What you learn about life when you delete your dating apps

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  • Has the trend for swiping right finally taken its toll on our mental health? After years of digital-dating disasters, Olivia Foster decided to delete her dating apps for good and go analogue. The result? More time and energy; less 'ladmin'…

    Hinge, Bumble, Tinder, are your thumbs getting tired just looking at those words? Then you might have an extreme case of dating app fatigue, a fatigue that grew so strong for me I decided to delete my accounts altogether. ‘But how will you meet someone?!,’ people (mostly my mum) cry. Well, the truth is, statistically I might not, but two months into my app cull, I’m OK with that.

    Deleting my apps was not an easy decision to make. Despite being happily single the pressure to date – or at the very least, look like I’m actively dating – is huge. According to recent research by Badoo, the average single 18-30-year-old spends 20 hours a week on dating apps, which is now the most common way to meet a partner. However, a different survey of 4,000 people showed that 55 per cent of us don’t *actually* enjoy using them. So why do we do it?

    It was a question I had started to ask myself and, after another bad date (he abandoned me for 15 minutes to do a poo and then came back to tell me about it), I finally gave up. So what did I feel as I clicked the tiny iPhone ‘x’ banishing the apps to my dating history? Angst? Worry? Fear that I’d have to go and pick up 17 cats and be done with it? Surprisingly, it was none of the above.

    In fact, the overwhelming feeling I had was one of relief. No more boring conversations, no more evenings spent opposite people I neither knew nor liked, no more wasting my Naked Heat eyeshadow on people who didn’t deserve it. And 60 odd days in that feeling hasn’t subsided. So if you, like me, are thinking of taking the plunge, here’s what I’ve learned along the way…

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    I was not busy, I was just killing time

    I live in London, so telling people you’re busy is about as common as commenting on the weather. But since quitting apps I’ve realised that I was not busy with anything other than my phone. Whole afternoons could be lost giving myself repetitive strain injury; one eye on Bumble, one eye on Netflix. In the last few weeks I’ve seen more friends, been to more exhibitions, and have finished writing a novel – that 20 hours a week is precious and now I’ve taken it back for myself.

    My friends are getting my full attention

    Ever sat, drink in hand, staring at your silent mate as they type out their latest ode to Ryan, 32, graphic designer from Bethnal Green? Ever waited patiently as you see them smiling at the joke they’ve just cracked? Ever dutifully asked them about it despite the fact that you and they both know that Ryan is *probably* not the one? Sometimes dating apps make people boring – I’m guilty of being that friend, I’ve dated Ryan but, with distance, I’ve realised how much time my friends and me have spent dissecting the actions of people we’ll probably never meet. And how much nicer it is to talk about, quite literally, anything else.

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    I’ve started to question what I really want

    Whether I wanted to admit it or not, one of the main things that kept me dating was that I couldn’t decide if I wanted children. This was compounded by the fact that everyone, from friends and family, to dates (this is what happens when you hit your thirties) was asking the same thing. While I’m still not 100 per cent sure of the answer, I know that forcing myself to date ‘just in case,’ isn’t the healthiest way to go about looking for someone to potentially partner your children. Nor is drunkenly scrolling through Hinge at 1am – but that’s another story.

    Farewell to ‘Ladmin’, hello to happiness

    Deleting all of my apps might seem like an extreme move, but having my time back from endless ‘ladmin’ has made me happier than I’ve been in years. If you’re not quite ready to give them up completely though, a break could be the start you need. Dating expert Laura Yates explains: ‘Ultimately, dating and how we go about it should be fun. But the apps can easily become all-consuming, disempowering and perpetuate a negative mindset towards dating. Taking that step away from them and getting back to enjoying life and focusing on our wellbeing can give us the reset we need.’

    What I’ve learned is that it’s important to not let the apps control our attitude around dating as a whole, and to set boundaries around how we use them and engage on them. When we get too focused on seeing them as the only tool to meet people, that’s when burnout can strike. ‘We have to bring the right energy to dating to have a good experience – this also includes using dating apps,’ says Yates. ‘Time out can help us reassess how we want to date when we feel ready in a way that fuels us and makes us feel good.’

    Because, really, isn’t that what it should all be about?

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