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The Good, Bad & Ugly: Psychological Effects Of Online Dating Apps

There are often unspoken psychological effects that influence people's confidence, mood, happiness and more when seeking partners from online dating apps.
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Online dating apps have taken over the modern dating market, becoming increasingly sought out for its ease and seemingly endless pool of potential singles.

As dating apps have become increasingly popular, we are also seeing the true side-effects of these services and often times it’s not quite what we hoped for.

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Forty percent of Americans use dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, Match, etc. Match.com, which has an estimated yearly revenue of $1 billion and shows no signs of slowing down.

This dramatic change in how we date and seek out both casual and potentially long-term relationships has led to an increase in studies investigating the impacts these have on people’s psychology.

The Good: How Dating Apps Can Be A Mood Booster

A recent MTV Insights study surveyed 800 men and women between the ages of 18 and 29, core demographics for apps like Tinder.

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What MTV found is that 61 percent of the people surveyed were using online dating apps to simply see who was attracted to them.

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Put simply, the majority of responses admit they use dating apps as a means of self-validation or a short term confidence boost. We see this as an increasing trend, especially in those that have recently gone through a breakup.

Hop on Tinder or Bumble, potentially pay a few bucks to get premium services and from there you can validate your “datability” in the eyes of strangers. Swipe right on a few hot girls or guys and see if they swipe right too, potentially spark up a conversation you know isn’t going anywhere but further fans the flames that if you wanted to date again there are plenty of options out there.

While this can be an effective way to boost one’s confidence particularly during a temporarily low in self-confidence, there is undoubtedly the potential to overdo it.

Source: http://www.mtv.com/news/3143129/dating-app-tinder-relationships-survey/

Let’s explain the difference, imagine you just bought a nice watch and a cute girl says she likes your watch while you’re out to dinner. A simple but effective way to make you feel pretty good. Everyone, after all, likes a compliment. The difference between overdoing it is when you place your self-confidence and value on if or how many people compliment you.

The Bad: A Potential For Regular Rejection

Now, let’s dive into some of the bad that you have certainly experienced if you’ve been around the online dating world enough. The constant rejection.

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It doesn’t matter how attractive you are, suave, how much money you have, how athletic or funny you are, you have experienced rejection if you’ve used online dating apps.

Research shows that men, disproportionally compared to women, deal with rejection in the dating world. Women, in general, receive more positive matches or gestures of interest proportionally then men do. This leads to more men facing rejection than women, but the truth is the rejection gets dolled out plenty on both ends.

Men are less picky when it comes to who they seek out in online dating apps, combined with women who are more strict with who they seek, leads to an imbalance that often triggers disproportional rejection in men.

The psychology of why people are rejected seems to boil down into a few different buckets.

  • There are no social queues that someone may be interested in, so often times the first interaction you make is through striking up a conversation. Whereas, in person, there are many non-verbal social queues that can let someone know if the person is potentially interested or not.
  • The anonymity and lack of real-time back and forth make it harder to have genuine conversations and easier to “ghost” on the person and never respond. Someone more intriguing comes along, it’s effortless to ditch the person you were previously talking with.
  • Online dating etiquette is different than in real life. It is more acceptable to not respond to someone, to show interest then immediately cut off all interaction. In addition, since the pool of potential dateable people is larger you have a perceived abundance of options, making second-guessing a potential match commonplace.

The Ugly: Depression And Distress In Modern Online Dating

The ugly is that too often apps like Tinder and Bumble can leave people worse off than when they started using the service.

The Center for Humane Technology surveyed 200,000 iPhone users to see how different apps make them feel, primarily focused around happiness.

What the survey found was that the dating app Grindr was the worse app to use in terms of happiness. Survey responders said that 77% of them felt unhappy by using the app. Down to number 7 and you’ll find Tinder, with 56% of users reporting being unhappy when using the app.

Source: https://humanetech.com/resources/app-ratings/

Compare this with the average number of minutes users were on the app each day, 61 minutes and 22 minutes for Grindr and Tinder, respectively, and it’s clear people are spending significant portions of their day doing things that make them unhappy. The app also found that the longer people use any given app (from Netflix to Facebook) they tend to be less happy.

Depression can also be a result of rejection or “ghosting” where someone immediately cuts off all communication on a dating app after things are seemingly going well.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents to a Plenty of Fish survey said they had experienced ghosting in the past. While ghosting is ubiquitous in dating apps, we see it as a significant risk for mental health and depression.

On top of that, we’ve seen studies that link people with addictive personalities increasingly use mobile devices, which is correlated to increased depression. People who abundantly use social media report higher degrees of depression and anxiety than those that limit social media and cell phone use.

It’s clear that there are a multitude of psychological impacts that dating apps can have on its users. While there is the potential to boost your self-confidence and find the potential perfect match, there is also the potential for increased anxiety and depression in the face of rejection.

What has been your experience with online dating apps, have they made you happier than before using them? Did you feel like you met the “right” person on the app? Was it overall a good experience?

As with any activity that can influence your psychology, it’s important to be self-aware of how you’re using it, use it in moderation and regularly put down the phone to have meaningful human to human interactions.

Trevor Nace

Trevor Nace is the founder of How-To Apps. He has a PhD from Duke University and has been in the tech space and writing about tech for a number of years. He previously started and ran an app website and his articles on apps have been read millions of times around the globe. You can find him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

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