Online dating provides a lot of convenience, and it also allows you to connect with people who you likely would not come across in real life. However, it is important to consider the variety of implications that might be associated with digital dating. One thing to consider is your mental health and how online dating may impact it in positive and negative ways.
There are a variety of facts surrounding online dating and mental health. Making yourself aware of these can help to ensure that you are taking the proper steps to meet people while also taking care of yourself.
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Rejection Can Hurt More with Online Dating
It is estimated that approximately 50% of matches do not return messages. This can make people feel rejected, ignored or disliked.
Since online dating often involves talking to a variety of people, you can be rejected more frequently and at a higher rate compared to dating in the non-digital world. For some, this can take a toll on their mental health.
The same parts of the brain that are activated by physical pain are also involved with rejection. It is believed that this goes back to the hunter and gatherer era. At that time, being rejected from a tribe was basically a death sentence since the majority of people could not survive on their own.
The main difference between the pain of rejection and physical pain is that rejection-related pain can is re-experienced far more vividly. Once physical pain is gone, you can remember it, but you are not likely to relive it at the same intensity. The psychological and emotional pain of rejection can flood your brain when a similar situation occurs, causing you to relieve the pain intensely.
Once someone experiences rejection enough, this can impact their self-esteem. It is not uncommon for people to start thinking that there is something wrong with them.
Online Dating Ghosting Can Be Damaging and Dehumanizing
Ghosting means that someone just stops showing up or talking to someone. While it is an issue that people of all ages can face, it tends to be especially common among millennials. In fact, approximately 80% of millennials state that they have been ghosted.
Online dating makes ghosting easy. You are talking to someone for a little while and then all of the sudden they stop responding to your messages. Or, you finally make plans to meet up, they do not show, and they no longer answer your messages.
When someone gets ghosted, it can be damaging to their mental health and dehumanizing. It leaves you wondering why someone who appeared to enjoy talking to you suddenly decided that you were no longer interesting or good enough.
After someone is ghosted, it is not uncommon for them to become apprehensive about starting over with someone new. They might decide to take a break from online dating, or even give up on it completely, depending on the emotional toll that this experience had on them.
Dating Apps May Lower Self-Esteem
One study looked at the impact that dating apps have on a person’s self-esteem. It showed that compared to those who do not use these apps, the app users reported lower psychological well-being and self-esteem.
It is believed that part of this is due to regular and frequent rejection. However, human disposability may also play a role.
When you meet people online, it is easy to meet someone new who you consider to be more compatible. As this happens, it is common to just toss older matches to the side so that you can focus your time on a new match. Essentially, people become disposable when someone shiny and new comes along.
Online Dating Can Increase Indecisiveness
When you engage in online dating, you are exposed to millions of potential matches. As you continue to use this method for dating, it is not uncommon to eventually ask yourself, “Is there someone better than who I am currently talking to?”
This can result in a wide variety of brief relationships that offer no satisfaction. With increased indecisiveness comes the potential to start questioning the people you are talking to. You may eventually find yourself wondering if the next swipe could be someone even more compatible.
Over time, this indecisiveness could result in you experiencing anxiety. You might actually start to become anxious when you talk to someone for a little while. After a couple of weeks, that thought of someone better could start to creep up in your mind. As a result, you start getting anxious after talking to someone for a few weeks because you know that those thoughts are sure to occur.
One way to combat this is to not wait too long to meet someone in person. This is because meeting someone in person allows you to better assess chemistry. After a date or two, you will have a good idea about whether they actually are a good match or if you should continue your search for someone who is more compatible.
More Superficial Relationships and Feelings of Loneliness
Since it is possible to meet so many people when you date online, there is the potential to engage in several superficial relationships instead of one that has depth and meaning. When relationships are superficial, they can result in you not feeling fulfilled.
Relationships that are unfulfilling and superficial can result in loneliness. It is important for people to have meaningful connections in life to reduce the risk of experiencing loneliness. When people are lonely, this has several implications for their general mental well-being.
