I was talking to a group of my girlfriends the other day and the topic of dating came up. “I deleted my dating apps again,” they said. No, neither had entered into a relationship and was now deleting their apps because their exclusive relationship required it, but rather, they were deleting their apps because they were talking to too many men, going on too many uneventful first dates, sending out too many messages only to receive radio silence, and getting too many “Sups” from uninspired suitors. These women were deleting their dating apps because they were tired.
They had reached online dating fatigue.
Curious to find out if anyone else had hit a wall in their online search for love, I polled a selection of singles who were actively dating and learned that all of them had deleted their dating apps recently, and most commonly, have deleted and reactivated their apps over and over again. The reason for deleting their dating apps all seemed to boil down to either time consuming, frustrating, or boring.
“I have a volatile relationship with Tinder. I’ve downloaded and deleted that app maybe six times in the last 12 months. I usually delete Tinder because I get no messages or matches. And I really have no time for mindless small talk and flaky people. I lowkey really hate any kind of messaging, whether it’s texting or chatting on whatever app.” – Quyen, early twenties.
“Mostly it’s the small talk. I mean, there is soooo much small talk. Which gets repetitive, and then gets boring.” – Matt, late twenties.
“I’ll just delete my dating apps temporarily to take a break from online dating in general. I think after a while the disappointment gets exhausting — whether it be from a bunch of dates with no real connection or guys not messaging back or what. Online dating is also just time-consuming.” – Kate, mid-twenties*.
“I have deleted my Tinder app three times because even after I swipe right two million times I never get a match and even that one rare time I do get a match, I never get a response when I message someone. I get frustrated and give up.” – Chris, late-twenties.
“Honestly, I get really fed up with all the same bullshit and aggressively persistent men. I’m not obligated to talk to someone.” – Olivia, late-twenties.
“The constant swiping and messaging and checking my app was becoming a chore. A boring chore that took out all the supposed ‘fun’ in dating. And when I did go on a date, they were so underwhelming, it just felt like, What’s the point of this?” – Jess, late-twenties*
“The overall feeling is that I was investing a lot of time and energy without any results (good or bad). Chat conversations fizzled quickly if they began at all. Conversations often ended as soon as I recommended meeting for a drink or coffee.” – Shane, late twenties.
*Some names have been changed.
According to a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center, 1/3 of singles on a dating app have not actually gone on any dates from the app. And among Americans who were married or in a committed relationship in the last five years, 88% of them met their partner offline. A different 2013 study by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claims that 35% of marriages start online. Of course there is some discrepancy amongst these two studies, but the point being, online dating isn’t this match-making godsend we assume it to be.
Unfortunately, not enough data has been conducted on this idea of “dating fatigue” but online dating fatigue is a real thing. Are dating apps actually helping people date, or is it just a way to casually scroll through images of strangers while wasting a couple hours of your day?
You’re tired of the grind of swiping, but you could also very well be tired of the endless stream of rejection. Sue Mandel, a Marriage and Family Therapist, dating coach, and founder of Dr. Sue’s Connections, has this to say on the topic of online dating and rejection.
“Whether offline or on, people take breaks from dating not only because they’re tired of the grind, but also from feeling rejected and disillusioned. Even as we evaluate each other electronically, having never met, the perception of rejection is powerfully felt. And so, dating apps and online dating cause real pain when we’ve been swiped to the left instead of the right, or we weren’t messaged after having our profile viewed. I think we reach dating fatigue because we reject, and are rejected, all too quickly before giving ourselves a chance to really know somebody. I think women get dating fatigue because there is a strong sense in the dating world of being expendable, and men reach dating fatigue because there’s a sense of never measuring up. I both experienced, and hear from my clients, ‘the coffee dates never end’- and we get sick of it.”
Online dating is perceived as being efficient, easy, and fun. Key word, perceived, because online dating is actually hurting our offline dating lives.
“The more we are on our devices to connect romantically through email and text – and especially in the initial phase where we are flirty and playful – the more our offline social skills suffer. Texting and emailing removes all of the social cues, facial expressions, and spontaneity of being in person. Our words are planned and don’t reflect our real selves,” Says Mandel.
Amy Van Doran, a match-maker and creator of Modern Love club, put it another way.
“People spend most of their days behind a computer screen only to get off work and spend their dating search behind another screen. I am rarely happy behind a screen, and the way to attract your best match is to be in a place where you are your highest self.”
So, if you’re fed up with dating apps and you’ve heard the downsides of online dating, then why did every single I spoke to return to online dating even after deleting their apps?
“Wanting to meet people to hang out with,” “Hard to meet people otherwise,” and “Trying to get out of my isolation cave and be more proactive in having human contact,” were among the common reasons for reactivating dating apps after deletion.
But the frustration returns because your dating app is not going to be different after two weeks of non-use, but there is a sense that this little widget on our phone holds the keys to our future happiness, regardless of how “frustrating” we find it.
“Finding true love is what fuels all dating and attempts to date, and the fact that ‘it only takes one’ brings us back from the brink of hopelessness to try again and again. While it’s exhausting we tend not to give up permanently.” Says Mandel.
But why do we get dating app fatigue and not regular dating fatigue? It’s rare to hear someone who doesn’t do online dating ever complain about dating. “Uggh, I’m so tired of living my authentic life and being pleasantly surprised by people hitting on me,” said no-one ever.
It’s because of the mechanism by which dating apps work that makes them inherently flawed.
“Part of the problem [with online dating] is that there is an endless parade of people popping up on the dating site and app screens, giving the illusion that we don’t have to compromise our ‘must-have’ list,” says Mandel.
This idea of the “must-haves” list is interesting. We will swipe left ad nauseam until we find someone who checks all our boxes because we assume we will find this person since it appears as if we have unlimited options. Imagine living in a small town without as many dating prospects. You’ll probably make the partner you have, work, rather than pass them off after one date to see who else has landed in your inbox.
Van Doran put it this way, “There is a tendency with online dating to go on lots of first dates – because, well, FOMO.”
FOMO. The fear of missing out. We’re all afraid of missing out on THE ONE, so we swipe and date and text and swipe until we are literally too exhausted to keep looking for THE ONE. Online dating is pushing a giant boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down again.
So, the unlimited options we think we have with online dating keeps us swiping for infinity hoping to find “the one”, but those unlimited matches gives us unlimited opportunities for rejection, which in turn exhausts us and forces us to give up the search, the search we originally felt was exciting and limitless. THAT is why you are tired of online dating.