Last week, I ceremoniously quit dating apps and well, dating in general. I haven never truly done the single thing, I have never spent time finding myself worthy before handing over my heart to somebody else. For years, my already vulnerable mind has taken blow after blow from the infamous apps. They have become less about finding true love and more about competing against those within 200ft of your location, all of you fighting like vultures for the prey with a sculpted body and strong beard. The Apps are great if all you want is a one night thing, but as a true romantic, all I’ve ever wanted is to find someone who loves me as much as I do them. Instead, all I’ve found is insecurity. It’s never been any sort of secret in my world that I don’t think I am good enough for anybody, not even myself. So for me to put myself out there in this Hunger Games style competition was always going to end in disaster. That disaster came to a head two weeks ago when for the first time in six months, I felt like I wanted to self-harm. I wanted to punish myself for being ugly.
I thought I was alone in this. Most of my friendships are formed online. As a, and I absolutely hate this word, influencer, I spend a lot of time online where everybody – including myself – is putting their best foot forward, marching with confidence, leaving their baggage slightly out of the camera shot and condensing the good bits into 240 characters or less.
I decided to explore the darker side of online dating, and so, I put the question out to you, my online friends.
The first to respond was Liam, somebody who I actually met on the apps, and somebody who admitted that although he had a lot of interest, he felt as though he was still lonely:
“I feel my self worth is dependent on how many people I speak too. I have 2000+ tinder matches, you’d think “wow ok maybe he should know people find him attractive” ..I’ve cried myself to sleep at least twice this week because of feeling so lonely”
Liam went on to tell me that he’s even considered therapy because of how dating apps have made him feel. Somebody who is just trying to find what the rest of us are searching for has considered talking to a professional because of how the process has made him feel.
I feel as though we are stuck on a conveyer belt when it comes to looking for that somebody special. We go through the process of setting ourselves up to sell the best possible version that we can, and then the join a line of others just like us, hoping to be the one that gets picked. It’s almost like being back at school, crossing our fingers behind our back, hoping that we aren’t the last to be picked for the team.
Something which I feel like Tom summed up in the most honest way.
“Using dating apps is a modern addiction. We swipe endlessly based on appearance, trawl through profile after profile of selfies, group photos, sarcastic bios without a clue who the person behind the profile is. Dating has become a lineup of options ruled by physical attraction and how we sell ourselves in 500 characters or less.
Modern standards of beauty are ruining dating. I hate body shaming, having been both ends of the spectrum, and criticised for both, it feels like you can’t do right. But the gay community and its ideals of ‘tall, muscular and toned’ are doing nothing but fuel the perfection epidemic, and dating apps & social media are the breeding grounds for the disease.”
Instagram – tcdllm
We as a modern society are so detrimental to our own progress. We are ruled by the squares of perfection, trying to cram as many selling points as possible into 500 characters or less whilst trying to pick our most perfect angles to sit filtered and airbrushed because we think thats what makes us perfect.
We are shown the more colourful side from the companies themselves, too. In one of its latest adverts, Tinder shows us how when dates go bad, we can simply unmatch an try again.
Sian, however, tells us of the reality that happens when dates end;
“I haven’t used dating apps for a really long time but I remember getting the bus home after dates in tears. Not sure why. They made me very critical of myself and insecure about everything. Not to mention back then I was having panic attacks more regularly so they certainly didn’t help with my anxiety.”
There is a very common ground amongst all of the people I spoke to, including those who didn’t want to want to be quoted. We sign ourselves up with the hopes of finding something meaningful, whether that be for tonight or forever. But more often than not, we come away feeling terrible, we feel like we aren’t good enough and that we need to improve ourselves in order to be good enough for somebody on the other side of a screen. My mum and dad met organically, something which my mum makes no secret in wishing for me and my love life. My dad would – and still does – buys my mum flowers and holds open the door for her. They feel good enough for each other and they see the true beauty that the other possess on the inside. They have a love that I often wish I could recreate one day, and they don’t feel like throwing the towel in whenever things get tough, something that Laura mentioned to me this week;
“I think dating apps have ruined the way we approach the world of dating full stop. People have this mentality now of whoever you’re with, there’s always someone better at your fingertips, just a swipe away. No one fights for relationships anymore because it doesn’t matter if you break up. You can be on tinder and have a new flame within a week. It makes me want to not have a smart phone anymore.”
