Dating In The Digital Age: How To Use Dating Apps Without Losing Your Mind

14 February 2023 |
Episode 4 |
45:13

Episode summary

Are you exhausted by the constant swiping, breadcrumbing, and ghosting on modern dating apps? You’re not alone. In this Valentine’s Day episode, I explain why finding love in the digital age is so hard, despite dating apps giving us access to more prospects than ever before. I explore how social media has distorted our expectations of relationships, the reason dating apps are not designed to be deleted, and share 10 tips to help you navigate dating apps more successfully, so that you can find the partner of your dreams.

 

Episode notes

In this episode, I talk about:

  • Why it’s impossible to ignore Valentine’s Day online and how love has been commercialised
  • The reason you no longer know what you need from a partner and how social media has warped your expectations of what a relationship should look like
  • The dangers of social stalking, judging prospects too quickly, and making assumptions about people based on what you see online
  • How you create unnecessary anxiety when you try to avoid rejection by misrepresenting yourself
  • Why your attention span isn’t what it used to be and how dating apps offer you too much choice, leading to choice overload
  • The persuasive design features employed by modern dating apps to keep you using them instead of finding love in the real world
  • Why your brain prefers cheap dopamine from a dating app to the dopamine you’d get from leaving your house to meet someone in real life
  • 10 tips to help you get the most out of your dating app experience and meet someone instead of endlessly swiping

Resources and tools mentioned:

 

Episode transcript

Expand to read a transcript of this episode

[00:00:34] Hey guys, welcome back to The Digital Diet Podcast. I hope you’re having a great day. And if you’re listening to this on the day of release, then it is the 14th February, and you know what that means. It is, of course, Valentine’s day. So Happy Valentine’s Day to you, Happy Galentine’s Day, and if you really don’t care about any of these things, then hey, Happy Tuesday!

[00:01:00] Now, whether you care about Valentine’s Day or not, you can’t really escape it anymore, no matter how hard you try. Back in the day, it was just cards, maybe flowers, sometimes a cheeky box of chocolates. And if you didn’t have someone in your life, or have any romantic prospects, you could just avoid going into the shops or to the grocery store and steer clear of trying to book dinner in any restaurant for about a week or so.

[00:01:28] It was easy enough to ignore the TV and all the ads and the rom coms that play back to back at this time of year, simply by turning it off. And with very little effort, your exposure to Valentine’s Day could be limited to someone asking if you got any cards or you have any plans. Or to calls with your bestie to discuss their Valentine’s Day escapades.

[00:01:50] Now, it’s like Valentine’s Day threw up on the internet. Twice. And once again in the morning, all over social media, just for good measure. There’s so much pressure to be doing something with someone, anyone, even if you don’t like them and will never see them again. And to be seen to be sending or receiving the most ostentatious gifts.

[00:02:14] For couples, it can be stressful trying to keep up with the Joneses. And for singletons, it all serves as a constant reminder that you’re alone, which, if you’re single by choice, is like water off a duck’s back. But if you’ve been trying to meet someone, can feel a little bit like a dagger to the heart.

[00:02:31] Now, let me preface this by saying I’m not a hater. I love love, and I’m talking specifically about romantic love here. Being in love is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Rom coms always get me in the feels and I love seeing the people around me be happy in their love. Love is great.

[00:02:51] But in the digital age, love has become commercialised and co-opted far more than it has at any other time. Love has become performative instead of being an authentic, natural, and private expression of our feelings. Relationships and the experience of being in one are constantly falsely represented on social media, and people’s genuine quest for love has been exploited for our entertainment through more TV shows than I can count.

[00:03:19] Meanwhile, without fail, each week a new dating app arrives on the scene, promising to help you find the one, but really just profiting from your innate desire to be coupled up. And although we now have more choices and more ways to find a partner, love seems to be harder to find than ever before.

[00:03:39] Despite this, many people haven’t given up hope, myself included. If you’ve already listened to Episode 1 of the podcast, then you’ll have heard me say that one of my goals always ends up being to fall in love and live happily ever after. I’m a product of way too many Disney movies as a child. What can I say?

[00:03:59] But I know that I’m not alone. And at this point, I could probably write the book on online dating. To be honest, at some point I probably will. I reckon it would be like therapy. But when I was training to become a digital wellness coach, what I learned gave me an entirely new perspective on the whole online dating experience.

[00:04:19] So, being that it’s Valentine’s Day, and we’re still talking about going after our goals, I thought it was only right that we talk about dating in the digital age, and how to navigate the madness without yourself going mad. Because, let’s face it, it’s a bit of a rollercoaster experience. This episode is especially for all my single ladies who are dating or thinking about diving into the dating pool. But if you’re in a relationship then do stick around because there’s hopefully a few pearls of wisdom in here for you too.

