Those who seek a soulmate online often encounter a big irony. We join online dating hoping to find a deep connection, yet we use the apps in a distracted, disconnected state. We await notifications like they’re our next breath, carrying out what feels a toxic relationship with Tinder despite the fact we want “healthy love” with a real human. We are unhappy on Bumble and Hinge, but we treat them as necessary sacrifices for that happily-ever-after we keep hoping for.
Maybe it’s time we put the emphasis back on enjoying the journey.
How 7 years of online dating convinced me to finally give up
I had a difficult time writing this post. Looking back, I tried to analyze why it always felt so impossible for me to use dating apps efficiently when, in theory, they should be making things a lot easier! But dwelling on my confusion just made me more flustered.
Suffice it to say:
- Dating apps give us so many options, with little transparency. The lack of focus and accountability can make us act differently from how we would normally act. We start and stop chats as if people were pieces of fruit to just peel, eat, and throw away whenever.
- I am not alone in feeling addicted. Other bloggers have compared dating apps’ design to that of casinos.
- As a neurodivergent person, I’d say most dating apps aren’t very ADHD-friendly.
- I wish there were more video-based apps. Text and photos alone are easy to get lost and confused in, and they don’t tell you whether you’ll click with a person. Congrats to FilterOff for being one of the few apps with built-in video chat.
- If you’ve fallen for one too many good-looking ghosts just because you felt starved for human connection… it happens to the best of us.
I need to finally tell myself, “Honey, it’s not you, it’s dating apps!” and move on.
So let’s cut to the good part now.
The good part was that when I first joined, it was magical having easy access to men who told me I was beautiful. And it was a relief not having to individually explain to everyone that I was transgender! OkCupid helped me go on dates and hook up for the first time. It built up my confidence that, yes, there were people out there who liked me.
I did make at least a few genuine friendships on the site. We lasted long enough to keep my soul afloat, they taught me invaluable lessons, and I am grateful!
The good part is I am free to quit. And I do.
I’m done treating dating like a hustle. As I suggested in my post on ecofrugality, it is a counterintuitive truth for many of us that when we rest more, relax more, take off the pressure, and stop striving so hard, we may discover a life we love more easily. Goodbye, FOMO. No more swiping morning and midnight; I am free!
But if you, like me, are considering giving up your dating apps, you might have a number of objections. Here’s how I addressed my personal worries and what-ifs, so I could quit online dating with confidence.
Stop thinking you need a bedmate to be living your best life
First, I’ve realized my desire for a partner was to some degree planted in my head. Sans Hallmark movies and social norms, would I care as much? Cultivating great relationships with family, friends, and meaningful communities takes me so far already. Until my social life ranks as a 10/10, I might as well focus on that area. It’s more within my control!
I also have a hypothesis that if masturbation weren’t so taboo, people would feel happier being single. I am practicing my self-pleasure with an attitude of Pride and Love for all, plus playfulness, and curiosity!
Don’t worry about “missing out on love.” Research shows companionate love is what helps people go through life happily, not sexual passion. Even though Atlantic writer Arthur C. Brooks met his wife through an initially quixotic affair, he later came to see falling in love not as a reward, but as a price he paid for the benefits of companionship. After all, people who recently fell in love have serotonin levels akin to OCD, according to research discussed by Vox. Being in love with our friends, our lives, and ourselves is way less stress!
Seriously, I dare you to pull out your journal. Write a story, with you as the main character, about living happily ever single. Imagine how you will feel if the rest of your life overflows with wonderful companionship, and amazing self-care, without ever having to share your bed with another soul. Except maybe a dog or other adopted animal.
Nevertheless, there’s a good chance we’ll get partnered up by accident someday. Part of why OkCupid started to feel pointless was that all the non-dating sites I’d been using were giving me better relationship results. I made friends from Facebook groups, Meetup, Medium, and private forums. This year I even stumbled upon a couple of animal advocacy communities that are full of Zoom events and opportunities to connect.
I plan to be happily ever single, but I also won’t complain if my plans get foiled. Either way, I win.
Turn your romantic daydream into a single person’s fairytale
Alright, whip out your journals again, my peaceful dumplings. We’re about to turn our far-off romantic reveries into fairytales we can start living today! How would your single life look, if it paralleled the one you dream of sharing with a partner?
My old fairytale went like this: “I wake up next to an attractive man, a fellow animal advocate. We do morning activities together, getting excited for the day ahead. He goes off to work while I spend the day writing articles, thinking of him, and being a lazy minimalist housewife who cooks vegan chili. He comes home, we relax and cuddle; then we go for a night-out adventure, or else get pumped for games and movies on the couch. Last by not least, our X-rated bedtime…”
Is that distant fantasy really so out of reach? Do I need a bedmate to be living like that? Of course not! The single version is below.
I wake up and appreciate the beauty that surrounds me. I admire the birds, talk to my family, and text or call my soul friends. I spend the day writing articles, thinking of anyone and everyone I love, and being a lazy minimalist housedaughter who helps my aging parent around the house. Since I’m the only vegan here, the chili is all mine! After wrapping up my workday while the sun’s still out, I choose my own adventure—which might be a new walking route, Zoom party, or kickboxing workout while I watch Carmen Sandiego. I wind down to additional rituals of social harmony and bodily bliss, and I fall asleep to sweet thoughts of world peace. ❤
Doesn’t that sound practically just as good? It truly is! And nowhere in either of those descriptions did I mention using a dating app.
Just as it’s no use settling for a bad relationship, there’s no reason we have to settle on using apps that don’t light us up. After too many years feeling distracted by dating sites and desperate to find love, I was delightfully tempted by the idea of giving up completely. Rather than continue to try and fight for a shooting star, I surrendered to my singlehood. I declared my devotion to the life I am already leading.
If I were to go back to the very beginning of my dating life, I would have dedicated all that time to learning to love myself right, healing the hurt from the past, establishing healthy routines, following my passions, learning and doing what I love and what fulfills me. This is what invites true love into your life.
– Anna Chuzhmarova in “How Not to Settle in Relationships“
Will I stay off dating apps for good? There’s no predicting how I’ll feel in the future. I just know I’m happy I took a long hard look at my patterns that weren’t working. I’m overjoyed about everything I’ve realized, that I’ve surrendered to! I’m glad I’ll have these words to look back on when I need a reminder. I’m excited to finish deleting all the remnants of my online dating existence, and I’m eagerly anticipating all my upcoming dates with family, with friends, and with the readers for whom I write.
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Photo: Wade Austin Ellis via Unsplash