What’s the real story behind Tinder and self-esteem?

A study was published recently about online dating apps and their connection to self-esteem. Since then my inbox has been blowing up with alerts pointing to blog posts each with a different but similar take on the topic. What most seem to suggest is that users of apps like Tinder or Bumble either have low self-esteem or develop it over the course of their online experience.

Because I meet people through some of these mediums as well as talk to others who do, this is a subject I find very interesting. And lately I’ve been trying to reconcile the negative image so many of us have developed regarding the online-dating environment with my understanding of both my own habits or motivations and those of the people I encounter.

First of all I admit I’ve had some of the same experiences leading to the same thoughts and frustrations as everyone else. Let’s start with what that looks like and what complaints people are making so I can show you how I came to my conclusion about what is really going on.

To start with these apps not only encourage but require split second decision making based on extremely limited, shallow, and subjective criteria. Many blog posts I’ve read and people I’ve spoken to admit to liking the entertainment aspect of “swiping” through countless potential matches. It is a socially acceptable place to indulge our spontaneous and judgmental natures.

Furthermore, like every social media experience we have, these online apps play up and exploit our competitive natures such that we will do almost anything to increase our chances of “winning”. So even if we started off with good intentions or desires, before long it all just devolves into one big contest. However, unlike the act of collecting “friends”, followers, likes and shares the stakes here are much higher. We risk our time, our hearts and in the worst case scenario even our safety and money.

Because we know the challenges and potential dangers and because the environment lends itself so easily to the dehumanizing of the players we tend to go into each experience in a defensive posture. Before even showing up to a date we are already in fight or flight mode.

But I don’t think any of us start out to devalue anyone or even to be hurtful and demeaning. It’s just that in this speed dating on steroids landscape we are seldom really getting to know anyone. And despite what we tell ourselves and others about not wanting love, drama or sometimes even to pay for dinner, down deep we do want to be known.

I believe that for the most part rather than a severe lack of self-esteem, in the end we are simply acting out of fear. We have a fear of being hurt, fear of being rejected, fear of being taken advantage of either as sex objects or as cash cows. I am only a couple months from turning 50 and yet I have still had men voice the concern over being trapped by unwanted pregnancy. While that couldn’t be further from my mind, it clearly takes something away from the experience.

Do these folks sometimes have self-esteem concerns? Of course, they do. We all do occasionally. And is it discouraging to feel like you are being rejected over and over? I have no doubt. But that isn’t caused by or even a reason for their behavior on these apps. The problem is a much larger and pervasive societal issue. It is simply put under the microscope in an environment where judgement is accepted, encouraged and even necessary.

You have to keep in mind that someone you never met and who does not yet think of you as a real person isn’t really rejecting you. They are simply reacting to and working within the restrictions and challenges of the situation. Then be your own honest and authentic self with those you do meet so as to elevate the feeling of success regardless of the outcome.

Do you have thoughts or input on this subject? Please let me know what you think by leaving your comments below.


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