Dating apps operate like the way slot machines do but instead of betting on financial credit, you’re betting on your social credit. From uploading your most flattering photos to curating the cheesiest of bios, every aspect of you as a person is being wagered on the chance of starting a conversation with a random stranger on the internet.
Based on a survey by LendEDU, nearly 50% of millennial users use Tinder as “confidence-boosting procrastination.” An app that functions as a time-waster even though it was designed with the hopes of bringing people together. Of course, there’s always the prospect of a no-strings-attached hookup but pursuits like that aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.
As an introvert, dating apps were a form of escape when it came to putting myself out there in hopes of meeting women. Not only was it easier to carry a conversation since I wasn’t being subjected to face-to-face interaction, but it was also an opportunity to adopt a new, better ‘version’ of myself. I saw it as the chance to turn into the person I always wanted myself to be.
Of course, the allure of sex was very appealing as well.
The first few months were horrendously tedious. Most matches barely made past 10 messages before fizzling out. I was painfully awkward and scored a couple of un-matches because of my ‘lack of game’. Still, the pull of matching someone never wore off because, in a twisted sort of way, I was being given an infinite try at a similar scenario.
And as the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect”. Conversations flowed better, jokes landed more often and dates became more frequent.
Every match and successfully landed joke or pick-up line became a reward. David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, states that “we swipe for a mate—or sex—enough attractive matches and promising texts provide that mini-hit of dopamine to the brain that keeps us coming back for more.”
It became something akin to an addiction for me.
Many of the conversations began to bleed into each other. It was only natural since the same topics will be touched upon again and again and again when getting to know someone for the first time. It reached a point where I had ready-made ‘template answers’. It became more about efficiency rather than a genuine personal connection.
I became selfishly arrogant, stubbornly determined to steer conversations where I wanted them to go due to past successes. Inane small talk grew ever slightly more annoying over time and conversations that clearly weren’t going anywhere became more infuriating. I was emboldened by the many rejections I got and even more so by the handful of successes I had.
The way I looked at my in-real-life relationships with women changed too, be it platonic or romantic ones. The habits I picked up eventually bled into real life as well.
It finally reached a breaking point to where I was infatuated with a girl, shot my shot, got rejected and moved on all within the span of a week. I had met this girl in person and we hit it off pretty well. Our sense of humour aligned and interests matched, so naturally, I thought I stood a chance.
Immediately I replied to her story on Instagram, kickstarting a week-long conversation about nothing in particular. It wasn’t exactly a smooth conversation since I did my damndest to keep it going every time it dried up, but it was the same tactics I’d had used on dating apps so it felt like I was on the right track.
Armed with overconfidence, I asked her out for a meal. She shot me down right away and the conversation stopped dead in its tracks.
I was no stranger to rejection so I took it to the chin but the people around us didn’t. She was a friend whom I also shared a lot of mutual friends with.
She began to avoid me and I became a lot more self-conscious. When I hung out with our mutual friends, every playful jab aimed at me locked me into a vicious cycle of overthinking and overreacting. It felt like I was that one kid who everyone excluded from all the playground inside jokes.
Though there weren’t any outright consequences that came back to bite me in the ass, I was self-aware enough to realise that I’d overstepped my boundaries. Fortunately, I was even more self-aware to understand where my problems had originated from.
I went on a dating app purge. Deleting and removing each of them from the app store, I was looking to free myself from the delight of reveling at new matches. To an extent, I also had a social interaction purge.
I needed time to reflect and re-evaluate.
Months had since passed and I’m a much more carefree person now. I enjoy conversations for what they are rather than what they could be. Appreciating the company of everyone that I now meet, instead of hoping for a potentially better connection in the future.
I regained the ability to acknowledge what life is instead of what it could be.
Still, I’m grateful for the time I spent on online dating. Without it, I would have never gotten opportunities to break out of my introverted shell. I also wouldn’t have had the chance to develop my personal voice in social interactions.
I can almost say that dating apps are an integral part of my life that made me who I am today. It may sound like I’m exaggerating about the impact it had on me, but it’s no lie that there was a point where my life revolved around these apps.
So to whoever is reading this and on the fence on giving dating apps a shot, I’m not here to discourage from trying them. Just be mindful that it’s a lot more than just swiping and hoping for a date.