[00:04:49] If you’ve dabbled in online dating for any length of time then you’ll know that it’s full of the highest highs and the lowest lows. One minute you’re giddy with excitement because you’ve struck up a conversation with someone who seems perfect for you. And the next you’re swearing yourself off dating apps because they’ve ghosted you and you don’t know why. Like I said, complete rollercoaster.

[00:05:13] So what’s going on? Why is it so hard to find and connect with someone when we have more choices than we’ve ever had before? Firstly, a lot of people don’t know what they personally want or need deep down. And their expectations of what a relationship should look and feel like have been warped by what they see on social media.

[00:05:34] Relationships aren’t private anymore, and couples’ experiences are playing out publicly online in a way that often doesn’t accurately portray their day-to-day reality. This subconsciously makes us think that being in a relationship is supposed to look a certain way. You’re constantly supposed to be having the time of your life with your partner, dining at the best restaurants, travelling the world, getting flowers, jewellery or other gifts, and being honoured in appreciation posts, just because.

[00:06:06] So these are the qualities and the behaviours that you start to seek in a potential or actual partner without stopping to think whether that’s actually what you need or whether those things matter to you personally. Which leads to dismissing people that you could genuinely be happy with when they don’t exhibit these qualities, and your experience of dating them doesn’t match up to what you think a relationship is supposed to look like.

[00:06:31] And because most couples don’t post about the bad times or the daily struggles of being in a relationship, which are of course completely normal, you also end up having this rosy view and a much lower tolerance for hardships in your perspective or actual relationship. You want what you think other couples have.

[00:06:51] We’re all familiar with those celebrity “it couples” who endlessly post snaps of themselves together and constantly comment under each other’s posts. Until one day, suddenly they’re not following each other and all those posts have been deleted, wiping any trace of the relationship completely from their accounts. And the tabloids and the world at large react with so much shock because it feels so sudden. But it’s probably not sudden at all.

[00:07:16] Couples just don’t share the shit that they’re going through. In many cases, they even go overboard on the online PDA to convince the world that everything is fine. We’ve all done it. I’m not naming names, because that would get me into a lot of trouble, but I for sure have friends who are posting about the great dinner that they went on, the house that they just bought together, getting engaged or getting married, having babies, and behind closed doors some of those were actually really miserable moments.

[00:07:46] They had a massive fight in the cab on the way to that dinner and barely spoke to each other the whole time they were eating their meal. They’re sleeping in separate rooms in their brand new house. Their fiancé proposed because they forced them to. Or their parents weren’t at their wedding because they disapproved of their choice of partner. And they’re struggling to bond with their new baby because of postnatal depression. But you’d never know any of these things from looking at their social media posts.

[00:08:12] Unsurprisingly, I don’t post very often on my personal social media. But I used to. And I remember this moment so clearly, when I published my second book. I posted up a picture of some flowers with a caption that said, “Beautiful flowers from my lovely boyfriend to celebrate. Thank you,” and then I tagged him. And those flowers were from my then boyfriend. And everyone was like, “That’s so sweet,” “How supportive,” “He’s a keeper.”

[00:08:41] But that was one of the most toxic relationships of my life. I was completely miserable, we weren’t actually talking to each other at the time, and within, I want to say 10 days, if not less, we had broken up. So things are definitely not always as they might seem on social media.

[00:08:59] Social media has given us this view into other people’s relationships in real time that we never had before, and it’s inadvertently created so much pressure for our own relationship to look a certain way, because we’re afraid of what it might mean if it doesn’t. If your relationship doesn’t match up, it makes you think that there must be something wrong with it.

[00:09:19] That your partner doesn’t love you enough. Or that the guy you met three months ago should have proposed to you by now, because you’ve seen three people that you went to university with get engaged on your feed this week, and they only met their own partners three weeks ago. Our expectations have become completely distorted. And we’ve lost touch with what we value as individuals and what’s important for us in a relationship.

[00:09:42] Secondly, we’re quick to judge people and make assumptions about them based on the limited information that we have. What’s on someone’s dating profile is just a snapshot, and a very heavily curated one at that. But instead of talking to people and, shock horror, actually meeting them in person to get to know them, we stalk their social media profiles and Google them until we think we know everything about them. Including their love for their friend’s cousin’s dog, that they walked last May, after brunch at the place that’s next to the building where they used to work.

[00:10:16] We’ve only scratched the surface, and often lack context for many of the things that we think we know about another person from reading their dating profile or stalking them online. Yet we believe that we know enough to decide whether or not they’re right for us. And because we do it, we worry that prospective dates are doing the same thing. So it puts even more pressure on us to present the version of ourselves that we think people will like and be attracted to, even when it isn’t authentic.

