Online Dating Cause and effect
Well, as it’s the year 2022, it’s no secret that almost everyone who is/was single recently has tried the online dating game. Each one of us, if not tried it, has a friend who definitely is on it. Specially, in this period of lockdown, so many of us are bored at home looking for a way to connect to new people. Dating apps are the best way to do it. I mean, we all know not everyone is on the dating app to look for a relationship and is
just trying to make new friends right?
Mental health and its importance are being highlighted daily now, as it should be. As also dating apps have been on the rise for about a few years now it’s important for us to know its cause and effect, particularly on our mental health. So, this article focuses on the relationship between them-What could be the reasons an individual decides to register on a dating app. How do dating apps impact these individuals’ mental health? This article may be overwhelming in context to the amount of information provided, but don’t let go, it’s important to understand ourselves and the people around us. I swear it’ll be worth it.
Scholars in the psychology field have conducted an immense amount of research to understand its extent. To begin discussing what psychologists have highlighted while trying to understand what could be the reasons that an individual decides to register on a dating app. Apart from the obvious inspirations, such as love, other inspirations that were highlighted were self-esteem approval, popularity, and avoiding anxious situations. Looking into Tinder, which was launched in 2012, holds about 50 million users worldwide (Smith, 2018). The use of Tinder was linked to meeting psychosocial needs such as validation of physical attractiveness, social needs such as searching for a romantic partner/friend; and finally, physical needs i.e., sexual pleasure (Sumter, Vandenbosch, & Ligtenberg, 2017).
A depth study of Tinder users showed that low self-esteem (Ybarra & Mitchell, 2014) was associated to sexting — sharing sexually explicit photos of oneself and high self-esteem was associated with authentic self-representation (Ranzini & Lutz, 2017). An interesting insight into psychological motive was impulsivity, which is usually referred as prematurely expressed action. Being impulsive has been noted as a key characteristic in contributing to urge-driven behaviours which include sexual behaviours and sexting (Aboujaoude, 2011, 2017).
Of course, these underlying motivators researched by psychologists are not always the case of registering to an online dating app. Many individuals simply register to find a partner/friend. You must be thinking, these reasons that psychologists have reported are quite negative and it might feel a little uncomfortable thinking
Could this be one of the reasons I’m registered?
The answer is no. These results do not apply to each and everyone who is on the dating app. These studies are just a way for psychologists to try and understand a certain population while working with them. So don’t stress, learn.
Moving onto discussing research on the LGBTQ community, these individuals seem to opt for online dating apps due to the lack of perceived support or the opportunities to meet someone offline (DeHaan, Kuper, Magee, Bigelow & Mustanski, 2013). Even after some liberation, homo negativity could still be a part of their daily lives. They are insulted or harassed because of their sexual orientation. Almost 60% of gay men, are not comfortable holding a partner’s hand in public (Bachmann & Gooch, 2017). There is a large amount of research which discusses and provides evidence to the negative effect on gay men and lesbian women’s well-being.
Thus, members of this group have found these online platforms a useful space, as it even helps closeted individuals to fight the stigma of being ‘out’ publicly (DeLonga et al., 2011). Comparing the challenges they face attempting to develop and manage a relationship in heteronormative physical environments, online dating platforms attempts to bridge this gap (Van De Wiele, & Tong, 2014). About 40-60% of same-sex couples have connected through chat and dating websites (Rosenfeld & Thomas, 2012).
The other benefit the LGBTQ community gains is a sense of community. It allows them to behave genuinely without the oppression of heterosexist norms. This has a psychological advantage where there is a positive effect on an individual’s sexual self-acceptance (Crowson & Goulding, 2013). This can be socially empowering as it promotes interpersonal relationships and identity processes (Jaspal, 2017). However, there are always downsides to utilizing a service. For instance, high use of social media could be linked to symptoms of depression, anxiety, isolation/loneliness, and making social comparisons.
Now, looking into our second question- How does the dating app impact an individual’s mental health? I know this was a lot of information but this is an important section. So don’t shut the article just yet. Focus in for a minute.
Previous researchers have found that there was a 40.4% of positive impact on self-esteem, whereas a negative impact was just 28.7%. De Vries (2016) compared face-to-face meetings to online dating app use and reported a positive correlation between self-esteem and dating apps. He discusses that because of the control in impressions, individuals with lower self-esteem find online dating very helpful.
Delving further into the impact of dating apps on mental health; not so surprisingly, there are quite a few gender differences. Taking the example of Tinder again, individuals are persuaded to use this app because of its simplicity of correspondence and stylishness (Orosz et al., 2018). For men, the use of this app has been towards looking for easygoing sex and connections (Sumter et al., 2016), whereas for women it has been about companionship and self-approval (Ranzini and Lutz, 2017).
In 2017, Strubel and Petrie noted that more than women, men’s self-worth is affected. This could be due to the societal expectations of men taking the “first step” in which the number of rejections could be perceived as high. Fortunately, now Bumble helps fight this societal stigma. For women, heightened attention elevates their self-esteem (Kreager et al., 2014). On the other hand, individuals who are engaged in online dating get involved in unhealthy weight control behaviours such as laxative use, and self-induced vomiting significantly more than non-users.
Lastly, a review article done in 2009, suggested that individuals from both homosexual and heterosexual communities who look for sexual partners online are more sexually active and are risk-takers. They were also associated with unsafe sex, unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There is a discussion about how due to the online dating apps providing free accounts, there is a higher risk factor for individuals to be involved in unsafe sexual behaviors.
I know this is not a direct report of the effect on mental health, it is quite important for us to understand, our mental health is directly linked to our physical health and taking precautions in performing any kind of activity is a necessity.
So I know it’s been a long read till here, but to conclude, this article was to help us understand, with scientific backing, how online dating affects us. This article is only attempting to increase mental health awareness. I mean, duh.
There is a reason for our actions and sometimes these actions come from underlying issues. IF you feel, you are on a dating app because of this reason, don’t stress. Reach out. Reach out to a professional and work on it. Improve yourself. You might think it’s too much effort or there is no need, but try to be better. You’ll be surprised at how trying to change a small part of your life, your entire life might change.