The 6 ways you can protect your mental health when dating online
ONLINE dating can cause a range of emotions with everything from anticipation to excitement bubbling away.
While it's great meeting new people and starting new relationships, dating apps and sites can also muster feelings of insecurity and rejection.
It's estimated that around one in four adults suffer from some form of a mental health issue.
Dating is exciting and studies have shown that when we are swiping left and reaching out to potential new love interests, there is a increased release of chemicals and hormones.
Experts at dating app Fluttr say that around 50 per cent of online dating matches do not message back, intensifying feelings of rejection.
Research from Harvard University found that high levels of dopamine, one of the ‘feel good’ chemicals in our brain and a related hormone, norepinephrine, are released during attraction which can make people feel energetic and euphoric.
Another paper on social anxiety and dating app use found that if people aren't being swiped on the 'ideal version' of themselves that they are putting forward then they can feel majorly let down.
Rhonda Alexander, CEO of Fluttr, shares tips on how to keep on top of your mental health while trying to connect online.
1. Seeking validation
Rhonda said that if you feel great sadness when you don't hear from a match and feel low if you're not getting attention from someone else then you might actually be seeking validation through your dating app.
She explained: "As online dating statistics show that fifty per cent of online dating matches do not message back, you should not rely on this platform as a healthy medium for self-validation.
"Instead, present your authentic self and take a step back to look after yourself. Ensure that you are giving yourself the attention you need before seeking it from others."
2. Stop people pleasing
This can apply to your behaviour both with dating and outside of the swipe right.
If you're hanging on to someone’s every message, agreeing with them and acting on what they say then that is a tell-tale sign of a power dynamic that can become damaging, Rhonda said.
Rhonda explains that this often stems from the anxiety that another person will lose interest if you do not meet their needs.
"Whilst dedicating time to finding love is great, make sure that pleasing other people does not take priority over your own wellbeing", she added.
3. Deal with rejection
Dealing with rejection can be hard as many of us present the best version of ourselves online.
Rhonda said that it's important to heal from rejection before you can start seeing a new partner.
She explained: "Rejection happens frequently on dating apps, with claims that around 50 per cent of matches do not message back, intensifying feelings of rejection."
A previous study published by the University of North Texas found that dating app users report low self-esteem and low psychosocial well-being from frequent rejection.
"It is important to acknowledge and confront feelings of rejection; surround yourself with family and friends, talk through your feelings and let others support you and make sense of your experience", Rhonda added.
4. You're not disposable
Dating can make you feel like you're disposable as many flick through profiles and dates as though they are going out of fashion.
Rhonda said that a common experience reported by many people who use dating apps is "being ghosted"; this happens when one party simply disappears without an explanation. The lack of any type of closure can be intensely painful for the person shunned.
Previous research conducted by the American Psychological Association found that dating app users may begin to feel depersonalised and disposable in their social interactions.
Rhonda added: "Those who ‘ghost’ might believe that there is always something better around the corner, or possibly via the next swipe of their screen.
"Whilst online daters should keep an open mind, be positive and have fun with the platforms, dating app users can enjoy the gamified aspects of online dating but should keep a focus on matching with care to help forge meaningful connections and possibly discourage the opportunity to be ghosted."
Are you a hopeless romantic? One relationship experts reveals all
Relationship expert, James Thomas at Condoms.uk reveals why it’s important to not put too much pressure on relationships.
He explained the differences between hopeless romantics and hopeful ones.
James explained: "Hopeful romantics try not to assume that other relationships are better or worse. Each relationship is unique,
and therefore they understand comparisons are senseless.
"Hopeless romantics can compare their love life to what they see in movies or on social media. They have unrealistic expectations of their relationship and are disappointed when reality doesn’t match up.
"This can cause them to lose sign of their partners good qualities and become upset in their search of an unattainable relationship."
Whether you've just started dating someone or if you're in a long term relationship, it's best to not compare your relationship to others.
James also added that finding the perfect partner might not be like a rom com and said you should try and not put too much pressure on a first date – that includes striving for perfection.
5. Stay safe
Previous studies have found that even with distance, you can fall in love with someone behind a screen.
This also might also mean that feelings might be more easily exploited in a virtual setting – so it’s important to stay safe.
Rhonda explained: "Dating apps, where users are not verified, can allow criminals and trolls to hide behind fake profiles and do real harm.
"We can sometimes find our head up in the clouds during dating, but it is important to embrace the joy, yet stay safe. Beware of premature declarations of love or requests for sexy photos from your online crush.
"If things seem too good to be true or seem to be moving too fast, be cautious and remember that whilst you may feel a connection with this person, they are still a stranger.
"When on apps, people should remember to go to customer support if there are any issues that arise."
6. Look at life outside of dating
While finding a partner is great – there are many other hobbies and offline activities that you can do that aren't tied to dating.
Rhonda said that having a balanced approach to dating and your other hobbies and interests will make you more interesting to others.
She suggested connecting with old friends, visiting your family, or joining a new group or club to widen your social circle and open your world up to more than the online sphere.
Rhonda added: "Don’t be scared to take a break from online dating if you are unable to keep it in balance. You can always go back online.
"Sometimes turning off notifications and limiting time spent on the app is enough to recharge, but if you feel tempted to constantly check your phone, consider a break from online dating until you are in a better headspace."
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