[00:10:45] This is what has people going overboard on the filters. Posting snaps from that one New Year’s visit to the gym, so that they look like they’re into fitness. And sharing older pictures where they look younger or skinnier, because they’re afraid that the way they look now won’t be enough. Which creates even more anxiety, because after these tactics attract someone, you feel more pressure to keep up the charade. And it’s not possible to maintain it forever. It gets exhausting.

[00:11:13] So once you drop your guard, or the other person gets to know you and realises that this isn’t the real you, you experience rejection. Rejection is painful and unpleasant, of course it is, but this rejection of your real self becomes evidence for your mind that supports the false belief that you’re not enough as you are. Which leads to repeating the same behaviours out of anxiety and fuelling what becomes a vicious cycle.

[00:11:38] And although many of us feel completely justified in rejecting other people, either based on what we think we know about them, or because they misrepresented themselves and got caught out, we don’t always recognise that we’re doing the same thing and feel outraged when we get rejected ourselves.

[00:11:55] Thirdly, although dating apps have widened your prospective dating pool, and this is generally viewed as a good thing, your attention span isn’t what it used to be, and there is in fact too much choice, so you don’t end up committing to anyone. Research suggests that your brain’s capacity for decision-making is optimal when there are an intermediate number of options. When there are too many options, you become overwhelmed because it’s difficult for your brain to process, evaluate, and compare so many choices. And this is known as choice overload.

[00:12:29] The effect can be so pronounced that you delay choosing or end up making no decision at all, even when this goes against your best interests. There’s a great TED talk from Sheena Iyengar, who is a professor at Columbia University and one of the leading experts on choice. And it explains this concept really well. I’ll link the talk in the show notes, but one of the stories that she tells in the video is about jam.

[00:12:54] They put two pop-up stalls in a supermarket, one with a choice of six jams and one with a choice of 24. Although the stall with 24 jams had more visitors, more of the visitors to the six jam stall actually bought jam. So the sales and the resulting revenue were higher. Despite the variety of 24 jams being more appealing, the choice overload meant that ultimately less people made a purchase.

[00:13:20] And this is what’s happening when you have six different dating apps to choose from, and each of those presents you with a seemingly endless number of prospective partners. You’re so overloaded that you don’t end up choosing anyone, even though the whole reason you downloaded the apps was to meet someone.

[00:13:37] And even when the prospects that you find seem great, you delay choosing and committing to any one of them because you’re constantly being presented with other options. Which makes you wonder if you could do better, and worry that you might be settling too soon.

[00:13:51] Choice overload is compounded by our now very limited attention spans. We have different types of attention and executive attention, which is the one that you need to focus and concentrate for long periods of time so that you can pursue a goal, is in very short supply in the digital age.

[00:14:09] We’ve been conditioned to constantly expect distractions from our devices through notifications. And we’re constantly distracting ourselves by picking our devices up just to check them, even when we don’t get a notification. Now, we’re instantly rewarded for this behaviour with a dopamine hit, which creates feelings of joy and pleasure. So we keep doing it because the dopamine hit we’d get from reaching our goal feels so much further away, and we’d have to work harder for it.

[00:14:38] So now we’re not very good at engaging in conversations with prospective partners over any real length of time, because we don’t have the capacity for executive attention that we used to have. Actual conversations require effort from you. And the reward from putting in that effort, so getting a date and ultimately finding a partner, isn’t instant enough.

[00:14:58] So after an initial dopamine hit from swiping right and matching with someone, you don’t stay the course and you quickly lose interest in conversations, despite saying that you’re serious about looking for love and finding a connection. Ultimately, it’s faster and easier to get a dopamine hit by swiping and matching with someone else, so you keep swiping and not actually engaging with your matches.

[00:15:20] And when you combine that with one of the other types of attention, alerting attention, which enables you to detect novelty in your environment so that you don’t miss out on opportunities to get rewards or avoid threats, the problem becomes compounded even further. Alerting attention is a function of your primitive brain that evolved to support your survival by reflexively alerting you to food, danger, and of course prospective mates or reproductive partners, without the need for conscious thought.

[00:15:51] Alerting attention puts you in a constant state of readiness to receive information, and it’s triggered by external stimuli like a notification that someone has liked your profile, sent you a message, or otherwise wants to match with you. As well as by internal stimuli, which includes distracting thoughts, such as, what if there’s someone better, hotter, funnier, or smarter?

[00:16:13] So now, even if you are putting in the effort and having a great time getting to know someone on a dating app, between the notifications about other users and your own internal thought processes, you keep finding your attention diverted away from them because you’re easily distracted by the novelty factor of somebody new. Even though this is technically moving you further away from your goal of a committed partner, because instead of going on six dates with one person, you’re going on six first dates with six different people.

