Dating apps have become melting pots for mental health issues. It’s time for them to offer psychological support

This year marks a decade of swipe-induced thumb stumps, goofy chat lines, and the curious invention of the “ghost.” Tinder is growing. Sadly, this has not been reflected by any sort of accountability shown by the powers that be in today’s dating app industry.

There are a host of positive effects that have been brought about by the invasion of dating apps, such as a de-stigmatization of sexuality, the ability to explore new experiences and places, and the ability to forge a romantic relationship. sustainable.

However, these positives are overshadowed by a complete lack of psychological support that these apps are expected to offer as part of their platforms.

The collective lockdown cubicle fever led to a 12% increase in Tinder conversations during the pandemic, but since then downloads have plummeted while competitors such as Bumble and Thursday have seen continued growth. Tinder may no longer be the flavor of the month, but dating apps remain hugely popular across the globe.

Over the 10 years of Tinder’s market dominance, we’ve seen an increasing number of reports showing how these apps are negatively impacting our brain chemistry.

While we shouldn’t overlook the fact that a number of successful relationships – and a third of marriages – can be traced back to platforms such as Tinder, the reality is that the business models of these apps depend on continuous swiping. If everyone who went on Tinder immediately found a deep, meaningful connection and then deleted it, we certainly wouldn’t be talking about a multi-billion dollar app 10 years later.

This is the troubling problem that lies at the heart of the general system of dating apps: it is not geared towards creating healthy relationships and connections; rather, it is designed to trigger the brain’s reward system.

When we receive a notification that we’ve matched someone, it causes a spike in dopamine, which in turn stimulates a brief injection of pleasure. Even just looking through a series of attractive faces on the app causes increased activity in the region of our brain involved in reward processing. The increased unpredictability of the “match” mechanism only adds to these heightened dopamine levels.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with boosting dopamine production, and in the short term at least, it feels good. However, building our dopamine pathways in the unhealthy and excessive ways that dating apps encourage negatively impacts people’s mental well-being in the long run.

While dating apps trigger the release of dopamine, they fail to trigger the complementary opioid system into action, which roars to life whenever we have a high sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. The intense high then fades quickly, so you’re motivated to keep scrolling as you pursue this feeling further.

Other than that, a 2016 study found that dating app users report lower levels of self-esteem, as well as reduced psychosocial well-being, compared to non-users.

Online dating also has a disturbing association with increased rates of depression. This stems from the throwaway culture that dating apps facilitate, where users are offered choice overload and the shield of the screen, allowing them to ‘ghost’ someone without any fear of harming their social reputation.

Dating apps have turned into melting pots for mental health issues and damaged connections, and the fault lies firmly with those running these apps. They must take ownership of the impact their systems can have on the well-being of users and take steps to provide emotional, psychological and relational support.

The data leak that spilled over Ashley Madison, the extramarital affairs platform, bolstered accusations that the company was falsifying female profiles to lure more men to the site. The company claims a 70/30 female-to-male split, but of the more than 35 million documents that have been leaked, only five million belong to women. In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission accused JDI Dating, which operated 18 dating sites, of sending fraudulent messages to visitors from fake computer-generated profiles. He reached an agreement prohibiting JDI Dating from using these fake computer-generated profiles. The fact that this happened illustrates the priority given to profits over user well-being that unfortunately pervades the dating app industry.

User education is therefore crucial. This should come from the dating platforms themselves.

However, while this continues to be overlooked in favor of new strategies for growth and higher profit margins, we ourselves must take steps to become more self-aware.

If dating apps do not provide this help, users should seek help and learn what they can do to better protect themselves against the emotional and psychological issues these platforms can foster.

This involves setting boundaries and being 100% clear about what you want when entering these apps, and not straying from them in the name of the next short-lived dopamine hit.

There’s no shame in looking for a one-night stand or wanting a long-term relationship, as long as we’re clear – both to ourselves and to others – why we’re looking for it.

Dating apps are turning into emotional war zones. It is therefore incumbent on us to strengthen our psychological defenses and our mental arsenals as much as possible, and to allow ourselves to have real fun on these platforms.

We can achieve this by taking steps to do the homework and self-reflection we need, before launching headlong into a battle that has raged for more than a decade.

My biography: Stefanos Sifandos is an entrepreneur and relationship coach who has worked for more than two decades in the field of personal development/transformation and self-help.

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