Online dating and emotional wellbeing

20th September 2017

So I was pondering on my experience of using online dating apps to connect with others, whether that be for friendship, romance, or something more casual. It got me thinking about whether the whole thing has aided my wellbeing, or been more detrimental to it. Does online dating make you happy? Excited? Sad? Perhaps it makes you feel rejected, or insecure? For me it has very much been a mixed bag and has provoked a wide range of emotions in me.  In light of my recent post on infatuation and rejection describing my experience of meeting someone online and things not going to plan, I’ve been beginning to think about whether there is something about online dating which is distinct from the “old-fashioned” method of approaching people in person, and whether it is therefore something to either be avoided, or encouraged.

I’d like to describe the positives and negatives of online dating which I’ve experienced to try and make sense of this thought process, so lets do it. What are the good things about it, and what impact has this had on my well-being?

  1. Plenty of fish in the sea to access with ease!

I’m a bit of a whimp with people in person. Despite there being a variety of people all around me in cafe’s, on the bus, at university, I just don’t seem to have the confidence, or intention to initiate conversation with others. Part of this is to do with my anxiety, which is why the use of online apps such as POF and Tinder are ideal for me. All I have to do is log in, upload some photos and detail what I’m looking for, and I can then see a range of potential mates near me. Now I don’t dispute the fact that there are many pitfalls of online dating, which I will get to, but for someone who is insecure, these apps enable me to atleast relax about the first few conversations between me and another person. I also really value online communication and so enjoy doing this before meeting up with somebody in person. I’ve noticed that my I reach a “peak”, if you like, of excitement and overall positive emotional wellbeing when I first begin to talk to people and browse for others looking for the same thing as me, and so in that sense, online dating has complimented my life in some respects and pushed me out of my comfort zone to meet people.

     2. It eases my loneliness.

I’m a lone wolf. I don’t have anybody in life that I can call a true friend, and I have long and short periods in my life of crippling loneliness. There have been many times when I’ve been on my own at university in my room, with nobody to talk to – all of my messages sent to any other people are yet to be read for whatever reason, and I’m in desparate need of conversation. If I browse an online dating app, I’m reminded that there are loads of people out there who I could meet, and can communicate with if I wish to. It isn’t about right then and there, finding someone to spend the rest of my life with or make friends with, it’s simply about talking to someone and having somebody’s attention. It’s rewarding to have someone take an interest in you, when you feel alone. It’s often the evening, from about 6-7 pm onwards that I become my lost lonely, and that isn’t exactly the easiest time to find someone new to talk to – for me, anyway. I’m not going to go out clubbing, or to a bar because it would make me nervous as heck, and so speaking to people online provides me with the opportunity to converse with others in the comfort of my own home, again without the added pressures of face to face communication.

     3. It can be fun and exciting!

In my experience, the fun and excitement is in the lead up to meeting someone in person that you’ve been speaking to online. I once met somebody called Alex online – we had been talking on Whatsapp for a few weeks, and it finally came to the day where we would meet for coffee. I loved having somebody to dress up for (not formally, just putting in a bit of effort), and the adrenaline I had when I was getting ready to leave the house. We ended up getting on well and had a laugh for most of the time he was a part of my life, and certainly the first day was enjoyable – we ended up spending the whole day together. Even if neither of us were searching for a relationship, I still had the butterflies in my stomach and I felt like a school girl again, crushing over someone that’s too good for me! There’s an innocence to that, and that’s what I enjoy about online dating. You don’t have the same process when meeting somebody face to face.

BUT…it’s not all flowers and roses. I’ve experienced some challenges with online dating which have been really difficult for me to deal with. What are they and how have they made me feel?

  1. Easy access to people means easy ability to dispose of people.

Initially, easy access to others felt brilliant for me, what with the difficulties I face with meeting people and making friends. But there was a catch. It’s easy to meet people online, but there’s an anonymity about online dating. You don’t have to face people you meet online at work, or accross the street, or in your circle of friends. So what happens if things go wrong? You get disposed of. I may sound flippant when I say this, but for me, this has been the most hurtful and damaging thing for me to experience. Didn’t things sound lovely between me and Alex? They were, until I started to open up to him after about a month about the insecurities I had. My anxiety is very difficult to manage when I get involved with people.