[00:16:43] And this plays into the fourth and final reason why I think dating in the digital age is so hard. Which is that ultimately dating apps are not, for the most part, designed for you to get off of them. And because of the ease of swiping left and right without having to leave the comfort of your sofa, most people have forgotten or don’t bother with trying to meet people in other ways.

[00:17:04] And this is what is perhaps the most fascinating thing of all to me when it comes to dating apps. Because after the initial excitement, and the huge ego boost of having multiple people express an interest in you by liking your profile or sending you messages, nobody, and I mean nobody, myself included, actually enjoys the experience of being on a dating app. It’s exhausting.

[00:17:29] So many people describe the chore of constantly sifting through stacks of potential partners as being like having a second job. And for the few positive experiences, and the success stories of Hinge dates that turned into beautiful relationships or marriages, there are way more negative experiences and horror stories.

[00:17:46] And I don’t just mean the bad dates with the weird people that you might find yourself on. But also negative experiences like being ghosted or catfished, receiving unsolicited dick pics or abusive messages, and being the target of both racial fetishisation and racial discrimination, all because of interactions with people that you never even meet in real life. It’s a lot. But we keep going back because most dating apps employ the same persuasive design techniques that social media apps use to keep us hooked on their platforms.

[00:18:18] Persuasive design is a very common and deliberate practice among technology companies, where features are introduced into their products and services with the intention of influencing or otherwise changing your behaviour, usually encouraging you to repeatedly use the product or service for increasing lengths of time, regardless of whether that’s in your best interests or not.

[00:18:39] And often you make these behavioural changes completely unconsciously. Because the features work by leveraging or exploiting basic principles of human behavioural psychology, and tapping into the dopamine feedback loop that we talked about in Episode 1.

[00:18:54] So for a dating app, some examples would be intermittent variable rewards. So features which provide rewards that vary in frequency or size, encouraging you to repeat behaviours more often in anticipation of the unknown, like constantly swiping through the stack of potential partners because you don’t know who you might be rewarded with.

[00:19:15] There is instant interruption. So features that capitalise on your fear of missing something important or missing out altogether, like the notifications telling you that someone’s liked you or sent you a message, or that people are actively swiping right now in your area and you’ll miss them if you don’t jump online and start swiping.

[00:19:33] There’s scarcity. So features that create a sense of urgency around your actions, because you tend to view things as being more desirable and valuable if they’re in short or limited supply. So on Bumble, where matches have to start a conversation within 24 hours otherwise the connection disappears, which leads to a lot of, “Hey, how are you? I’m good, and you?” starters that never go any further.

[00:19:56] And there is also the absence of stopping cues. So features that omit natural indicators that your experience is finished or should end, encouraging you to unconsciously spend more of your time on the app than you originally intended, like the ability to infinitely swipe through prospects. It used to happen when Tinder was first launched, but now I don’t think anyone has ever reached the end where they’ve swiped through all the users, because there are just so many users and people are constantly entering and leaving the dating pool.

[00:20:24] So we’re hooked. And even though it means a rollercoaster ride and some truly unpleasant experiences, ultimately, the fact that it’s quicker and easier to get a dopamine hit this way than it is to get one from actually getting dressed, leaving your house, and meeting someone new in real life wins out. Despite the fact that you may not actually meet anybody after all that swiping.

[00:20:47] So, since it’s unlikely that dating apps are going anywhere anytime soon, here are my 10 tips to make using them and dating in the digital age a more rewarding experience. And by that, I mean one where the reward is actually meeting someone in real life.

[00:21:03] Tip #1 is to ask yourself what you really want. What qualities are actually important to you? And then be honest about those things with other people. Now, I’m not here to judge. Whether you’re looking for a casual hookup, you want marriage and the whole nine yards, you’re fresh out of a relationship and want to take things slowly, you’re in an open relationship, or you’re in a relationship looking for a third person to spice things up. It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re honest about that with yourself, and the people that you’re meeting.

[00:21:37] There is someone for everyone, if not several people, and someone for every situation. And the only thing that happens when you’re not honest about your intentions is that people get hurt. Sometimes it’s the other person, because they’re expecting more than you’re actually willing to give. But sometimes that person is you, because you weren’t honest about what you wanted, went after the wrong thing, or accepted a situation that ultimately left you alone and feeling disappointed.

[00:22:06] Similarly, think about what qualities matter most to you and not what social media tells you that you should be looking for in a prospective partner. You’ll probably find that most of what you thought was important isn’t important at all. The classic one here is height. Women tall and short all seem to want a man over 6ft tall. And while I’m not saying that physical attraction isn’t important, how much bearing would it have on your prospective relationship if he was 5’8?

