Quick notes:

  • Compulsive dating app usage does not cause a higher likelihood of finding Mr./Ms. Right — just the opposite, actually.
  • Limiting time spent on dating apps and being more selective about who you message and meet can be helpful.
  • Factor in deeper issues, such as social anxiety and loneliness, that may be causing excessive usage of dating apps.

 

New data out from Ohio State University shows that dating app experiences have a key theme in common when app-related dates don’t pan out, and it’s not a pretty one — compulsive usage.

OSU researchers say the more you use a dating app, the much higher the likelihood Mr. or Ms. Wrong will be waiting at the bar for you on your next date. Not only that, the compulsive act of checking and rechecking your phone impairs your daily activities, as well.

“It’s not just that they’re using their phone a lot,” says Kathryn Coduto, director of the OSU study. “We had participants who said they were missing school or work, or getting in trouble in classes or at work because they kept checking the dating apps on their phones.”

“I’ve seen people who use dating apps compulsively,” Coduto adds. “They take their phones out when they’re at dinner with friends or when they’re in groups. They really can’t stop swiping.”

Coduto and her coresearchers — Roselyn Lee-Won, associate professor of communication at Ohio State, and Young Min Baek of Yonsei University in Korea — interviewed 269 undergraduate college students who had used a dating app. What they found was that students who were most likely to overuse mobile dating apps were socially anxious and who usually opted to talk to potential dating partners online instead of meeting in person.

Above all else, students who showed symptoms of being “lonely” were the most compulsive users who embraced digital dating apps.

“If they were also lonely, that’s what made the problem significant,” she said. “That combination led to compulsive use and then negative outcomes.”

Healthy ways to manage dating app usage

The good news from the study is that, with some self-discipline, the romance-minded can still use dating apps, but in smaller doses. Setting time limits and being self-aware can help better manage digital dating experiences, study researchers say.

“Especially if you’re lonely, be careful in your choices,” Coduto advises. “Regulate and be selective in your use.”

That’s not the only way you can improve your online dating experience and even make it a less mandatory part of your daily life. Follow these expert tips, as well:

Be more selective. One of the worst habits is to spend too much time looking for Mr. or Ms. Right, says Sonya Schwartz, a dating and relationship expert and founder of the self-help blog Herspiration.com.

“It’s a known fact that when given too many choices, it becomes almost impossible to actually choose,” Schwartz says. “Try to limit your choices by spending less time scouring through profiles and more time actually interacting with members.”

Start with selecting two or three profiles you like and have a chat with those people, she advises. “If it doesn’t ‘click,’ ditch a profile and pick a new one that seems of your interest, chat, and see if you feel a connection,” Schwartz says.

Curb your itchy finger. It’s also essential to limit your online time, says Schwartz. “After an initial chat that goes well, propose a real-life date if your potential date doesn’t ask,” she says. “Waiting too much for someone to ask you out means they’re not truly convinced you’re the one or are just playing, so you’d better stay away from these members.”

Quality time is a priority. Focus on quality over quantity, says Anita Mahalli, M.S.W., a certified relationship and family care expert at Maple Holistics in New York City.

“Sometimes the overwhelming possibilities can distract you from what you’re actually looking for,” Mahalli says. “While it’s valuable to expand your dating options and horizons, don’t just swipe on any available person. Create for yourself some sort of selection process, so that your matches are actually matches and not just an accumulation of non-potentials.”

Look in the mirror. It almost sounds harsh, but there’s only one question you should be asking yourself when you’re setting up your dating profile: Would you date you?

“Put on your profile the things that make you, you — and ignore the rest,” Mahalli says. “Your interests and hobbies, as well as your values, are all a good idea to have on your profile. Make sure your photos actually look like you and aren’t just a collection of what you looked like over the years, or worse, group photos of you and your friends.”

Not replying. It’s true that you don’t owe everyone the time of day, but there’s something to be said for not ignoring those who message you on dating apps, Mahalli says.

“The only way to communicate on most of these platforms is through conversation so unresponsiveness kind of defeats the purpose,” she notes. “Even if you know for a fact that you’re not interested, just take a moment to respond before moving onto the next person.”

Have fun with the experience. Don’t make dating (or dating apps) a marriage referendum, advises David Strah, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles, California. “Lighten up and try to have fun with it,” Strah says. “Make your goal to enjoy yourself, have an interesting time and maybe make a new friend.”

Strah especially advises dating app users to avoid putting too much time and effort into first dates. “If you’re meant to be with the person, it will happen,” he says. “Too much pressure will make the other person run for the hills.”

To curb excessive dating app usage, take these steps

If you suspect you’re spending too much time on dating apps, Strah advises taking these action steps:

1. Limit your time on the dating app to 30 minutes, two to three times per week.

2. Give yourself a dating app vacation of a week or two every few months to take the pressure off finding “the one.”

3. Take yourself off the dating apps for a month and focus on meeting people organically (the old-fashioned way) through friends, at the gym, or on the bus.

4. Identify and explore the underlying emotions and limiting beliefs — usually fear, anxiety, and unworthiness, or “I will never find a partner” — and address these with a mental health professional.

5. Think about optics, too, and be self-aware. Some people think that if they are on multiple dating apps and obsessively checking them regularly, they will find “the one.” Instead, this sends out a repellent energy of desperation and anxiety.

Factor in “deeper” issues

Overall, the compulsive use of dating apps is just a symptom of a deeper underlying issue, self-help experts say.

“Those who use dating apps compulsively are likely to suffer from social anxiety and unresolved feelings of loneliness,” says Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics. “It’s a way to create instant connections. This is different from other social media platforms because it has the instant gratification factor that comes with swiping, matches, and conversation that follows.”

The result of negative outcomes is unsurprising when you take into consideration the fact that the underlying issue is a search for deeper connections, and that social anxiety and loneliness play a big role in dating app usage.

“Deeper meaning cannot be achieved through a five-minute chat with a random stranger whom you may or may not find attractive,” Mahalli says.

Above all else, be patient when taking the dating app route.

“We usually have to kiss a lot of toads before we find our prince or princess,” says Strah. “Think of each date as just getting closer to Mr. or Ms. Right and don’t take it too seriously.”

A deeper dive — Related reading on the 101:

You could be getting more dates with your online dating profile … Find out how here!

Mobile devices are able to track loneliness based on movement, time spent indoors, and more …

OK, so you’ve got yourself a date … but how do you know they’re not a complete psycho?!