Contrary to popular belief, online dating is not a numbers game. This is largely because of something called “the paradox of choice.” With more singles forced online to make connections because of COVID, digital burnout is even more likely. We’d be smart to approach online dating with the same self-care and screen-time efforts we’re making in other areas of our lives. Dating apps offer endless options which breeds endless swiping, and that never-ending feeling makes us think we’ll never get to the end: our person. This sets us up for swiping fatigue and to give up on online dating altogether.
If your swiping possibilities are endless, you become pickier in the process with the thinking maybe a better girl/guy is one swipe away. You’re no longer chasing your ideal mate—you’re chasing a carrot on a stick. Endless swiping doesn’t lead you to your goal, but rather to misery. This is something psychologist Barry Schwartz talks about in his TED talk on the paradox of choice. An “abundance” of choice actually leads us to anxiety, loneliness, and depression—feelings a lot of us associate with the online dating process.
What’s worse, this anxiety may bleed over to in real life (IRL) dates. You may be on a perfectly good date with a perfectly good woman, but find yourself messaging back other women on the apps while your date is in the bathroom. This won’t get you what you want. Giving up doesn’t feel like the solution either (are those crickets I hear?). While it’s okay to take breaks from time to time, don’t take a six-month break just because you had one bad date. Instead, the solution to these self-defeating behaviors is simple and only requires some self-discipline and your smartphone’s timer.
First cardinal rule: Don’t approach online dating like it is porn. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by choices, go numb, make poor choices, gloss over good choices, burn out, and prematurely give up. It can be hard to remember that the profiles you’re presented with online are real people with their own wants, vulnerabilities, needs, fears, desires, and dreams.
In other words,
- Don’t swipe when you’re drunk.
- Don’t swipe when you’re lonely.
- Don’t swipe when you’re horny.
- Don’t swipe when you’re bored.
- Don’t swipe late at night.
When you’re swiping from a place of needing instant gratification—to relieve an uncomfortable feeling like boredom, insomnia, horniness, etc.—you risk losing sight that there’s a human being connected to that profile pic and not just there for your consumption. When you’re swiping drunk, you run the risk of writing your match a really stupid message and blowing it right off the bat with your potential soul mate.
Any sort of numbing out, whether it’s swiping under the influence or swiping until your fingertips lose sensation, will disconnect you further from the actual person behind the profiles. Remember, you’re swiping for connection not disconnection. It’s not your fault. The way dating apps are set up literally make humans disposable with a left swipe.
3 Swiping Strategies to Hack the System
Second cardinal rule: Once you’ve got some self-discipline in place, limit the time you spend on the apps to maximize the chances of actually meeting the perfect person for you.
Choose your app wisely
Choose which dating apps you use strategically. Download one that only delivers a finite number of profiles a day. With limited choices, you’ll most likely spend more time considering an individual profile and be more likely to seek out things you like about it. I prefer this approach because I’ve noticed that the more I swipe, the pickier I get. And the choosier I get, the less likely I am to like someone’s perfectly good profile. This also applies to being on multiple dating apps at once. One or two is sufficient.
Set your timer
Protect your mental health by setting time limits on your swiping sesh.
If you’re using an app that offers endless profile options, I suggest five minutes of swiping and responding to messages in the morning, and the same in the evening. Set a timer on your phone so you don’t cheat. I understand the impulse to swipe when you’re bored at work or on your commute home, but resist it. Scroll through social media instead. Remember that endless swiping is self-defeating and leads to anxiety, loneliness, and depression.
Up your mental game
Lastly, you must develop an intentional, focused mindset. Most people who complain that there’s no one good online have terrible attitudes about online dating. What you believe you will see. All women suck online. Well, my friend, you’re about to swipe through a bunch of sucky women.
Instead, try swiping after a workout when all those mood-elevating chemicals are released. If it helps, talk yourself up before a swiping session like you would for a triathlon or other endurance sport. This is absolutely happening for me.
You can also remind yourself of your friends or family members who are in strong relationships as a result of online dating. If you don’t have any examples, check out the wedding announcements in the Sunday edition of the New York Times. They include how the happy couples meet, and a large portion of them met on dating apps or sites (and they specify which ones). Gather evidence. Do anything that gets you into a positive frame of mind, and only go online when you’re in that headspace and for the limited amount of time detailed in strategy two.
Online dating is something everyone moans and groans about. No one is pumped to be doing it, but the easiest way to date is to do it online. It’s the life hack to going out. And now that many of us are restricted from going out anyway, what excuse do you have? Exactly. Now “get out” there, set your timer, and GO.