[00:22:36] Would it make him more or less likely to be kind, romantic, respectful, or good at communicating? Most of what you’ve been conditioned to think matters, and what you therefore base your choices on, likely doesn’t matter. Trust me, I’ve dated the 6’3 guys and the 5’6 guys and it has had zero bearing on the relationships. Plus, there are only so many available guys that are 6ft plus in the world anyway.

[00:23:03] So really think about what qualities and personal attributes are important to you. This will make it much easier to filter through the wall of people you’re constantly being presented with to find someone who’s genuinely compatible with your personality, needs, and your expectations. It will help you to ask more insightful and revealing questions when you’re getting to know someone and trying to figure out if they’re the right fit. And it will stop you wasting other people’s time, as well as your own.

[00:23:33] Tip #2 is to present yourself honestly and authentically. It might feel scary putting yourself out there for all to see, but it’s important that you show up as authentically as possible, because eventually whoever you connect with is going to see who you really are. The good, the bad, and the ugly parts.

[00:23:52] Unlike social media, real life is not a highlight reel. And you’re doing yourself and your prospective partners a disservice every time you manipulate or outright lie about the person that you really are and the life that you live. You don’t need to. And at the risk of sounding like a trite Instagram quote, you are fabulous just as you are, and the right person will see that.

[00:24:14] That doesn’t mean that you have to post profile pictures of what you look like when you wake up first thing in the morning, give daily rundowns of everything that’s happening in your life when you talk, or even share personal information that you’re not yet ready to share. But it does mean not being deliberately deceitful.

[00:24:32] Obviously, you want to put your best foot forward when creating your profile and engaging in conversations, but it’s completely possible to do that in an authentic way. And doing so will not only relieve you of the burden of having to keep up a false pretence, but it will also leave you with much less anxiety that the other person is going to discover the truth and reject you at some point.

[00:24:55] So include recent pictures on your profile of you doing everyday things. Not just pictures that you filtered and photoshopped, or pictures where you’re dressed up to the nines because you’re at a wedding or going somewhere fancy, or pictures that are five years old because your stomach used to be flatter and you had less grey hair. Just. Be. Real.

[00:25:15] And the same goes for the things that you write on your profile and share when you’re messaging with a match. You don’t have to be the funniest or wittiest person. Not everyone is funny, and not everyone is looking for funny either. For some people, funny is even a turn off.

[00:25:30] If you’re a bit of a geek, then go ahead and let your geekiness shine through. And if you don’t want kids, then don’t pretend that you do just because the hot guy you’ve been talking to said that he’s always wanted to have a big family. Be yourself, because that’s exactly what you’d expect from others.

[00:25:47] Tip #3 is to pick one app and stick it out. It might instinctively seem like a great idea to have every app going to increase your chances of finding love but, as I explained earlier, having more choices is actually counterproductive. And since the apps are doing the most to keep you coming back by including all these persuasive design features, the last thing you need is five apps doing that because you’ll end up spending so much time on apps that you won’t actually have time to go on dates.

[00:26:17] Every time you get overwhelmed or bored by one app, you’ll find yourself flicking over to another, instead of focusing on seeing whether the first app truly has something to offer you or if it’s a poor fit for your needs. And this will only tire you out faster. Choosing which app to hone in on is a very personal decision, and that’s why it helps to know what it is that you want and what’s important to you up front, as I mentioned in Tip #1.

[00:26:43] These days, each app’s marketing does quite a lot of the signalling and signposting for you. Tinder for hookups, eHarmony is for those seeking a compatible life partner, Hinge is the relationship app, and there are even a whole host of religiously affiliated apps from JSwipe for Jews to Muzz for Muslims. And if you try out an app, and after giving it a good go it doesn’t feel like it’s the right fit, that’s fine. Delete your account, delete the app from your device, and try out another one.

[00:27:13] Tip #4 is to cut down your choices by using filters. Even if you’ve chosen the app that most broadly fits with your dating goals, it obviously doesn’t mean that every single person on there will be a match for you. So there’s still some work to do to further refine the options that you see. And of course, now you know that less is more when it comes to making choices.

[00:27:35] If you watch the TED Talk, you’ll hear Professor Iyengar explain that one of the ways to improve the presentation of options is categorisation. And that the complexity of the choices on offer and the order in which they are presented to you also has an impact on your ability to choose.

[00:27:52] Essentially, it’s easier for you to make choices between categories. And it helps if you choose between fewer options, i.e. lower complexity, and work your way up to decisions with more options or higher complexity. On a dating app, this means making use of the filters available and, having already identified what’s important to you and what qualities you’re looking for in a potential partner, this should be a piece of cake.

