How to Practice Self-Care While Playing the Dating App Game
Dating is hard. But being in healthy relationships, whether platonic or romantic, is an important part of everyone’s life: They allow us to be vulnerable and intimate with someone else, and they bring us joy. But how do we meet people we want to spend that much time with? More and more, it’s happening online.
According to the Pew Research Center, more than 15 percent of U.S. adults say they have used either mobile dating apps or an online dating site at least once in the past. The number of 18 to 24 year olds who have dated online has tripled since 2013 to 27 percent today. By 2040, it’s estimated that 70 percent of us will have met our significant other online, according to Psychology Today.
When I was single, online dating was still taboo and there were only a handful of sites out there for the single among us. I wanted to meet someone organically, and, of course, I convinced myself that the most organic way of meeting someone was to wade through their online persona, so I signed up for Match.com. It was exhilarating and terrifying, validating and dispiriting. And I wasn’t alone in feeling that way.
“It’s this weird hybrid of hope and anxiety. You can’t believe as an adult person that you’re hoping someone swipes right on you,” says Anna Maria Georgalis, who lives in San Diego and is currently on a much-needed break from using dating apps.
Online dating is a Valencia filter in a catfishing world.
We put all this effort into this editable, filtered online version of ourselves, only to feel like the nuances of our personality are diminished by an algorithm. Online dating is a Valencia filter in a catfishing world. But we are more than the sum of our dating profiles.
Here are some best practices to let yourself feel valued and loved during those tough online dating moments:
1. Find New Hobbies
Spending time with ourselves is the best way to be comfortable in our skin and learn what we’re truly looking for in another person and in life. Why not take those qualities you value in a partner and apply them to yourself? Anna taught herself to play guitar and spent a lot of time outdoors because those were what she was seeking in a partner. “Now I don’t feel like I’m being completed by somebody who is filling some void or need or desire,” she explains. “When I find someone, they’re a complement to these things that I have, not a completion to it.”
2. Make Time for Yourself
Mike Markovich lives in Pittsburgh and has used Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and “some app that introduced dog owners to each other,” he says. Mike found himself going on multiple dates per week, which “gets really overwhelming,” and when he felt fatigued he “took whatever time I needed for myself and did what I wanted.” That meant joining different groups or expanding his social network. This has allowed him “to focus on becoming the best person I can be instead of someone simply pining for validation.” Bottom line: It’s OK to press pause on the dating apps. Do what’s best for you.
3. Shake Off Rejection
While the validation from online dating is addictive, it’s also fleeting. Rejection is more common, but Anna says it’s one-dimensional. “After so many happen, it’s negligible and diminishes the feeling around it.” Though, she says, as you learn to feel less about the rejections, you also feel less about the successes. “It dilutes the experience and uniqueness.”
“I used to take online rejection personal at first, but now have worked past it,” says Steven Dieringer, who has been dating online in Cleveland for five years and has three apps on his phone currently. “You have to accept that sometimes you aren't what another person is looking for, and that's totally fine.”
4. Reclaim Control
In San Diego, Anna says it seems everyone is on a dating app. She’s tried Match.com, eHarmony, and Tinder, but hasn’t re-installed any in a few years. “The step of deactivating it is cathartic,” she says. It’s OK to take a break from dating apps—and it might help you regain some control.
Yes, it's OK to take a break from dating apps.
If you’re in too deep, it can make you feel like you’ve completely conceded control to an app, losing your identity in the process and holding on to a false hope that “you can find the love of your life from the comfort of your own couch,” Anna quips. Now, she says, “If you’re not on an app, you’re sort of like a unicorn.”
5. Make the Most of It
At some point in your life, it seems like everyone you know is coupled up, while you’re eating pizza and drinking wine alone for the umpteenth night in a row. But, “look at the bright side of being single,” says Steven, “all your friends with kids want your lifestyle of doing whatever you want whenever you want to, so make the most of it.”
Read next: 5 Ways to Put Self-Love Into Action