have his contact info even if you’re not using the app), and suggest a phone call. I know it’s old school, but I swear, you can get a better sense of someone’s personality just by talking to them rather than texting (a man who I met online, sounded like he was on speed when he called; he soon casually mentioned that he was suffering from mania! Saved me the time of meeting him in person and finding that out.).
Don’t lean too heavily on dating apps; they’re meant to be aids, not crutches. If you’re serious about finding someone special, join groups on Meetup, either specifically geared toward singles or for people who share your hobbies.
And treat people with kindness, both online and off. Just because you’re not face-to-face with someone you’re chatting with through a dating app doesn’t give you the right to be mean. That’s just common sense.