[00:28:18] Before you go swiping through the stack, take a look at the available filters. There are always some free ones and sometimes you can access more if you’re willing to pay a premium account subscription. Common filters include gender identity, location or distance from you, age, height, ethnicity, religion, politics, alcohol consumption, illegal and legal drug use, education, children, future family plans.

[00:28:48] There’s actually quite a lot available and while some of those categories have attracted controversy, if they help to narrow down your options and find your needle in the haystack, then they’ve got my backing. The options within these categories are limited, making the choices easier to tackle mentally before you unleash your swiping finger on the stack, which you know has seemingly endless options.

[00:29:11] But at least now the stack will contain people that are more likely to be compatible with your needs. And on some of the dating apps, this also means that only people who fall into the categories that you’ve chosen can see you in their stack and ultimately like or message you. So now the incoming options are also more likely to be suited to your needs.

[00:29:31] Tip #5 is to make the first move. If I had a pound for every woman that told me that she never swipes or likes people on dating apps, she just waits for people to like her or send her messages, I’d be a very rich woman by now. It’s the 21st century, and this is the equivalent of standing in a bar, posing and pouting, waiting for someone to come and talk to you, even though you can see the guy that you want to talk to standing 3ft away. Don’t do it.

[00:30:00] You will get out what you put in when it comes to online dating, and your chances of finding your person are greatly increased if you’re both actively looking for each other. For heterosexual women in particular, dating apps have kind of levelled the playing field, in the sense that it’s no longer unusual at all for women to approach or initiate interactions with men. It’s even expected.

[00:30:24] What stops many women is a fear of rejection. But if you use dating apps, you will get used to rejection pretty quickly and realise that 99% of the time it has nothing to do with you. You’re just not what someone is looking for. And rejection on dating apps is also much less awkward than it is in person.

[00:30:43] You’re not standing right in front of someone. They either don’t match with you or they don’t respond to your message. So there’s no need to worry about saving face. And, ultimately, rejection is a good thing, because it means you’re not wasting your time on people who have no interest in you.

[00:30:59] Tip #6 is to be active in conversations and move to a date in real life as soon as you can. If you’ve matched with someone, then have a conversation. That’s the whole point. Although many people do it, and I myself have definitely been guilty of this at times, the point of online dating is not to collect a long list of people that you kind of like the look of. You have to actually put some effort into interacting with people if you want to move forward.

[00:31:26] They say conversation is a dying art, but it doesn’t have to be. First of all, don’t simply say, “hey.” That’s not a conversation starter and you can’t expect the other person to do all the work. It’s generally frowned upon and there’s even a term for people who, on principle, won’t reply to conversations that are initiated with this one word. They’re called Heyters.

[00:31:49] If you don’t know what to say, then ask them about something that you saw on their profile. What was it that caught your eye in the first place? And make sure you’re continually asking open-ended questions, because nothing kills a conversation faster than statements that don’t require a response, or questions that require a simple one word answer like yes or no.

[00:32:11] This might seem like a lot of work, and it is. It’s meant to be. That’s why it’s only sustainable with, at best, a couple of people at any one time. I’m not suggesting that you do this with the 50 matches that you’ve collected. I’m suggesting that you do this with matches as soon as you make them, instead of moving on and swiping for yet more options.

[00:32:32] The app’s features and your brain’s quest for cheap dopamine will make you want to swipe because it’s a much easier task, but you have to fight back and resist if you genuinely want to meet someone and get off the apps for good. If the other person isn’t reciprocating, or you’re not finding the conversation stimulating, we’ve all been there, just end the conversation. Don’t leave them on read and start swiping. Say goodbye, wish them luck, delete the conversation, and then move on.

[00:33:01] And once you do get into the groove of a conversation with someone, and they don’t seem like a psychopath, move to a date in real life as soon as you can. A lot of people move to WhatsApp or other messaging apps to continue talking. They start having phone calls or video calls that go on for hours, but they never actually make it to a date. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who say they want to date, and are interested in meeting, but don’t come through with the goods when it’s time to make it happen, preferring to make excuses or ghost their matches instead.

[00:33:34] Just the other week a friend of mine was telling me that she suggested moving to WhatsApp after talking to a guy for a couple of weeks, and his response was to immediately unmatch her. And another guy that she had moved to WhatsApp with and made plans to meet, ended up with him ghosting her on the day of the date itself. I, myself, remember years ago arranging to meet someone. And I was literally getting out of the station next to where we were going to meet, when he cancelled on me via text with a family emergency, only for me to later discover that he’d basically had a better offer for the evening.

