There’s no denying it: dating apps have drastically changed the world of sex and relationships. Whether you’re into men or women, both are now literally on tap via platforms such as Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, and more. Provided you’re good with emoji selection, your next date could be arranged in the next ten minutes.
But along with the instant satisfaction that dating apps can bring, something else is missing. At the risk of sounding corny, there’s a certain spark that happens when two humans connect in real life. It’s a spark that can’t really be replicated through your smartphone.
Because the premise of dating apps focuses a lot on the way you look, the confidence of the men using them is getting a real shake up. While a certain degree of superficiality has always existed in dating culture, there was also the possibility of winning your chosen one over with your great sense of humour and winning personality. When we’re just looking at pictures, it can be hard to get a person to look past your physical appearance.
The good news is that, with the right attitude, you can still have fun with dating apps. The trick is all in how you approach the situation, and making sure that you can walk out the other side with your ego intact.
Creating the perfect profile
Possibly the hardest part of getting started on a dating site is creating a profile that summarises the best parts of you. Funny, handsome, clever, accomplished and complex you. Where to even start?
Sex and relationships expert Megan Luscombe says that trying to condense all of what makes us amazing into such a brief presentation can be the first hit to our confidence.
“Dating apps can affect self-esteem and confidence in a lot of people because they exist in a realm of 'perfect presentation',” says Megan. “We are able to create a version of ourselves that we want others to see. This means we are setting expectations of who we are and in reality, sometimes we don't match up.”
What’s more, the more spin we add to our profiles, the starker our perceived shortcomings appear to ourselves. For example, if you boost up your job title to a more senior position, you might start worrying about your career trajectory. If you add a few inches (to your height) you might start worrying more than before that you’re too short.
Short term gain, long term pain
Just like any other social media, dating apps are all about giving you instant gratification. And for those of you who have been single for a while, it’s great — you can jump online and strike up a conversation with someone within minutes. But when you have fifty conversations going, and zero dates, it can start to feel a bit lonely.
“People are starting to rely on validation from likes, bumps and matches from dating apps,” says Megan. “But when the bumps and matches aren’t rolling in, it can be a vicious cycle of self-loathing and doubt, which is where self-esteem can take a hit.”
Most users get a burst of ‘beginner’s luck’ when they first start out on the apps. As a new face on the scene, you’ll grab the attention of other users and probably get a swell of matches. But the longer you’re on the apps, the more familiar you become.
A proven confidence killer
The science is in: Tinder will encourage negative thoughts about yourself, according to a study from the University of North Texas.
They surveyed over 1,300 men and women about their experience on dating apps, and found that “...being actively involved with Tinder, regardless of the user’s gender, was associated with body dissatisfaction, body shame, body monitoring, internalization of societal expectations of beauty, comparing oneself physically to others, and reliance on media for information on appearance and attractiveness.”
Interestingly, men had it worse than the women. While male and female users reported less satisfaction with their bodies and looks, compared to non-users, only male Tinder users reported lower levels of self-esteem.
There are plenty of theories on why this is. One is that women are generally more used to discussing their physical shortcomings, and might feel more in control of altering their looks with elements like clothing and makeup. But for men, feeling insecure about their physical appearance could be a whole new experience — and that can be hard to take.
How to make swiping right for you
While all of this is starting to feel a little depressing, we have good news for you: dating apps aren’t all bad. It all comes down to maintaining confidence in yourself.
The first step is to create a profile that is true to who you are. If anything, undersell yourself — be brief about what you do, and just include one small detail about yourself that’s enough to pique the interest of like-minded women, but not enough for your ego to be trampled on.
With your pictures, choose at least four or five — you want to make sure that you’re giving a complete view into what you really look like, so no gym shots from a decade ago, okay? Take the leap and show off your face, your body, and your dress sense. You want to attract someone who likes you for you.
Once you do start chatting, don’t go in too hard. Let the conversation take its course, and if it feels like hard work? It probably is. Many dating experts would recommend chatting for a few days (no more than three) and then setting up a date. If they stall, they’re probably not interested.
The first date will be the hardest, as you will both be on alert to see if the physical connection matches the emotional chemistry you’ve already had online. You might both have the same sense of humour, but do you want to jump into bed together? Keep an open mind, but don’t be afraid to call it a day if it’s just not working.
Protecting your confidence
If you’re diving into the pool of online dating, you’re going to need some protective gear. Maintaining a strong mental outlook as you deal with the possibility of rejection or disappointment is really important.
Give yourself some limitations. Whether it’s how long you spend on the app each day, or how many dates you set up each week, make sure you’re not overdoing it. Online dating can become addictive, and not always with great results. Keep yourself in check.
Make sure that you balance your time online with time in the real world. Yes, dating apps are a quick and easy way to connect with prospective dates, but don’t forget that the old fashioned way still works.
With dating apps just recently coming into their own, we’re all still getting used to how to behave online. But until then, keep your head high and remember: if it’s starting to affect you negatively, all you need to do is hit ‘Delete’.