If you’re currently single or have been in the past five years or so, there’s a 99% chance you’ve used a dating app to try and meet someone. (That’s not an exact statistic—just the results of a quick poll amongst my friends.)
You’ve swiped. You’ve matched. You’ve gone on dates. You’ve been ghosted.
And despite the positive experiences that can come from using apps, it's highly likely that you’ve also experienced the phenomenon of app fatigue. Yep, it's a thing.
Last year, The Atlantic explained what so many of us have been feeling in a piece titled: The Rise of Dating App Fatigue. The problem, the article explains, is that this tool that’s supposed to be the “easiest” way to meet someone, is actually incredibly labor-intensive and creates even more ambiguity in relationships.
Not that this is news to any of us. We know what it's like to feel all that labor and ambiguity gradually start to crush our spirit. It usually hits us in five distinct stages:
01. When it feels like a total burden.
Yawning and swiping at the same time? Yep, you're in the beginning stages of dating app fatigue. There comes a point (usually a few months in) when swiping on apps like Tinder and Bumble start to feel like a chore you must do in order to say you’re putting yourself “out there,” when this is all you might be doing. No longer does it seem to be an actual gateway to your next great romance. The numbers start to catch up with you—and, when maybe one out of a hundred swipes turns into a date, it’s not surprising. When using dating apps feels like something you have to do and not something you want to do, it can be hard to feel hopeful about the potential they hold.
What to do instead: Shake it off, and focus on real life (the kind off of the screens) for a moment. Try smiling and holding three seconds of eye contact with a cute stranger at a bar or coffee shop. (I dare you!)
02. When you open the app but you’re not really ‘using’ it.
Like going to the gym and only giving 50 percent in your workout, going on the apps and swiping without messaging your matches is a half-hearted effort—literally! When you start getting deeper into the throes of app fatigue, you might still be able to open them and do some browsing, but you’re not being intentional about your use. App fatigue sort of feels like letting the air out of the tires but trying to pedal the bike anyway. I’ve totally exhausted my allotted metaphors here, but you get what I mean.
What to do instead: This may sound really cheesy, but go over to Bumble’s blog and read some of their success stories. It will remind you that behind every profile is a living, breathing human who wants to find a connection, same as you.
03. When you start interacting with guys you’re not really interested in.
You know things are getting bad when you start telling yourself, “I’m being too picky, and that’s why this isn’t working.” (We’ve all told ourselves that whilst in the throws of singledom, have we not?) To try and right the ship, you try swiping on a few guys who look just okay. The matches lift your spirits, but the conversations fall flat. Still, you think you better give one of these guys a chance just so you can go on an actual date. But one bad first date can trigger your app fatigue even faster than a string of bad swipes.
What to do instead: It's important to be intentional with your time—and their time, too. Sure, getting tons of matches feels great for our egos (it's nice to feel wanted), but it's not so great for us, as a whole. Matching all the time is draining, so remember to be selective when you swipe right, as well as in the type of conversation you engage in—especially when you find yourself wasting hours of screentime with men you have no desire to see.
04. When you’ve already deleted and reactivated your apps… Probably more than once.
Perhaps the most frustrating stage of app fatigue is when you decide to delete the apps altogether —“I’m going to meet my next boyfriend IRL!” you proclaim—only to sign up again a few weeks or months later, having found meeting guys out in the world to be just as difficult as meeting them online. This is the paradox of app dating, isn’t it? We’re all doing it, we’re all frustrated with it, and yet the odds of meeting someone great in person seem just as slim. So are the apps the problem, or is it us?
What to do instead: These “downer” moments that seem to have no solution are when I like to remember that this isn’t happening because something is wrong with me. I pour a glass of wine, call a friend, and tell them my woes. I always feel better in the morning, even if my problems aren’t solved.
05. Ghosting is no longer surprising behavior—and you do it, too.
How do you know when you have hit the rock bottom of dating app fatigue? You ghost someone. Dating apps have allowed us to date more than most people of previous generations. When you’re feeling the melancholy weight of app fatigue, taking the effort to politely distance yourself from someone you hardly know feels laborious. That’s why so many of us have been ghosted by our Tinder and Bumble matches, and why you and I have done it, too.
What to do: Don’t ghost! Use my guide to kindly end things and help make the world of modern dating a better place!
It’s crazy to think that these little squares in our phones can have such a huge hold on our hearts and minds, but they do. My best advice is: If you’re feeling deflated and disheartened by the apps, step away from them for a bit and focus on your real life. Be intentional with this time. Focus on a new hobby, class, or community sports team, and see how you feel afterward. Maybe you’ll be ready to log in and start swiping with fresh eyes, or maybe you’ll just go right along living your life without them.