Science Says Online Dating Is Terrible for Your Mental Health

Swipe carefully.

Science Says Online Dating Is Terrible for Your Mental Health

Swipe carefully.

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If you’ve waded into the world of online dating, you know that it can be a real bummer. The terrible behavior that it normalizes–ghosting, orbiting, and, now r-bombing–is emotional abuse in its purest form, and it inevitably has a negative impact on emotional well-being.

2011 study found that rejection stimulates the same somatosensory brain system as physical pain. In the same way that holding hands can alleviate physical pain, being ghosted can cause it.

Another 2017 study of 1,300 college students found that those who used Tinder regularly tended to have lower self-esteem and more body image issues than those who didn’t.

“We found that being actively involved with Tinder, regardless of the user’s gender, was associated with body dissatisfaction, body shame, body monitoring, internalization of societal expectations of beauty, comparing oneself physically to others, and reliance on media for information on appearance and attractiveness,” Jessica Strübel, a professor at the University of Texas and lead author of the study, said in a press release.

These findings corroborate other studies that have found that social media in general often makes people feel depressed, because it encourages users to objectify themselves and constantly compare themselves unfavorably to others. It’s no small wonder that people between 18 and 22—AKA the iGeneration—were recently found to be the loneliest age group in America. After all, 39 percent of them admit to being online “almost constantly.”

The rise of tech addiction very much feeds into the detrimental effects of online dating, as well. Last year, Match.com, which has over 7 million paid subscribers, released a survey that revealed one in six adults self-identifies as being “addicted” to the process of trying to find a mate. And their mental health suffered as a result.

“People who self-described as having really addictive-style behaviors toward the internet and cellphones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales,” Alejandro Lleras, a University of Illinois professor who conducted a 2016 study linking obsessive cellphone usage with poor mental health, said in a press release.

When used properly, the Internet can be a great place. Studies have found that posting about your fitness goals on Instagram can help you lose weight, and other research has pointed to the fact that certain Reddit groups can help people fighting depression.

Similarly, online dating can have great benefits. Today, one in five couples meet online, and some statistics project that by 2040, 70 percent of relationships will have started online. Online dating has also been particularly beneficial to marginalized groups, such as the LGBT community, as well as the elderly. Online dating can therefore be a great tool, but only if you don’t get addicted to it, and shy away from seeing yourself as disposable. If you take rejection very personally, online dating might also not be right for you.

For more tips on how to excel at virtual romance, check out I Hired an Online Dating Coach and This Is What I Learned.

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