I deleted all my dating apps six months ago, and here’s how my life has changed
Six months ago, I made the decision to delete my dating apps, which I had been using on and off for a decade, indefinitely. Nothing dramatic or terrible had happened. I didn’t date someone so toxic they turned me away from dating entirely. In fact, Patrick, the man from Hinge whom I’d been dating just before deleting the app, was kind, intelligent, and in many ways what I’d look for in a partner. In fact, it was for him that I deleted Hinge and Bumble, my then-dating apps of choice, at the beginning of the year. Because I’d lost the appetite for ‘chatting to’ multiple people at once – who even has the time? – and I figured I could always download the apps again if we were to break up.
But after a couple of months (and one honest-but-disappointing conversation), it became clear that we just weren’t in mutually-compatible situations to continue dating. As so often happens with early romances, we fizzled out, rather than imploded. But there was a poignance to that, too; the time I’d invested getting to know someone I’d never see again. The shared memories that no longer had a home. The secret hopes I’d had about our immediate future as a couple: booking trips, spending Sundays together, falling in bed reading alongside one another (am I alone in having this as a romantic fantasy?).
When we stopped seeing one another, I felt, immediately, the familiar urge to download the apps again – like I had done time and time again, on and off, for the past decade since Tinder launched in 2012. But I resisted it – and instead I chose to process the disappointment I was feeling in losing the thing-that-could-have-been-a-thing. I felt better after a week or two. But I’d had a revelation. I wasn’t necessarily going to find another Patrick immediately. I’d have to be back on dating apps for a while, kiss a few frogs… – and what effect would that have on me?
What I realised was that there was an opportunity cost to all the Sundays I spent swiping; the non-starter dates where I spent my Thursday evening; the month or two I spent dating someone exclusively. Not so much because it prevented me from meeting ‘The One’. That was a factor, of course – but I wasn’t just missing out on, potentially, a Big Love. I was missing out, regularly, on a Big Life: travelling; reading; learning; nurturing relationships of all kinds.
I’ve given IRL connections a chance
At first, I decided to channel my dating app hiatus into focusing on real-life romantic connections, and that was a rewarding exercise. I reconnected with my Mr What-If, someone I’d dated the previous year, “giving things a chance” for a few weeks before realising we were right to end things the first time and curing my low-level regret in the process. I called up a DJ I’d once had an instant chemistry with at a bar, and kept in touch with since – we had a fun couple of dates. Nothing ultimately went anywhere, but I felt like there was a greater level of mutual respect, and communication, because the foundation of our relationships to one another were built on more than pixels. You know that old proverb, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”? I’d say a connection made in person is worth two on an app. Eventually, I stopped putting pressure on these relations with the opposite sex – wondering whehter they “like me” liked me. The reason I was able to do this, I think, was because I was no longer in the practice of spending hours swiping alone waiting for a match (or not). Over time, this abstinence had helped to cure me of the addiction to romantic ‘wins” – the highs and lows, the feeding of my ego and gamification of my heart. I spent an evening flirting with an event photographer, then a man I met unexpectedly during a 24-hour airport stopover – without even trying to analyse whether these connections were more than friendly from their side. For once, I didn’t really care. Eventually, I decided to take a mindful break from dating as a whole. Which leads me to my next point…