DATING APPS ARE THE NEW PORN

There’s a growing trend of people – who are often part of a couple – who use dating apps as a form of porn, i.e., as a route to excitement, feeling attractive, worthy, titillated and more confident. It’s a bit like a performer who revels in the applause, but within minutes after it dies down feels empty and alone. And it’s different than catfishing wherein the very intent is to deceive. It’s more about fulfilling certain needs – in an isolated way – and avoiding distressing feelings. The people I’ve treated or interviewed are generally very decent people, and there’s nothing ‘pathological’ per se about them. But in the aggregate, they’re having trouble experiencing themselves as sexual, attractive or worthy beings.*

It typically takes the form of:

 

  • Swiping indiscriminately in order to ensure they are seen as attractive or wanted by strangers
  • Conversing in order to ensure that they get a date but often don’t see it through either cancelling last minute or more likely ‘ghosting’
  • Communicating for longer periods of time without intending to meet in person, which creates a reality in their minds without engaging in any vulnerability or considering another person’s needs
  • Feigning a deeper connection with a stranger than actually exists

The stated reasons they give for their behavior are various:

-Not generally seeking a real connection at all; just “wanting to flirt”

-Feeling bored (and boredom is not at all what you probably think it is)

-Being lonely or disconnected

-Not wanting the ‘drama’ or messiness of a relationship

Being frustrated with or resentful of a partner who they’ll say “is sexually/affectionately uninterested in me or is too busy for me”      

-Having FOMO because of “missing what I had when I was single”

The majority of them are kidding themselves. That’s not to say I don’t believe they truly feel that way, but they’re giving a simplistic rationale that doesn’t nearly explain why they compulsively do this and how it functions for them. And if they remain simplistic, they stay stuck in less than satisfying relationships – without ever learning how to change them for the better.

Psychologically and neurologically based reasons:-

-Having a hit or match on an app is the dopaminergic system of the brain kicking in to cue you to anticipate pleasure

-These are often adults who were parentified children (children who took on the role of a parent, i.e., meeting the emotional needs of one or both parents without being parented themselves) – and they resent doing this for their PRIMARY partners

-They’re often anxious, somewhat depressed, and/or dependent on substances – or on rituals like sex, binging, masturbating, etc.

-They’re conflict avoidant and thus build resentment toward the partner because they can’t talk about the things that bother them

-They feel like charlatans/frauds – not being who they present themselves to be

-They’re far more dependent on their partners than they’re able to admit to themselves

-They have few mechanisms for distress tolerance

-The needs of the other feel too great

-They can’t stand to get close lest the person see their flaws and insecurities

Viscerally, they experience themselves variously as the parental and/or dependent person in their primary relationships and thus can’t feel themselves as sexual beings (since dependency and/or caretaking are generally incompatible with feeling highly sexual)

-Sexuality induces guilt, and so it’s hard to be sexual with a stable partner – only with someone who’s more of a stranger

-Sometimes, they’re individuals exploring other facets of their sexual identities, seeking same sex partners for potential experiences

 

Importantly, most partners – upon finding out about the partner’s app use – begin to feel inadequate or unworthy – when it’s really the app user himself who feels that way – and which accounts for why he’s ‘choosing the app’ over the partner.

As stated above, the variety of people who do so are a complex mixture.

Though many of these app users recognize that they’re loved by their current partners, they don’t experience themselves that way. So although it would seem counterintuitive that they would ‘stray,’ the sense of self doubt is great and therefore mobilizes the seeking of attention elsewhere. Fascinatingly, it is sometimes their idealization of the partner – NOT their disparaging of them – that makes them seek others. The app becomes a way to self-medicate their stress in the relationship and to reduce their worry about their partner ever leaving them. The thought is, “other people value me”; I won’t be alone”.

Others feel angry and resentful of the partner who isn’t giving enough attention/sex/caring. And they’re ‘damn well going to find it elsewhere’. And because apps are a place where you can figuratively (and sometimes literally) hide who you are, it’s all easy; a form of play-acting.

 

As well, there’s an increasingly large group of singles  (not dissimilar from the coupled folks) whose main purpose for using these apps is to be stimulated, to feel attractive and excited, yet remain disconnectedwithout taking the risks of having a real relationship. Though they may seem like socially adept, attractive people, they don’t generally feel that way; or they feel that way only in bursts; usually when drinking/drugging/app using, etc . They’ll describe having FOMO and envying the lives of others. They swipe right or choose large numbers of profiles to ensure that they amass a following; though they’re rarely likely to end up dating one person. Yet again, the apps excite, present a potentially ‘bright future’, reduce stress and loneliness but keep people ‘protected’ or separate in some way.

In the age of digitization, avoidance of social connection reigns – even though social media is ostensibly about connectedness. Social networking sometimes becomes the antithesis of closeness, fostering instead a sense of deep anomie.

Thus, dating apps exist as an avatar of the self: I’m good, desirable, worthy and powerful…They’re the ultimate selfie; the latter day “mirror, mirror on the wall”) – while self-exposure and openness are avoided.

_________

PLEASE LOOK FOR THE NEXT POST COMING SHORTLY WITH DETAILED EXAMPLES.

*Though these apps are used by a portion of people in this way., the dating apps can also be very fine sources for people seeking real partnerships.

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