How swiping right helped my anxiety

by August Pritchett

Image for article: can Bumble help with anxiety? Bright portrait of girl in bright clothing, drinking fruit juice, and holding a phone on colorful blue background
Caption:

For people with social anxiety, initiating a conversation can be panic-inducing. Dating apps take some of the edge off.

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©rohappy / Adobe Stock

Dating apps and social anxiety

Dating apps tend to have a bad rep. There are countless horror stories about Tinder creeps and people who are secretly dating six others behind their spouse’s back, prompting one of the women to become one of the Cell Block Tango stories. (“Single,” he told me? Single my ass. Not only was he married—oh no! He had six wives… one of those Mormons, you know).

Because of this rep, dating apps are often punchlines to jokes or avoided like the plague. However, ever since I got curious one day and decided to try it for myself, I realized how useful dating apps can be for those who suffer from anxiety. FYI, I’m not a professional (degrees cost a lot of money!). This is just based on my own experience.

Introductions are hard, especially for those with social anxiety. Initiating conversations while trying to figure out whether the other person actually wants to talk to you or is just being polite is absolute panic-inducing sometimes. And if that other person is attractive, oh boy! Then, you have to figure out how to let them know you think they’re attractive while trying not to seem creepy or coming off too strongly.

Next, you have to determine if they also believe you are attractive, and where to go from there. If they don’t feel the same way about you as you do with them, or if they’re just not ready for a relationship at the time, then you basically have made every future interaction with them awkward.

Cue the dating app. On this platform, everyone is looking for relationships, whether it’s a one-time hookup or a potential spouse. Even though everyone might have different motivations in using the app, they have similar expectations in that you’re supposed to meet new people and flirt with them. If you have a cute waiter, you can’t tell for sure how he’ll react to a customer flirting with him, if he’s single, looking for a relationship, or even if he’s attracted to your sex.

For people with social anxiety, all of these things can make them afraid to make that first move, leaving the cute waiter unaware that you find him hot. But if you encounter him on a dating platform, then you know he’s available and open to making new connections.

Bright portrait of girl in bright clothing, and holding a phone on colorful blue background
Caption:

Can Bumble or Tinder help my anxiety?

Credit:

©rohappy / Adobe Stock

Can Bumble help with anxiety?

Another way dating apps can help anxiety is by practicing starting conversations. Personally, I like Bumble because women make the first move, so it forces me to come up with opening lines to initiate a discussion. There’s also a 24-hour time limit, so I can’t put it off for too long if I want to see if anything will come of this match. Even if I get ghosted, it’s still good practice.

The screen can act like a baby step or a series of baby steps. The first is just swiping right, which can be nerve-wracking if it’s a match because then you have to say something. Then, you type in something like, “Hey! How are you?” or something like that. Small talk that can grow into more significant conversations. Once you’re comfortable with that, then you can start chats with something specific about their profile, like the name of their dog or a shared hobby (I admit, I’ve swiped right on guys just to ask about their dogs). If the person seems really hot and you’re feeling particularly daring, then you can swipe right and open with something flirty.

Naturally, it takes time to get to the point where you’re comfortable with telling strangers on dating apps that you find them attractive. But because the other person isn’t there with you, you can place yourself in an environment you’re most comfortable in. And reply back when you feel ready (of course, within Bumble’s 24-hour limit if that’s the app you’re using).

Once you’re confident in your abilities to flirt with random people through dating apps, then you can take the next major step, which is using your newfound skills in RL. If you’re lucky, this could be by going on a date (yes, an actual date) with your match. For some people, myself included, asking people to meet up in person can be a nerve-wracking experience, whether it’s to meet a cute guy for coffee or going to the movies with a friend.

So, when meeting the person on the other side of the screen, you’ve already gone through many of the anxiety-inducing steps online. You know who they are, they know who you are, and you’ve most likely already figured out what things you can talk about.

Even if you don’t end up going out with any Tinderellas or Bumblebees, you still know what works, and what doesn’t, what kinds of responses you’ll get to different statements. Take what you’ve learned to flirt with new people, to their face (scary, I know! But please, don’t be a creep). There’s the added bonus of being able to read body language, so you’ll know what that cute waiter really thinks when you compliment him on his shirt. Because you’ve had practice online, doing real-life pickups aren’t as scary as they would’ve been pre-internet days.

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Portrait photo of August Pritchett. August is sitting in a wheel chair. They are wearing a white dress with a red flower print.
Article by August Pritchett

August Pritchett is a disability advocate, a young adult historical fiction writer, obsessed with the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

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