With Alex I had crippling separation anxiety when he left me. I remember one time resting my head on his chest before he left, and pretending I was fine and he spoke about his job as tears were falling down my cheeks, which he was unaware of. I couldn’t shake this awful teariness and sadness with him leaving the flat. I experience fear of abandonment, fear of not being good enough, amongst many other things. It’s best not to go in to the details, but when I messaged him a few times because I noticed he was ignoring me, I later checked my Whatsapp to see that he had blocked me. And that was it. I tried to ring him to talk about it, but I never heard from him again.

There is little more hurtful and upsetting than already being alone, meeting someone online who eases your loneliness, who then disposes of you as if you never existed. This has happened to me a number of times, including from the person who I spoke about in my previous post linked above. Once I have time to process things I’m able to bounce back and get on with things, but for a period of time it really does evoke a bout of depression for me. Many people online choose the easy option when they want to cut ties, because they can get away with doing it. If they worked with you, or something along those lines, they’d have to face you and explain properly. But many don’t have the decency to do this, which is really difficult for people like me to accept – I hate uncertainty! I also think the online world is more competitive than the face to face world. So as the other person is experiencing the first sign of conflict between you and them, they’re swiping on Tinder and start to become distracted and tempted by other people they’ve come across. Hence the tendency to dispose of you very quickly.

     2. Things can become intense too quickly, particularly with those with vague and unclear intentions.

When you meet someone in person, you ask them about them, their lives, their interests, their occupation etc. When you meet someone online in person, the first thing you want to know is what their intentions are. What are they looking for online? Do they want a relationship? Is that what we’re working towards each time we meet? See the difference? One is natural, the other is immediately intense and, to an extent, pressured. For this reason, I believe this is what had partly contributed to things becoming intense very quickly between myself and some of those I’ve met online. I’ve told people I want friendship, only to be let down by them, I’ve told people I really like them, only to be deserted by them because I’ve scared them off. I’m human, I have fears, expectations, desires..but for many people that I’ve met online, it’s too soon to be confronting these things after meeting online.

A few months ago, I started speaking to a guy called Jack online. We both had the same intentions, to have something casual. We spoke about this a number of times online – and he said that he wanted to skip all of the dates and just start hanging out as friends and have sex. I was fine with this, but it felt a little confusing. It seemed to be that way but on his terms. I’d message him and not hear from him for days – yet when I didn’t respond to his text straight away, he threw his toys out of the pram and ended up blocking me. Now, I’m not here to claim that all guys you speak to online are idiots who will treat you like rubbish, I’m simply trying to highlight that things can develop at an un-natural and fast rate when you meet somebody online. When things have become intense very quickly with people I’ve met and had a genuine interest in, I get the impression that the other person hasn’t established enough care towards me, and thus isn’t willing to support me with what I go through. I’m not expecting a miracle, I often just want someone to talk to to ease my loneliness, and with me I really value consistency.

But I’ve often noticed from speaking to people online that they often don’t know what they want, or when I ask at different times they say they want different things. I remember speaking to Alex about it – initially he said he was sick of feeling lonely and wanted to find love, and then wasn’t sure the next time I asked him in person. He gave off the impression that he wanted something more casual, and that worried me because I thought we were on the same page and yet I was starting to get mixed signals from him. These problems may effect me more than the average person because I’m extremely insecure, in need of a lot of reassurance and validation and already feel quite alone in life. If you take away the intense experience of connecting with someone and meet somebody face to face rather than initially online, problems such as this may not even exist and so for me online dating can be very problematic and create a lot of hurt and upset.

Goodness me..I’m waffling. I haven’t written a post this long and feel hasty about it, but it’s a complex topic that requires lengthy and thoughtful exploration, in my opinion. I hope you can relate to an extent, and if not, I hope you’ve found happiness from online dating.

X

 

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