[00:34:06] So many people are comfortable being an arsehole on dating apps or over WhatsApp, because often the person at the other end doesn’t feel like a real human being with feelings. Since they’ve never met you in person, you’re essentially disposable, and hurting your feelings has no consequences for their life. It’s sad, but it’s true.

[00:34:24] And that’s why I suggest moving to a date in real life sooner rather than later, because it can save you a lot of wasted time. People will show you who they really are and their real intentions pretty quickly. And much like starting a conversation or initiating matches, you don’t have to wait for the other person to suggest it. Don’t be afraid to make the first move.

[00:34:45] Tip #7 is don’t stalk excessively. This is an important one. You’ve met someone that you like. You’re getting to know each other and it’s all going well. Don’t start excessively stalking them on social media. And I say this one with a pinch of salt. The best way to get to know someone is to talk to them and spend time with them. As you already know, social media isn’t real, it’s a curated highlight reel. That means that whatever you find is only part of the picture, and you run the risk of making judgements about them without context.

[00:35:22] Someone that’s serious about building something with you will tell you about themselves in their own time, but they can only do that if you let them. It’s also a much more enjoyable experience to discover and learn things about your prospective partner from them themselves. Learning that you both were at the same concert three years ago, or have mutual friends in common, or both experienced the loss of a loved one, starts to create a bond. But that doesn’t happen when you’ve trawled through their Instagram profile to familiarise yourself with their social circle or ex partners, and scrolled all the way back to their first ever tweet.

[00:35:57] The caveat here is that, unfortunately, some people have no problem lying and being deliberately deceitful. And if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this in the past, then the temptation to stalk can be really strong because it feels like an act of protection. I’ve encountered these types of people more times than I can count, with men lying about everything from their name, age, or job, to their relationship status and the fact that they have several kids. And in the end, it’s not the reality that’s the main problem, it’s what it says about that person’s qualities and character. They’re comfortable lying, and that’s not on my list of qualities.

[00:36:32] So I do understand the urge to stalk, and I think this one is a judgement call. Which is why I’m saying, don’t do it excessively. If it brings you comfort to check the basic facts, then go ahead and do it. But don’t go full Sherlock Holmes and start scouring their social media or obsessively googling them trying to prove to yourself that they’re lying, because chances are if you go looking for trouble, you’ll probably find it.

[00:36:57] Tip #8 is to delete dating apps when you’re dating someone. It might seem obvious, but most people don’t do it. Either they forget or they’re hedging their bets and trying to keep their options open. Either way, keeping this virtual avenue open could be costing you progress with a partner in real life.

[00:37:14] The apps are designed to keep you coming back and to lure you back in if you stray too far. So instead of focusing your attention and channelling your energy into that great person that you met, you’ll keep being tempted and distracted by the plethora of options that the apps have to offer.

[00:37:30] As you already know, too many choices leads to choice overload, and can result in you making no choices at all. And in the context of dating, that means not committing to anyone at all. So the only way to get around this is to delete the apps, and it’s also the easiest thing to do. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to leave an app properly, but they make it as convoluted as possible, so that often you end up giving up and resigning yourself to the fact that you’re still on the app.

[00:37:58] Now, I can already hear you saying, “But Marisha, what if it doesn’t work out with the person that I’m dating and I need to get back on the app?” And this isn’t something that you need to worry about, because you’re covered in this situation too. I’m not suggesting that you delete your profile or account, although it’s probably good practice to pause your profile so that you don’t appear in other people’s searches since you’re no longer actively looking for dates on the app, but you just need to delete the app from your phone so that you don’t see it.

[00:38:25] That way, you’re not tempted to open it up when you get bored, or curious, or you have an inevitable off day with the person that you’re dating. And it will also stop you receiving notifications that would otherwise lure you back in. The relationships that I have had that resulted from a dating app all have this in common. We very quickly ditched the app that had brought us together, and it allowed us to focus and invest our time in getting to know each other better, instead of spreading it thinly trying to juggle our other matches. Ultimately, the grass is green where you water it. And should you find yourself needing to download the app again, all of your profile, conversation history, and matches will still be there.

[00:39:03] Tip #9 is to take the pressure off by doing other things to find love. Repeat after me, “Dating apps are not the only way to find love,” even though sometimes it might feel like it. When you pin all your hopes on a dating app, you’re putting yourself under tremendous amounts of pressure and potentially setting yourself up for a huge disappointment. As I’ve said many times throughout this episode, the experience is a rollercoaster ride, which means that there are no guarantees.

[00:39:33] Though they offer a huge amount of promise, the experience is also vastly different for certain groups of people. It’s fairly well documented that people from Black, Asian, and Latin backgrounds have a tougher time finding matches than White people. And I know from my own experiences that the sheer number and quality of the people in my stack was much higher when I was in my 20s, than it is now that I’m in my 30s.

