4 Reasons Why Dating Apps Are Bad for Your Mental Health
Dating apps might not be as great as you think. There’s always the promise of love, but are dating apps really the solution you’re looking for? If you’re not quite ready to delete all the apps and swear off dating altogether, consider the ways dating apps can cause stress and lower productivity, as well as how they are associated with body image issues, depression, and lower self-esteem.
1. Dating Apps Can Cause Stress and Anxiety
According to a study conducted by Western Sydney University, using dating apps can lead to increased feelings of stress and anxiety. The study surveyed 475 people over the age of 18 and found that those who used dating apps had significantly higher rates of psychological distress, anxiety, and depression.
One popular dating app that has been linked to increased stress and anxiety is Tinder. Over time, the constant swiping and matching in this and similar apps can lead to feelings of pressure and disappointment, especially if matches don’t lead to successful relationships.
2. Dating Apps Can Lower Your Productivity
Not only can dating apps cause stress and anxiety, but they can also lower your productivity. A study published in the journal Computers & Education found that for college students, the frequency of technology use was negatively related to academic performance.
Although it wasn’t strictly limited to dating apps, this study engaged over 483 students and found a significant correlation between technology usage in general and lower grades. In practice, the constant notifications and urge to swipe frequently on dating apps can be distracting and pull you away from important tasks like schoolwork, your job, or other personal relationships.
3. Dating Apps Are Associated With Body Image Issues
Because you are constantly presented with images of “ideal” partners, dating apps are also associated with body image issues. A study published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders—Studies in Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity found that regular use of dating apps can lead to increased body dissatisfaction and negative body image, especially for men.
The study surveyed nearly 200 college students and found that frequent checking of dating apps was positively correlated with body shame and negative beliefs regarding the weight and shape of participants’ bodies.
In the study, those who used dating apps were more likely to compare their appearance to others and reported feelings of dissatisfaction with their bodies. While the authors of the study don’t make a causal conclusion, it is worth recognizing the connection.
Another study published by the journal Body Image reported that women’s use of dating apps was associated with body dissatisfaction, urges to engage in eating disorders, and negative moods.
When using dating apps in excess, emphasizing physical appearance and constantly comparing yourself to other people can lead to feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. Not only can dating apps create body image issues, but they can also contribute to depression. A study in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking establishes a correlation between dating app use and social anxiety and depression.
While these researchers have not concluded that using dating apps causes depression, it’s not hard to imagine how rejections and disappointment might lead to reduced feelings of self-worth and hope.
4. Dating Apps Are Associated With Lower Self-Esteem
Dating apps can also lower your self-esteem. A 2017 study in Body Image suggests using popular dating apps makes you more likely to feel negative about yourself than people who don’t use dating apps.
The research, titled “Love Me Tinder: Objectification and Psychosocial Well-Being,” concluded that users had significantly lower levels of satisfaction with their faces and bodies. In addition, male Tinder users scored significantly lower on self-esteem than men who didn’t use Tinder.
Again, it’s important to note that this research does not conclude that dating apps cause lower self-esteem, since the correlation could include people who use dating apps and have lower self-esteem to start with. However, the study does conclude that using dating apps increases the likelihood that you’ll internalize appearance ideals and compare yourself to others.
With the Hinge app and other dating apps, it’s not hard to imagine how the constant evaluation and judgment by potential matches—including missed connections, disappointments, failed dates, and even ghosting—can lead to feelings of rejection and inadequacy.
One of the reasons people treat each other poorly on dating apps is that these apps may encourage some to treat people as disposable commodities rather than people with feelings and emotions. By swiping left across someone’s face, you become accustomed to “throwing away” one person in the hopes of finding someone better. And they may be doing the same thing to you!
Another study hosted on ArXiv (Cornell University) and titled, “A First Look at User Activity on Tinder,” found that around 50 percent of matches do not message back. Using dating apps to find matches also means signing up to potentially be ignored, and that can lead to lower self-esteem for some people.
Dating Apps Are Not Replacements For Human Interaction
While dating apps may seem convenient and fun, they can have a negative impact on your mental well-being. Regular use of apps such as Tinder, Hinge, Grindr, and Happn—as well as the myriad other dating apps out there—is associated with several health issues in some people. If you can relate to negative feelings and low self-esteem, maybe it’s time to grab a pint of ice cream and break up with dating apps.
If you do continue to use dating apps, be aware of the potential negative effects and use the apps in moderation. Also, remember to take care of your mental and physical health, and focus on feeling happy and confident about who you are. Having that love for yourself may even shine through in your dating app profile, too.