Whelming is the newest horrible dating trend — and you’ve definitely experienced it

Just when we thought—or at least hoped—that frustrating dating trends had come to an end, yet another one has been dropped into our laps. It’s called whelming, which, naturally, begs the question, have you been whelmed lately?

If you’re scratching your head and wondering what this could possibly even mean, I’ll break it down for you: “Whelming,” a term coined by SELF journalist Patia Braithwaite, is when your dating app matches complain to you about all the other matches they have on all their dating apps. No joke. You could be having a lovely chat, then all of a sudden your match could just toss in there, “Ugh. I’m so overwhelmed with all these matches! So many people to choose from, yet so little time.” In other words, it’s a not-so-subtle way for someone to let you know just how in-demand they are. Although, if that’s their technique, they’re not going to stay in-demand for very long. 

“The reality of ‘whelming’ is you are manipulating someone so that you can seem desirable to the other person,” explains Clarissa Silva, a behavioral scientist, relationship coach, and creator of the Your Happiness Hypothesis Method.

The only person who truly benefits from this behavior, though, is the person doing the manipulating, Silva tells HelloGiggles; it helps preserve their ego.

Before I totally drag whelming through the mud and lump it together with ghosting, breadcrumbing, benching, cloaking, and all the other cringeworthy dating trends that are enough to make even the calmest person flip the closest table, I need to admit that I’ve been on guilty of whelming myself. Just two weeks ago, I dropped my Tinder Gold in Rome (I’m currently stateside with no immediate plan to fly off to Italy anytime soon, FYI) just to see how many matches I’d get. Within the first 24 hours, over 300 guys had right swiped on me, giving me ample opportunity to have a whole boatload of matches. Although I chose not to right swipe on any of them, mostly because I don’t know how to say in Italian, “I just wanted to see what my chances were of procuring an Italian husband someday before I die,” the amount of men who were interested in me gave my ego the boost it had been craving. Even if I didn’t brag to any of them or even to my friends about all the matches that were within my reach, I did have an extra bounce in my step for those 24 hours.

But I’ve been on the other side of whelming, too, and I can say it sucked. Months before this word even made its way into our vocabularies, I was on a date with a Tinder match who couldn’t remember my name. When I jokingly asked him if it was because he had so many matches that he couldn’t keep track, he honestly said yes. It wasn’t as though he was bragging about being overwhelmed, but it still hurt to know I was just one of many people he’d been talking to recently. 

It’s a whole different story for those who deliberately whelm someone they’re either newly chatting with or dating, however. For these people, it’s almost as if they’re puffing up their chest and strutting around hoping their matches will notice just how wanted they are by so many others. After all, to be so desired by more than one person makes you a prize, right?

“The rationale for this latest shitty behavioral tactic is to inflate interest to seem more appealing than you actually are, says Silva. “In general, the bottom 80% of men (in terms of attractiveness) are competing for the bottom 22% of women and the top 78% of women are competing for the top 20% of men. That leaves the bulk of users with few matches that they would even consider dating.

Silva is citing a 2015 study of Tinder that, according to an article about it in Medium, “was conducted to quantify the Tinder socio-economic prospects for males based on the percentage of females that will ‘like’ them.” Needless to say, the findings weren’t exactly promising for straight men, which could contribute to this trend of “whelming.” So if you find yourself knee-deep in matches, it’s understandable that you might feel the urge to scream it from the highest rooftop: “I have a dozen matches on five different dating apps! I have finally arrived and my existence has been validated!”

But before you do that, remember that’s exactly all it is: validation.

"Since some [people] are interfacing digitally more than physically, it’s much easier to emotionally manipulate others because they are reliant on what I call ‘Vanity Validation,’" says Silva. "Their digital persona is constantly seeking more validation through electronic likes/swipes, instead of life experiences.

While, in many ways, online dating and apps have made dating easier, they’ve also made it more complicated. It’s easy to hide behind our phones, pretend to be something we’re not, and do things we probably wouldn’t dare do in the “real” world. But what apps have also done is opened a world of dating trends that generations before never had to deal with, at least not at this level.

At the end of the day, I’m sure most of us can agree that there’s nothing good about negative dating trends like whelming and ghosting except for being able to weed out the bad eggs if they pull this crap on you. So if someone whelms you, making you feel like you’re a dime a dozen, unmatch them and move on. Your self-worth is far more important than someone else’s need to inflate their ego.