“Ghosting does not happen entirely within the context of dating, with many people ghosting friends, too. When someone ghosts another, they are ending a relationship without admitting, explaining, or notifying the partner, match or friend..”


 

We live in a world where our phones are constantly glued to our hands and, yes, sometimes it is an escape from the reality we live in.
                A huge part of the ever-growing technology we are using each day is in the form of dating apps. Dating apps do have their positive aspects. For instance, some people feel more comfortable using dating apps because they may lack confidence, or because they are somehow isolated. For others, it is an opportunity to find someone for a casual meet up, with both parties knowing the deal right from the start. There are so many other reasons for using dating apps – probably too many to list here.
                In short, you can be sat there eating your breakfast whilst you decide if you think a person is attractive, and with a swipe of your thumb to the left or right you make your decision. You may wait in anticipation to see if you have matched with a chosen potential partner. They may have swiped positively already, in which case you are instantly informed, and if it is a match, it can be a confidence boost that someone has found you attractive too – which is great.
                Other times, they may not have swiped yet – or “worse”: at all. People who don’t get a match may feel rejected, and it can have an effect on their self-esteem…

With more and more dating apps being released every day – Match, Bumble, Tinder, Grindr: each with their own unique take on the process – it is very easy to spend many hours on these apps trying to find someone, for whatever reason that might be.  
                So, is it important to ask, “Are these dating apps affecting our mental health?”
                Ultimately, after all, we are rated on our appearances; we are judged by the bios we write; and we open ourselves to expectations… and disappointments. We are sometimes so clouded by the hope of finding the right person that we can easily put ourselves at risk.
                We are competing with so many other “users” out there, so that when we click onto our social media apps – such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter – and see that someone has entered into a relationship, another friend has become engaged, and someone else has moved in with their partner, you can easily feel lonely.
                You can also feel unlucky in love when you are scrolling on social media, seeing couples going out on dates or going on holiday together, and it looks like all of these couples are having so much fun together.
                You, by contrast, seem to simply be sat switching between dating apps, waiting for that next message.
                Even worse, when seeing the social media posts of all these relationships, some single people can become ever more eager to get back on the dating apps and keep searching. It can be addictive, just like playing Coin Master, or the notorious Candy Crush that keeps you hooked with small rewards seemingly leading nowhere.
                If this sounds in any scale like your own experience, it’s important to remember that when you do see a post on social media of a couple smiling, laughing, apparently living the high life, that post is just a snapshot of a particular moment – and quite often posed for.
                Relationships aren’t perfect. People do argue, and relationships take a great deal of love and commitment from one another for it to work. It’s crucial to remember that the reality is so much different to that photo on Instagram or Facebook…

Either way, we are currently living through an online dating culture which can such a negative impact on our mental health.
                When you have a recognised mental health condition – or even a generalised anxiety – and you take the step to start dating, it can be nerve-wracking, but also exciting to see who is out there.
                With dating apps specifically, however, your appearance and your body type can come under scrutiny by the many users out there. You can face regular rejection, which can make you feel so depressed, which in turn can lower self-esteem.
                Sure, you can upload a new picture of yourself and try to feel confident with how you look, but it only takes that one person to message you negatively, “ghost” or unmatch you to make you feel unattractive. Dating apps are a quickfire approach to dating – an anonymous speed dating, if you will – yet often it can be incredibly difficult for individuals not to take things personally. It is only natural to feel upset when you experience negativity (whether active or passive) while using dating apps. 

A modern term in dating, that I’ve mentioned above, is “ghosting”. This is when someone suddenly cuts off all communication by blocking and ignoring their partner (or online match) in order to end the relationship.
                Ghosting does not happen entirely within the context of dating, with many people ghosting friends, too. When someone ghost another, they are ending a relationship without admitting, explaining, or notifying the partner, match or friend. Suddenly messages stop, any attempt to make plans is met with excuses, and generally communication is met with silence.
                Ghosting someone can obviously have an impact on their mental health.
                They may start worrying about what they did wrong and without a clear moment of “closure”, it leaves the person questioning everything. It can also affect someone’s self-esteem as they might begin to question if there is something wrong with them.
                Being ghosted may also affect future relationships, as someone may find it difficult to trust a new partner, perhaps even becoming paranoid that they will soon become ghosted once more. If you are no longer interested in someone, just say so – while difficult, it can often be a sign of respect and fairness. Likewise, if someone ghosts you then simply see it as “dodging a bullet”. They’re not good enough for you, anyway.

That said, I do also understand that there might be particular cases where ghosting could be the only choice…
                One explanation could be to protect their mental or physical health, such as if someone becomes verbally or physically abusive – it could be that the person they are trying to end the relationship with could become confrontational, and the individual may fear what will happen to them. People have different experiences and if someone has a valid reason to ghost a person – such as in instances of safety – then I do think it can be justified.
                It might be worth mentioning instances of abuse to a friend or family member, and if you think you’re in immediate danger inform the police.

When it comes to our dating profiles, we have so many apps available that adjust the way we look.
                We can add filters, make our teeth whiter, smooth our skin, and even change the size of your eyes. We can upload these filtered photos of ourselves onto dating apps, in an effort to appear more attractive to other users, but ultimately it is uploading a false version of yourself – which can lead to all sorts of problems, including many of the issues outlined above.
                Some editing apps can edit body shapes to present a thinner version of ourselves, too. In a world full of dating profiles and social media, these filtered versions of ourselves become the “visual standard”. This can be troublesome for individuals who do not see these impossible bodies reflected in the mirror at home, which can lead Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).  
                BDD is a mental health condition where someone spends an inordinate amount of time obsessing over “flaws” in their appearance. They will focus on a specific area of their body, comparing their looks to someone else’s and these impossible standards presented online, and even go to extreme efforts to hide their flaws. Although someone can’t remove their flaws – if indeed it is a “flaw” – they can learn to embrace them, and to seek extra support if it is needed, whether accessed through their doctor or directly through such support agencies as the BDD Foundation (bddfoundation.org).

As mentioned, with the day to day rejections and frequent ghosting that exists, dating apps can have a negative impact on a person’s mental health. Therefore, it is obviously a good idea to take precautions when using them.
                A simple but effective advice is don’t use dating apps when you are feeling down. The next piece of advice is when you feel comfortable with a match, and consider them to be a potential partner, to talk about mental health conditions in a hypothetical situation. You can see how they feel or gather their opinion about dating someone who has a mental health condition. After finding out, you can decide whether to be honest about your own mental health condition. It depends entirely on the situation, of course, and may depend entirely on their reaction to the discussion. The last piece of advice, as cliché as it might sound, is to just be yourself and don’t change for anyone – by being yourself you will naturally attract people who will appreciate you for who you are. Trying to impress people will only attract those that will leave you later on…

Ultimately, whether you have a diagnosed mental health condition or not, you simply want to feel validated and supported by others, and so dating apps can be very counterproductive.
                You aren’t just seeking validation for how you look, naturally, as there is a deeper concern at play: you are seeking validation that you can be loved even with a mental health condition (or through those times when you aren’t “at your best”). Sometimes it is a good idea to take a break from the apps and go spend time with the people in your life, who undoubtedly do love and validate you, regardless of anything.

 

Luke Etherington, 25, is a Learning Support Assistant from Teesside. He loves doing landscape photography, and having lazy days watching Netflix. He is a mental health advocate who is passionate about tackling the stigma attached to mental health.

Follow him on Twitter: @lukejamesether

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