Yes, it would seem that modern dating has fanned the flames of the mental health crisis we are currently in. It’s highlighted that even men have body issues too and that we no longer fight to keep something incredible. We have made each other disposable, replaceable a the swipe of a finger. They say that 50% of gay relationships end because one cheats. That is half. Half of the relationships between two men will fail because of them is unfaithful. And how many of those incidents do you think take place because of the likes of Grindr and Scruff? Within twenty minutes of an argument you can be in the bed of a stranger.
The most deepest and probably relatable quote for me, came from Ted, a fellow blogger whose life I have been stalking on Instagram for a while now. Ted is engaged and up until our conversation, to me it was though he had his life all sorted for a long time.
“So, I really didn’t have that much of an issue with apps and would always use them, thinking they didn’t really affect me at all, however, it’s since I stopped using them that I realised the damage it had done more to my self worth than anything. I was viewed as nothing more than a good lay and people weren’t interested in anything more than that because people had gone around and talked about me to others. In the end, I accept that as truth, especially after an unrelated mental health episode. I just didn’t care, I thought so little of myself and it took me a long time to accept the love of someone else because of that.”
It can be so quick for us to presume that people in love are happy, and I think it takes a lot to realise that we’ve all been through a bit of a journey, and sometimes we can be a bit hard on ourselves.
It’s not all incredibly negative though. Tom went on to tell me that although he has struggled in the past, he realised that his self worth should be less about how others perceive us and more about how we need to believe in ourselves.
“I used to judge myself based on the people I matched with; the hotter they were, the better I felt about myself. My self worth was ruled by my perception of other people, and the fact they deemed me good enough to warrant their time. But after months of feeling inadequate and eventually deleting the apps that fuelled my insecurity, I came to realise that the only person who’s opinion mattered, was my own. Self worth is about the faith you have in yourself, to do ANYTHING you want. I no longer go through my life wondering if I’m good enough, shying away at the fear of failure or rejection. I go through life with the knowledge that it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work, or if I get rejected, because I can pick myself up and carry on.”
Instagram – tcdllm
My oldest and most honest friend, Rach, reached out to tell me how her experience with dating has even given her a boost of confidence. (Rach, if you didn’t know, has been my friend for over ten years and is often the person I turn to when I need the honest opinion on situations).
“I mostly started using dating apps like Tinder when I went to uni and I think it actually built up some of my self confidence. I’m typical me, a bit funny in my bio and my pictures reflect who I am as a plus size woman and I think the fact that so many people were in to me gave me a bit of a self confidence boost! I’ve used it off/on over the years, had a few one one night stands, a lot of dates (some great, some hilarious, some terrible) and a few people I’d say we had an actual relationship. I’ve even made some genuine friends! It just helped remind me I am fabulous, I am worthy and I don’t need to go out to the club and get drunk to pull a man, I can do it just by putting myself out there and being me”
The modern world is amazing, we are in the midst of what I think will be known as the Technological Revolution in history books one hundred years from now. But we are at risk of completely ruining the one thing that has been written in history since the start of time; love.
I think many of the people who use apps, wether it be for love or lust, don’t see it as deeply as others. They can go into the situation openly and walk away free of any bruises. For a lot of us, however, we often walk away with scars. Not feeling good enough is one of the biggest weights a person can carry and it would seem that this will only continue to bring us down until something is done. What needs to be done though? Is there anything that can be done? I shall leave that for you to answer. I am in no way an expert when it comes to dating, some (mainly myself) would even say I was a disaster. All I do know is that hearing your stories echo mine so closely, I managed to save what is left of my self worth and begin to focus on myself.
All of the people quoted for this article have given their consent to feature. Thank you to each and every single one of you who provided your most beautiful words for this article. Thank you for not making me feel so alone and for giivng me a bit of a confidence boost, too.
If you didn’t know, I have been nominated for a UK Blog Award 2019 in the mental health category. It would mean the absolute world to me if you could pop me a vote (it only takes 10 seconds). Thank you for your continued support on this wonderful journey x.
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