Seen as our modern-day matchmaker, online dating apps are here to stay. But with the conveniences and pros of potential matches at our fingertips – there come downsides, too. We share our advice for mindfully navigating the online dating world.
The clever algorithms on dating apps know what you need and how to get it better than you could possibly engineer for yourself. Niche requests are catered for – no preference, circumstance, fetish or arrangement is out of reach.
Finding someone similar to you can be a relief, validating and normalising in a world which can be harsh in its judgements, and where individuals can feel very lonely and disconnected. In many ways online dating offers a sense of control.
Dating apps can mean no more staying at home on a Saturday night if you don’t want to, waiting for friends to pass on single contacts or endless barhopping in the hope that someone new turns up. You can explore the market for as long as you want, agree to meet – or not – and on what terms and say no safely and easily to anyone who doesn’t suit.
So – after more than a decade since dating apps went mainstream – are they the silver bullet?
What are the cons of dating apps?
Many happy and suitable long-term couples meet through apps like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge, but there are pitfalls to be aware of when swiping right.
Beating the system
For all the genuine people out there looking, there are going to be those seeking to take advantage of someone lonely and vulnerable. That doesn’t make you a sitting duck, it just means you need to skill up to manage the task at hand.
Lies and deception
When asked to talk about yourself, it can be tempting to only list your positives or the things you think others want to hear and to finish your profile with your sharpest decade-old photo. But the truth always comes out, so honesty is the best policy. Of course, there are people being outright deceptive, but generally they’re just trying to polish themselves up.
Moving too slow, moving too fast
There are those who connect online and chat long into the night sharing personal confidences, but when they finally meet, reality sets in. There can be a mismatch between those early feelings, and how the relationship feels face-to-face.
On the flip side, some meet before almost any communication and leave too much riding on that first exchange. If either of you are having an off night and have squeezed in a quick meet-up, you can end up dismissing the potential for a good connection by relying on first impressions with nothing to ground the meeting.
Too picky, not picky enough
If you’re nervous about online dating, you might spend lots of time searching but never progressing, perhaps looking for reassurance by waiting for the perfect match. Alternatively, you might set up a different date every night, with the attitude that volume gets the job done.
This could lead you to over-rely on initial physical attraction to make you want to pursue more, when attraction on all levels takes more than a first date to grow. Knowing you have another five people to choose from that week can mean you don’t bother to connect, and you could miss an opportunity in the process.
If it’s taking a while to find someone you like, or you often see people you’re keen on but who still want to play the field, it can be easy to fall into the “please pick me” mindset, making you become more accommodating and less confident over time.
You might also be dating before you are ready to open your heart to someone new. If you have just been through a break-up, signing up for revenge or as an antidote to misery may make you feel slightly better in the short term, but could ultimately make you feel worse, and those you date feel very let down.
A psychologist’s advice for using dating apps
If you’re thinking of signing up and joining more than 3 million Australians who currently use online dating services, there are a few things to reflect on before diving in.
Be ready to date
Dating should never act as a prop to support your self-esteem, and it isn’t fair to others to recklessly head out into the dating world if you’re not genuine.
Take inventory of your life
Are you in the right shape to welcome someone in, or are you hoping this person will be your missing piece? If you feel incomplete, start by fleshing out some great friendships and strong interests of your own. This will be a great buffer and support if it takes a while to meet someone.
Work through your own stuff
What baggage are you carrying? Are you resolved why the last relationship ended and what you hope to do differently next time? You may consider speaking to a counsellor if you’re still holding onto past relationships.
Be mindful of what you bring, not just what you want
There is nothing like a dating app to encourage the fantasy of our dream partner, complete with a long checklist of preferences. If we met someone in real life first, we’d probably be more forgiving of all sorts of things. Be open to new experiences and people.
Too many people try and shave off pesky details like how old they really are and their not-quite-finalised divorce, preferring the sound of being youthful, available and energetic. Of course, you want to put your best foot forward, and a profile is not the place for every single detail. However, being authentic is important, as you will soon be found out anyway.
Try before you buy – to an extent
It’s worth connecting by phone and video before you meet to check out initial impressions, and at the very least so you can recognise each other when you catch up. This can often decrease the likelihood of no-shows as you have forged a connection, and allows you to introduce yourselves and see if you have any connection worth pursuing.
Staying online with a potential date for too long, especially without visuals, can lead to the relationship becoming advanced in a way that feels clunky and out of step when you meet. You might have shared your deepest darkest secrets, only to meet and realise you have been confiding in a stranger with whom you have little chemistry. While this disconnect can be bridged, it can feel off-putting, even if you decide to hang in and work it out.
You can go through periods of feeling let down and less confident as you embark on online dating. This is where friends who both support you and cheer you on are invaluable.
It is not uncommon for people to step back for a while before relaunching with their energy restored on another site and a new approach. This is a skill set to be mastered like anything else.
Is online dating right for you?
Online dating may not be for everyone, but it can be a good way to get to know yourself, to get ready to date, and to meet new people who might even become good friends. You might get hurt, but that can happen regardless of the method of meeting.
Protect yourself with self-confidence and savvy navigation of meet ups. Trust your instincts and if you feel like you’re being interviewed for a job, or feel unsafe in any way, remove yourself and go on your way.
Online dating is here to stay, and we are learning all the time from the successes and the failures. New apps are appearing with new unique selling points, which promise to fix the problems found with other services. Move with them and see what is on offer that suits you.
However, remember that the main game is leading a fulfilling life – don’t neglect other parts of it with a single-minded quest.