[00:39:56] So instead of treating it like the only option, treat dating apps as one of your options, because you can look for love online while still looking for it in the real world. The two are not mutually exclusive. Now, I’m not saying that you need to go clubbing and bar hopping every week, but there are definitely options. Check out singles events, like parties or speed dating. Try out new social hobbies or find groups organised around something that you’re already into on Meetup, and then join them.

[00:40:25] I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met since starting salsa lessons at the beginning of the year, and there are new people joining the classes all the time. You could also attend networking events that are not centred around dating at all, like talks or museum lates or film screenings. And if you want to be really smart and combine the two, then my pick is the Thursday dating app.

[00:40:46] Now, I’m not being paid to endorse this, I just think it’s a genuinely great idea with my digital wellness hat on, if it’s available in your city. The Thursday app only works on Thursday. You literally cannot do anything else or use any of the app’s features on any other day of the week. On Thursdays, you can do all the things that you would do on any other dating app, so, liking people and messaging them. But there’s a catch.

[00:41:11] The matches and the conversations disappear forever at midnight. If you come back the following Thursday, you’re starting again from scratch. So it encourages you to engage in conversations, and by nominating Thursday as dating day, the intention is that you arrange to meet your preferred match that same day, or at least exchange contact information so that you can arrange to meet another day.

[00:41:33] It encourages you to be deliberate and intentional by concentrating your dating efforts on a single day. Which is much easier for most busy people to commit to and less distracting in the context of the rest of your life. On top of that, Thursday puts on events every week, usually a lot of bars, but sometimes restaurants or other activities like team games or workouts. And you can only buy a ticket and attend if you’re on the Thursday app, meaning everyone attending is single. And the app does a pretty good job of making your event options easy by using categories, which we already talked about. So you can filter by age, or filter by type of event, depending on what you’re in the mood for.

[00:42:13] I’ve personally been to a few over 30s Thursday events in London, and always had a decent time and met lots of people. Everyone is usually very friendly, it’s pretty chilled out, and everyone is ultimately looking for, and hoping for, the same thing. But what I love most about it is that you get to meet people in real life from the get go and you have real conversations.

[00:42:35] It also taught me that a lot of the things that I was writing people off for on dating apps didn’t matter to me in real life, because I wasn’t even thinking about them or didn’t even notice or care when they came up. So if Thursday is available in your city, then I definitely recommend it. I’ll link the app in the show notes for anyone that’s interested.

[00:42:54] My tenth and final tip is to take a break whenever you need to. Sometimes the rollercoaster gets too much and you just gotta get off. If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed by your dating app experience, take a break. Pause your profile, delete the app, and come back if and when you feel comfortable.

[00:43:13] Dating apps are not for everybody. And even if your experience has been mostly positive, sometimes there are other things going on in your life that mean you find it more of a chore than usual and you can’t show up as your best self. It’s okay to prioritise yourself and whatever else you need to in your life, for as long as you need to. There will still be plenty of options if, and when, you decide to fire the app back up.

[00:43:36] So, there you have it. If you’re committed to having a better experience of dating in the digital age, then hopefully some of the tips I’ve shared will help you to navigate online dating apps, so that you can find your special someone and ultimately delete the apps for good.

[00:43:51] That’s it for today’s episode. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed it and you’ve found the tips useful. You can find the show notes for the episode over on my website at thedigitaldietcoach.com/004. And, as always, if you do decide to adjust your approach to online dating, then I’d love to hear how you got on. You can either leave a comment on your social media platform of choice – all my handles can be found on the show notes page, so that you can tag me – or you can email me directly at podcast@thedigitaldietcoach.com. I promise to respond to every single message. I know that you’re busy and I know your time is valuable. So, as always, I thank you for choosing to spend a little of your day with me, and I’ll see you next time.

Keep in touch with me

Get Unplugged

Unplugged is a short weekly newsletter designed to help you put the focus back on yourself, your wellbeing, and your life offline. Expect a question or prompt to reflect on, a digital wellness challenge to try in your own life, the cliff notes for any advice, tips, or tech-life hacks discussed on my podcast, and info about upcoming coaching programmes and events.

You can unsubscribe at any time and I'll never send you spam – ever.
Marisha Pink

Meet Marisha

Marisha Pink is a Certified Digital Wellness Coach who is on a mission to empower women everywhere to live life more intentionally in an age of digital distractions. She helps women create healthier digital habits that better balance the technology in their lives, so that they can take back control of their time, reclaim their happiness, and live their best lives offline.

Pin It on Pinterest