Why dating apps are making our love lives more difficult (and what to do about it)
Dating apps and websites have given us the ability to peruse the available singles in any given location with just a few taps and clicks. Really, it's amazing! Never have our options been so readily accessible. In fact, it is estimated that Tinder now has 50 million users total and 10 million users daily! You can choose between the hottie walking their dog, the accountant who loves to sail, the teacher traveling the world, the non-profit worker with the bangs and glasses, and so many more.
But is all this choice actually good for finding love?
The Tyranny of Choice is one of my favorite psychological phenomenon. It states that although humans tend to think that having more options is good (i.e. 31 ice cream flavors), too many choices can actually cripple our decision-making, leading us to agonize over what to choose (mint or coffee??) and then second-guess our choice afterwards (I should have gone with chocolate chip!).
If choosing an ice cream flavor can be daunting when there are so many options (cue Joey's advice to "grab a spoon"), consider how paralyzing choosing a date may be.
According to research, having more choices raises our expectations, which may make a good decision feel bad. We begin to consider the options not taken, which take on a shimmery, ethereal quality ripe for regret. When swiping through Tinder, we are exposed to a seemingly never-ending supply of potential dates, fueling our notion that the next profile might be better than the last and justifying dismissing someone based on minor imperfections. Even when you do find yourself on a date, you may each be wondering what other options are out there and if you should have gone out with the brunette speech pathologist instead.
Simply put, online dating apps invite us to think that there are so many potential mates out there that the next date might be even better, making it difficult for us to feel satisfied or to over look small imperfections.
So, what can we do about it?
1. In addition to creating indecision and regret, dating apps also lead us to make snap decisions about people's appearance, profession, and hobbies that may make us feel shallow or judgmental. Try swiping right on a few potential partners who you normally would breeze on by. Challenge yourself to send a message to someone who isn't "your type."
2. The average Tinder user spends 35 minutes a day on the app. Can you beat that by only swiping for 10 minutes or less? Or, give yourself a limit as to how many swipes you can use each time on the app. Limiting yourself to only 5-10 swipes total may help you slow down and consider what's in front of you by constraining your options.
3. Instead of going right to a coffee or drinks date, ask the people you match with to talk on the phone first. Tinder and texts allow us to create a persona that attracts others but may not represent who we are in person. A lot of my friends have shared that they knew within the first couple of minutes on a date whether they were interested or not, yet they were stuck with the person for at least an hour. Talking on the phone allows you each to gauge each other in a more personal way and make a better-informed decision about your compatibility.
4. Finally, be patient and keep a sense of humor! Finding love doesn't always come easy, but you can still enjoy the ride along the way (patience isn't just for wimps).
Charlotte McKernan is a couple and individual therapist in Fort Collins, CO.