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How Is Tinder Affecting Your Mental Health?

Tinder and other dating apps are on the rise in the twenty-first century. For lots of people, it feels like a simpler, easier, and more efficient way to find a partner, and lots of people actually do. It is becoming more and more common for the start of love stories to be online – but is there a negative side?

In this article, we look at how Tinder can affect mental health in a different and more modern way that old-fashioned dating could. The age of technology and choice overload, a society consisting of ‘disposable’ people, and dealing with mass digital rejection could be detrimental to a user’s self-confidence and self-worth. Read on to find out how.

What Tinder Does to Your Brain

People like to use Tinder because they like to look at attractive people. According to one study, when people look at an attractive face, there is actually increased activity in the area of the brain the deals with reward processing.[1] Furthermore, the fact that matches on Tinder are unpredictable actually causes a higher level of reaction (more dopamine is released) in the brain and keeps people coming back again and again.[2]

In the beginning, this release of dopamine only happens when someone sees a match they get, but eventually, the brain associates a cue with the reward, so they may have a reaction simply due to the sound of the notification. As the brain adjusts to this reward, the person becomes hooked and may struggle to stop even after they find a partner.

Online Rejection is Real

When a person is rejected either online or in person, the part of the brain that is stimulated is the same part that processes physical pain.[3] That means that your brain actually cannot distinguish the difference between emotional and physical pain, so every time you swipe right and do not match, or send a message and get left ‘on read,’ or are ghosted after a date, your brain processes it the same way it would process you breaking a bone, it hurts.

Tinder and Appearance

1. How Tinder Makes You Doubt Your Appearance

There are countless studies that have looked into the relation between Tinder and self-esteem, and while no studies have been able to deduct whether or not Tinder is actually the cause of some people’s low self-esteem, there is astounding evidence that shows a correlation between the two.

Men and women who use Tinder typically think worse of themselves and their appearance than people who do not. There are two reasons this could be true. Either people who have lower self-esteem are attracted to Tinder, or the constant rating based on appearance causes the self-esteem of people using Tinder to worsen.

2. The Psychology Behind Desire and Looks

Not only do people generally like attractive people, but they correlate good looks with other positive qualities. When someone is attractive, people are more likely to assume they are intelligent, sociable, friendly, trustworthy, and competent.[4] For that reason, people are generally more likely to desire to talk to, interact with, and start a relationship with someone they believe looks attractive.

Swiping and Self-Esteem

Tinder is fairly depersonalized as people swipe left or right on people based on appearance and without any guilt whether or not you respond to someone. Because of this, people generally start to focus more on the smaller details of their appearance and are constantly trying to improve themselves so that they can get more matches.

They also may become more and more critical of other people, always wondering if the next swipe could have been someone better. As they put other people’s attractiveness above other characteristics, they may start to believe there own physical qualities (good and bad) are worth more than their other positive qualities.

Too Many Choices

There is a concept known as the paradox of choice. This means that the more choices someone has, the less likely they are to actually make a decision. As this happens in a dating app, two things are bound to happen.

One, someone will start to message and go on dates with fewer and fewer people because they simply are too overwhelmed to make a choice. Or two, a person may start to make poor decisions as they quickly make choices without much thought.

Casual and Disposable Society

Today a lot of dating apps are used for quick sex or even just a quick picture. These kinds of casual and disposable interactions make it so that sometimes when using dating apps, we forget that other people should be valued as another human.

It is often easier to harshly reject or objectify someone through a dating app than it is to in person. As someone starts to value other people less, they may also start to value themselves less. They may judge there self-worth on the number of matches or messages they get.

Treating Dating as a Game

The main reason most people date is to find a stable relationship and eventually find the person they want to spend the rest of their life with. This is not the motivation behind why a lot of people on dating apps. Often people download the app, start swiping, and very quickly, it feels like a game. They can do it while they wait in line or when they are bored. Often it becomes a way to have fun or be entertained when they are bored.

The idea that it is based on a game is actually reinforced by the fact that the creator of the app actually based it off of a gambling experiment done by B.F. Skinner in the 1940s. In this experiment, he got pigeons, when bored and hungry to become gamblers.

The pigeons would sit pecking and pecking and pecking because when they did that, sometimes they would get some food. A person on Tinder swipes and swipes and swipes and sometimes get a match. Just like the pigeons get hooked on pecking, people get hooked on swiping.

‘Ghosting’ and Mental Health

Ghosting is when someone disappears from another person’s life suddenly and ignores all attempts at communication. It is almost as if they became a ghost, hence the name. This can happen in the middle of a conversation, after a first date, or even further on in the relationship. Because dating apps are very detached, generally, people feel much more comfortable ghosting.

Before online dating, most people met and started dating people who were at least somewhat connected to their social circle. If someone decided to ghost, there were social repercussions, as it is generally frowned upon. With online dating, you can ghost someone and never really have to deal with any fallout.

On the other hand, when someone gets ghosted, it still hurts and can damage someone’s self-esteem just as much as it did before dating was online. If a person gets ghosted by someone they thought they had a connection with, often their internal dialogue will turn critical and can seriously damage their overall mental health.

Dating Apps and Loneliness

When people are lonely they may start to use a dating app as an escape, and that short term reprieve they get as dopamine floods their system feels really good. Unfortunately, people using dating apps in a more desperate attempt to cure loneliness are generally more at risk for making compulsive or even dangerous decisions.

They may spend less time looking into a person before they meet up, or they may simply just start to spend more and more time on the apps, forsaking other important responsibilities. There is a correlation between those who report being lonely and who is addicted to dating apps.

Expectations and Exploitation

People often hide their true expectations on dating apps in order to increase their chances of getting a match, which can lead to people going through a series of short and dissatisfying relationships. While one person may just be wanting sex, they may say something they believe sounds better in order to get a date.

When they meet up, and one person is clearly only looking for sex, the other may feel objectified and used. If one person repeatedly enters into relationships or goes on dates with people that do not want the same thing as them, they may start to feel like something is wrong with them, and therefore their mental health may suffer.

Tips to Tinder Safely

  1. You are not your profile. You can not put everything about you in your profile, so do not let people’s quick swipes and judgments define your self-worth. While the rejection hurts, try to remember they are rejecting your profile, not you, and you are so much more than a few pictures and some captions.
  2. Pay attention to how you feel when you are using dating apps. If you notice some apps make you feel bad or take up a lot of your time (especially when it prevents you from doing other important tasks), consider taking a break from at least that platform.
  3. When you are talking to people or even in your profile, while it is natural to want to put your best foot forward, make sure it is your foot. That means do not say what you want is something that you do not want, and if you want to go out with someone, say it, you do not have to play cool. When you are real about who you are, you are more likely to find someone who you will actually match up with.

Get in touch today

If you are concerned about your own or a loved one’s mental health, contact us today on 0800 138 0722 for confidential and immediate advice.