The use of dating applications has become increasingly more common over the past few years. Approximately half of the American public has either met a significant other through a dating application or knows an individual that uses this method to meet people. With dating applications gaining popularity, the social stigmas surrounding them have decreased. Today, about 1 in 5 adolescents actively use dating applications but despite their increasingly widespread use, our knowledge around the impact of this dating method is extremely limited.
When meeting someone in an offline setting, we are aware of a typical dating “script”. One individual approaches another, they talk for some time, both individuals decide if they’re interested in the other, phone numbers are exchanged and a date is planned. As dating applications are relatively new, the dating “script” may be unknown or unfamiliar. With uncertainty comes feelings of anxiety, stress, and other forms of negative affect which can then impact the date itself. In addition, when meeting someone through a dating applications, users may be aware that the other individual may not be who they say they are, in other words “catfishing” them. The knowledge that the person they are meeting may be misrepresenting himself or herself can also lead to feelings of unease and potential lead an individual to an unsafe situation.
Individuals who tend to be more extroverted have lower levels of stress and anxiety in both an application and offline setting than introverts. As a result, people with less dating anxiety are more active online than people with less dating anxiety. Although we know there is a relationship between the use of dating applications and feelings of anxiety/stress, this information does not change the fact that there has been a consistent trend of increased dating application usage over the past few years.
As individuals living in today’s ever changing and technologically advancing world, how can we use this information to benefit our well being? The more information we learn about what specifically about dating applications causes an individual anxiety/stress, the better chance we have of guaranteeing a positive experience and outcome.
1. Educate yourself on the various reputations different applications have.
Although from the outside all applications seem to be used to meet a significant other, different applications have certain associations. For example, Tinder is likely the most well-known dating application but it’s reputation is not typically for finding someone to start a relationship with. Instead, Tinder is frequently known as a “hookup” application where individuals go to meet someone for a brief or one time sexual/romantic encounter. This is not the case for all individuals using Tinder. In contrast, Hinge is known as a “relationship application”. In other words, if someone is trying to find a partner or someone to potentially spend their life with this is the application they’d likely use. Other applications have additional unique features such as bumble where girls are required to reach out to guys, jswipe, which is predominantly Jewish people, or grindr which is mostly LGBT individuals. Knowing the reputations of different applications can reduce the feeling of the unknown resulting in lower levels of stress/anxiety.
2. Always make sure someone knows where you are and whom you’re supposed to be meeting when going on a date.
A large stressor of going on a date set up through a dating application is the risks that come with meeting an individual you do not know. In order to be fully present on your date, it is vital to ensure you feel safe. Telling someone where you are going and who you’re going to meet, along with meeting the person in a public venue are important factors to making sure you feel secure when meeting a potential partner.
3. Use applications that connect you through mutual friends.
Applications such as Hinge create potential matches by finding mutual friends on Facebook or other social media platforms. When matched with someone you’re able to see who the mutual friend is. By knowing this it can give you context around the individual you’re meeting and give you the opportunity to reach out to gain more information.
Whether you are a dating application user or not, it is likely you know someone currently using one of these platforms. Whether it’s your child, friend or family member, understanding the impact dating applications can have and how to use them safely is invaluable as they continue to gain popularity every day.
If you’re having difficulty managing relationships, anxiety, or navigating the ever-changing world we’re apart of, therapy may be beneficial for you. Contact Symmetry Counseling to get connected with one of our talented clinicians.
Sawyer, A. N., Smith, E. R., & Benotsch, E. G. (2018). Dating application use and sexual risk behavior among young adults. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 15(2), 183-191.
Smith, A., & Anderson, M. (2016). 5 facts about online dating. Pew Research Center. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/facttank/2016/02/29/5-facts-about-online-dating/