This article originally appeared here at ReachOut.com
Exploring the world of Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and other dating apps can be both super exciting and a bit overwhelming. On the upside, you get to meet people you wouldn’t meet otherwise, and it takes some of the anxiety out of face-to-face intros. But you might also have safety concerns or get dating burnout. We spoke to some young people who’ve been there, done that, to find out how you can have a positive experience and avoid a Tinder fail.
Date your own way
Dating can be fun if you take things at your own pace and only do what feels comfortable for you. Try not to compare your experience to that of a mate who seems to be getting tonnes of messages every day and goes on five dates a week. As they say in reality TV shows, it’s all about your journey.
There’s no rule around how much time to spend on the apps; just work out what feels good for you. Royina, 24, says: ‘I used to swipe a lot at the beginning, but now I realise that it doesn’t feel good for me. I limit the time I spend on apps to one hour a day, and I don’t swipe after 9 pm.’
Be upfront about what you want
People are on dating apps for all kinds of reasons – some are looking for love and others want a one-night stand. ‘Regardless of what you’re looking for, it’s good to be really clear right off the bat. This way, if you guys are looking for different things, you can move on quickly without getting hurt,’ Royina advises.
Avoid dating fatigue
Joey, 20, says: ‘Dating apps can be addictive. You get sucked in. You get into a mental loop that maybe tonight I’ll meet someone.’ The way he deals with this is to try and be patient. ‘We often use Tinder because we want to get into a relationship fast, or we want physical interaction. You have to take your time. Tinder feels like it’s begging us to skip that step.’
He also takes time out from dating whenever he’s sick of it all. ‘I go do my own thing, see my friends, play games, go for a drive or watch YouTube. Taking time out is very helpful.’
If you’re looking for a relationship, your first match may not be the one you’re after. Give it some time. (Joey, 20)
How to date online safely
Here are five things you can do to up your chances of staying safe while using online dating apps:
- Keep your contact information private.
- Meet in a public place and know how you can get home easily.
- Let someone know who you are meeting and what your plans are, then check in with them.
- Be aware of the effects of drugs and alcohol, and know your limits.
- If you feel uncomfortable at all, leave the date.
Shake off rejection
Let’s be real: rejection is a part of dating for most of us. Esther says that remembering that there are two people involved can help you feel less rejected. ‘I just think: I’m not right for them; they’re not right for me.’
Joey says: ‘When I matched with girls, they wouldn’t even talk to me. At first, it made me feel rejected, but then I learnt not to take it personally. By talking about it with my friends, I heard that they’ve had similar experiences.’
And ghosting isn’t the end of the world, Royina reckons. ‘As someone who is quite sensitive, I really hated being ghosted, especially if the date went well. I used to take it really personally, but I’ve learnt now that ghosting is usually due to poor communication. It’s best not to reflect on why it happened and just try to move on.’
When you’re on the app and meeting people, you have to think if you like them, too; it’s not just about if they like you. (Royina, 24)
Chat with someone you trust
Having someone to talk to about all this stuff can be a big weight off your shoulders. Esther chats to her dad, because she feels he has a holistic view of who she is. ‘I know the advice he gives me is valuable.’
You might want to talk about your experiences with online dating, or other things to get your mind off dating. Royina says: ‘It’s so important to have a non-judgmental person you can chat or vent to.’
Above all, online dating is meant to be fun. When it’s not feeling that way anymore, take a break, rethink your approach and chat to someone who can support you. You are awesome and valuable just for being you, regardless of your relationship status.
You are more than the number of matches you get
Remember: you are so much more than the number of matches you get. Try writing down all the things you like about yourself or are good at (or ask a friend or family member to tell you!) and look at the list if you’re feeling crap.
‘When you’re online dating, it’s so easy to link your self-esteem to responses on the apps. You start getting addicted to it if you’re getting a lot of likes; or if you don’t, you feel really terrible about yourself. You need to have a self-care routine so you can distance yourself from the whole thing,’ says Royina.
Everyone is going to put their hottest photos and generic quotes – it’s not an indicator of who you are at all! (Royina, 24)