EMOTIONAL HEALTH
August 22, 2019

The Lonelyhearts Club, Online Edition

Some singles who use dating apps can't stop looking and swiping, even when out with others. Feeling lonely doesn't help.

More and more people are turning to dating apps. They can make the search for a partner much easier, and they are a godsend for people who are socially anxious and have difficulty connecting with other people in person. But dating apps can become an obsession for some, especially among people who are lonely.

Kathryn Coduto, a researcher at Ohio State University, has seen it happening firsthand: “I've seen people who use dating apps compulsively. They take their phones out when they're at dinner with friends or when they're in groups. They really can't stop swiping.”

People should monitor their dating app usage to see if they are having trouble setting limits for themselves.

It's not surprising that anxious people would feel far more comfortable meeting and talking with dating partners online than in the flesh — at least initially. And the responses of the college students taking part in a recent study bore this out. But that alone didn't lead to compulsively using dating apps. Loneliness had to be part of the mix.

Coduto, a researcher at Ohio State University, looked at 269 undergraduate students with experience using at least one dating app. Students were asked questions about feelings of loneliness and social anxiety — whether or not they were constantly nervous around other people.

They were also asked whether they'd had any problems stemming from their dating app use, such as missing class or otherwise getting in trouble because of it and if they had difficulty cutting down on their usage. These tended to be people who were both lonely and socially anxious. Loneliness or anxiety alone was not enough to predict compulsive usage.

With loneliness on the rise, it's likely more and more people will be using dating apps.

Coduto offers some advice for these over-users. It starts with being aware that there is a problem. People should monitor their dating app usage. If they are having trouble setting limits, they can use apps that restrict their dating app use to certain times of day or to a set amount of time each day. “Especially if you're lonely, be careful in your choices. Regulate and be selective in your use.”

The study appears in the Journal of Personal and Social Relationships.

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