When people are lonely, they are at a higher risk of the following:
- Increased stress levels
- Poor decision making
- Issues with learning and memory
- Drug abuse
- Antisocial behavior
When you engage in online dating, it is important to keep your focus on those who you feel are the most compatible with. This can help to reduce the risk of the connections you make resulting in superficial relationships.
Online Dating May Help Those with Social Anxiety
When you have social anxiety, it can be difficult to approach people and have conversations in person. However, being behind a computer screen can create a sense of safety. Because of this, people with social anxiety may benefit from online dating.
You may find it easier to open up when you meet someone online. Using messaging systems and instant messengers allow you to essentially shield yourself. Because of this, you can have better conversations with people because your anxiety tends to be less influential when you are talking to someone online.
Male Facial and Body Appreciation May Decrease with Online Dating
One of the biggest elements of online dating is seeing people’s photos to learn more about them and what they look like. While women are not immune to being self-conscious about their physical appearance, when it comes to online dating, this issue tends to affect men more.
One study looked at men who used Tinder. It found that the men who regularly used this dating app tended to have reduced levels of facial and body appreciation and satisfaction. The men in the study often reported feeling like they needed to make changes to compete with the other men on this dating app.
Harassment and Abuse from Online Dating May Affect Mental Health
One survey estimated that approximately 28% of people who dated online have experience harassment. They report that this harassment caused carrying levels of discomfort. For some people, the experience left them with long-lasting negative feelings. In some cases, people stopped using a specific online dating site or app as a result of this harassment.
Online Dating May Cause a Sense of Depersonalization
On an online dating site or app, you are one of thousands, or even millions, depending on the service that you choose. While your profile has some personal information and photos, you are still essentially just a single fish in the sea.
For some people, this experience results in depersonalization. This experience also occurs on the other side. You just scroll or swipe past dozens of photos just waiting for someone to catch your attention. All you have is their profile information and some photos to use to judge whether you two are a compatible match.
To help to combat this issue, joining sites that have more extensive profiles and questionnaires can help. This is because you can learn a lot more about a person when these features are present.
Taking Your Conversation Offline Can Decrease the Risk of Harm to Your Mental Well-Being
Online dating websites often offer messaging systems and instant messengers that are text-based for communication. While these can help you to get to know someone on a basic level, they can also increase the risk of issues like ghosting which can have negative effects on your mental health.
Experts suggest that you meet someone in person, or at least use video software to talk, as soon as possible. By communicating more intimately, it can help you to determine if the two of you have chemistry. The faster you determine if there is chemistry, the faster you can determine if the two of you are a good match.
By eliminating bad matches and keeping your focus on good ones, this can help to boost your confidence. Meeting in person also reduces the risk of depersonalization.
There Are Online Dating Sites Focused on People with Mental Health Issues
There are some online dating websites that are focused on people who have mental health issues, from generalized anxiety disorder to schizophrenia. These sites allow people who have a mental illness to connect with those who can better empathize with their life experience.
Mental illness can sometimes make it hard to maintain long-term romantic relationships. The members on these dating sites understand this. This can essentially remove the elephant in the room and put people and their matches on even footing.
Online Dating Can Become Addicting for Some People
For some people, online dating can become an addiction. It is believed that the attention that people get on dating sites plays a role, especially in people who tend to not get a lot of romantic attention in their offline lives.
Some research indicates that approximately 61% of women and 52% of men have experienced an online dating addiction. The majority of these people tend to gravitate toward dating sites that are designed for casual dating and hookups.
When someone develops an addiction to online dating, the following signs may be present:
- They tend to be members on numerous dating sites and apps
- They typically communicate with a high number of people and constantly add new people to talk to
- They generally check their inbox compulsively
- No matter how hard they try, they are unable to stop using online dating sites and apps
- Dating websites become a top priority in their life, even at the expense of school, work and their offline
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