We Need to Stop Using Dating Apps to Online Shop for Validation
Ever find yourself re-downloading Tinder when you’re feeling low, only to delete it again when you’re bored?
It is a Friday night and once again I begin to feel unwanted. My fingers hover over the app store, hesitant to do what I know I shouldn't. I impulsively do the unthinkable, caving in a moment of low self-esteem: I re-download Hinge. This has become a weekly occurrence for me, I download a dating app and browse for an evening, seeking the validation that others find me attractive, only to get bored and delete the app. Delete, re-download, repeat is my mantra and it is time it stopped.
We spend hours searching for the validation that we desire, discarding through forms of it that don’t satiate that burning need to feel wanted. Like browsing on Amazon, you get sucked into the impulse to purchase something, scrolling past items that don’t interest you until you finally come across something that gives you excitable flutters in your stomach. You add it to your basket. Those who have submitted to the evils of consumerism and like me, have a shopping addiction, will know the feeling all too well of desiring that rush once you've purchased something. Sadly the rush is short-lived, and at times it has worn off even before the item has arrived.
What I have come to realise, is that feeling can very similarly be compared to online dating. When I re-download Hinge for the 5th time this month, I am in a momentary position of weakness. My mind craves that fleeting validation from men, the recognition that I am worthy of attention or admiration. Just like that ASOS order, however, once I’ve browsed for a suitable Hinge match and strike up a conversation, I am very quickly bored and the rush wears off. I receive compliments, yet they aren’t always from who I want them from, or in the right way.
I then feel defeated, sickened with myself that I must seek validation from men despite my feminist agenda and delete the app. I know, however, that it won't be long before I fall back into the trap again and crave someone to desire me, to remind me that people find me likeable even if I am happy being alone.
In the age of virtual socialisation brought along by our good friend Covid-19, you have one of two options: dating apps or sliding back into the chasm of reigniting conversations with lovers past. Each one gives you an initial thrill, only to burn out very quickly and leave you feeling emptier than before. Both, I believe, can at times not be about wanting a meaningful connection or even a sexual one, but is merely something that is born out of low self-esteem. I think it is the belief that to be worthy and important we must be constantly desired by others that drives us to perform such patterns of behaviour.
My guess is that I am not the only person in the world to feel this way, even the men that I am matching express the same lack of drive to build meaningful connections. 80% of my matches either don't respond or send a half-hearted opening line only to stop replying after a couple of texts. I can have the most engaging conversation with someone for half an hour, but it just dwindles out on both ends. This could very well be down to the fact that we are currently in lockdown and don't see the point in building connections when we cannot meet for the foreseeable future. However, the pure fact that we are still somewhat reaching out shows we’re searching for something.
In a study, 44% of people admitted that they use dating apps for “confidence-boosting procrastination”, they aren’t looking for love, or even sex, they just needed that reassurance that others want them when they don't feel fully ready to turn that attraction into something more.
Before sitting down to write this article I decided to take to good old Google to see what had been said about this topic and I came across a Reddit post on the sub r/AITA, which for those not familiar with it, stands for ‘am I the asshole?’ The post was by a woman, describing exactly the feeling I have laid out: the desire to use dating apps for validation, but the lack of motivation to date or hold meaningful conversations. The comments on this post were full of people chastising this woman, saying that she is cruel and heartless and playing with people’s emotions. I completely disagree.
When you sign up for a dating app, you are not entering a contract which stipulates that you absolutely must endeavour to find someone. Is simply being present on an app without fully committing to using it for it’s intended use heartless? Absolutely not. Once again, let me draw on my handy little online shopping analogy: you can have the Amazon app handy, browse through some items time to time, but you are certainly not an asshole for not committing to adding them to your basket.
It is perfectly normal behaviour to want to feel wanted. We are human and the way our society has been constructed ensures that we thrive off of validation. Take the Black Mirror episode Nosedive, for example, it may be a tad extreme, yet it does encapsulate our inherent need to be accepted and even desired by the rest of the world. You shouldn’t feel guilty or conceited for having these emotions, after all, we are a product of the society we are living in. We all do what we can to cope in times of peril or episodes of low self-esteem- allow yourself to indulge in your semi-toxic habits from time to time if need be.
However, I do think that the overarching thought that we are nothing if we are not constantly being desired is very damaging and does need to be addressed. I initially thought this all stems from a patriarchal ideology, that puts a woman’s value as something solely based on male attention- think Daphne from Bridgerton, she is nothing until she is adorned with the affections of suitors. Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realised it is deeper than this. I spoke to a heterosexual male friend and he admitted to feeling the exact same as me. Simply knowing in yourself that you are a great person is not enough, we need it confirmed, we require a second opinion.
I do have an admission to make, I am only human and whilst writing this article I did lose motivation and take a pause. In my period of procrastination, feeling low and hateful of my own lack of drive, I did re-download the very dating app that I deleted prior to starting this article. When I sat down to write this article, I was feeling empowered with the realisation that my value is not based on the number of likes I receive from men on the internet. I thought I’d finally broken the curse, it, unfortunately, appears not.
After an evening of swiping to no avail, I sat down to finish this article, feeling stronger and more willing to be genuinely happy in knowing I'm totally worthy even if it isn't being constantly proven. I’ll allow myself the odd breaches in strength from time to time, yet I am resolved to steer clear of that re-download button for a while. Perhaps I’ll just online shop instead whenever I get the urge, every addiction must be substituted for something else after all.
Join me on my journey to stop basing my identity on the acknowledgement of others. First on my agenda is to begin complimenting my friends, perhaps if we acknowledge the brilliance of those around us more, it will stop us all from searching for it in harmful ways. After all, we are only human and whilst we must stop requiring constant validation to function, a little bit is still nice.