When to Swipe Right: Online Dating in a COVID-19 World

Table of Contents

Anxiety can prevent the enjoyment of many social activities, including dating. The advent of online dating has provided a new tool for populations seeking romantic relationships from the comfort of their own homes. However, unrealistic expectations, frequent rejection, and low response rates may trigger anxiety symptoms rather than assuage them.

As spikes in the COVID-19 pandemic necessitate distancing regulations, websites and apps might be the best (or only) option for dating. When looking for love on a virtual platform, it’s important to consider the benefits and detriments of dating online.

Swipe Right – The Good Stuff

A study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that one in ten Americans had used a dating app or website by 2013. The popularity of virtual dating is skyrocketing; increased accessibility, low or no-cost registration fees, and easy-to-use interfaces promote apps, such as Tinder and Bumble, and websites, like Match or OkCupid, to users of all ages looking to find love online.

Success stories also keep the software in high demand. The same study found that two-thirds of participants found a date with somebody they met online and a quarter of participants established a long-term relationship or marriage with a partner from the online dating pool. Individuals struggling with social anxiety may find that a virtual meeting feels much more comfortable than an in-person encounter.

Dating apps and websites can take some of the pressure away from dating, a phenomenon that inspires feelings of anxiety in everyone. With the aid of internet love gurus, you can ease into dating, choosing to strike up a conversation before taking the plunge and scheduling a date. Avoidance, or refusing to partake in experiences that inspire anxiety, may bar somebody from dating, even if they express a strong interest in pursuing a romantic connection.

Dating apps and websites allow an individual to “shop” for a date without requiring them to enter into a stressful situation, which can reduce feelings of avoidance. Moreover, the opportunity to collect thoughts and form a thoughtful response can be a comfort to those with anxiety. The Ohio State University’s School of Communication surveyed 269 undergraduate students to gauge interest in dating apps among the student population.

The study found that students who identified as highly socially anxious preferred initial communication via an app as opposed to an in-person meeting. The socially anxious students preferred virtual dating over an in-person equivalent, but many of the students who frequent the apps fell into other pitfalls that are important for those with anxiety to avoid.

Swipe Left – Step Back and Protect Your Mental Health

The Ohio State University study also found that the highly anxious students were more likely to use the apps with greater frequency than non-anxious peers, sacrificing time during the work or school day to swipe for a match. The Journal of Social and Personality Outcomes echoes these findings, claiming that people with social anxiety were more likely to report dissatisfaction from the app.

Dr. Rob Whitley, writing for PsychologyToday.com, suggests that constant rejection, depersonalization, deceit, and anonymity are all to blame for increasing symptoms among those struggling with social anxiety. Apps and websites are not designed to preserve feelings. Users are called to make surface-level decisions, oftentimes based on only a handful of pictures.

Those with anxiety may feel rejected when another user chooses not to accept a “like” or “match.” Many users fail to consider how actions on the virtual interface impact people in the real world. Treating the apps or websites as games or other entertainment detached from reality depersonalizes the experiences and blocks partners from feeling a true connection.

Other unhealthy app habits include virtual chatting without the intention of meeting outside the application or spending hours looking for a mate who matches unrealistic standards. If you find yourself withholding information or lying to meet the expectations of other app users, you should take a step back to reevaluate standards for others as well as your overall goal.

Results from a 2013 study of internet dating culture suggested that the abundance of dating options keeps people from “settling down” with a single partner. To prevent that, stay dedicated to looking for a romantic partner. You may find a few flaws in your latest match, but try to look past any minor quirks so that you can get to know them better.

When individuals with anxiety spend excessive amounts of time on dating sites or apps, the behavior can increase symptoms of the disorder. Dr. Hal Shorney contends that “the way to lower this anxiety is to work through differences and blockages and learn to tolerate other people’s imperfections to grow closer. The way to lower discomfort or anxiety in relationships is not to turn back to your dating app.”

Online dating is a good first step for people with social anxiety, but the virtual platform is constructive only when users make the effort to explore a relationship beyond their laptops or cell phones.

At Silver Lining Recovery, we believe that understanding your present mental state is the first step to treatment. We want to walk beside you as you address your anxiety and co-occurring disorders, providing you with the emotional and spiritual support you need in your earliest stages of recovery. Your recovery is our priority and we want to provide you with the tools you need to sustain self-care in a balanced and healthy life. We will also accommodate any financial needs though Health Net insurance services. If you are interested in tracking control of your addiction, call us today at (866) 884-5758 for a consultation.