“When you’re talking to eight to 10 people at the same time, the “what’s up” becomes really tiring to answer. The texting becomes lame after a point,” says 33-year-old Ektaa, a journalist based in Delhi. Ektaa is one of many people experiencing dating fatigue, which, in simple words, is exhaustion from the constant and overuse of dating apps. How many times have you abruptly ended a conversation with someone because exchanging pleasantries, getting a lowdown on what someone’s looking for, and then the same “Hey” three times a day just got on your nerves? When something begins to induce stress rather than reduce it, a burnout is inevitable. Dating fatigue is a result of the same.
Deepika Singh from Delhi says she has tried out almost all dating apps, and uninstalled them for various reasons too. “I left Aisle in a month because I hardly got any matches, and on the other hand, on OkCupid, I got so many messages on the first night that I uninstalled it the next morning,” she says. Singh feels that the newness and originality also diminishes. “A lot of people use the same standard text for their bio, and it’s harder to find someone who can hold my attention. Secondly, while it was fun and self-indulgent to talk about myself earlier, now it gets repetitive and exhausting and I really don’t feel like going through the same routine of telling my name, what I do, what brings me here and the likes,” she says.
Srini Swaminathan, 40, from Chennai, installed dating apps a few years ago just out of curiosity. “In a few months, I got dormant on two apps that I had been active on and since then, I have been on and off them, with almost a year of no dating apps at all on my phone because I have felt fatigued or just done. I am quite active on social media and make many connections there, which I am content with,” he says. Srini feels that high expectations, instant gratification that leads to disappointment and not approaching a virtual connect with the same respect and sensitivity that one would with a real life connection is what leads to dating fatigue. “People also bring their baggage to every new connect and act carefully, leading to a longer time and effort to actually move ahead, exchange numbers or meet,” he says.
Another factor that most people feel leads to feeling exhausted is ghosting, a recurring phenomenon in the digital age. Dhruvi Shah Mota, a digital creator from Mumbai, says being ghosted got to her. “I have been on dates where I have been stood up. I was on almost all the dating apps. But I realised it was becoming very transactional. I was quite open to meeting people, but there were people who just weren’t interested in making the effort to meet or even exchange numbers. And many of them ghost, even after meeting. I’ve been at that place where I’m like I don’t want to do this and just uninstalled all the apps. I think the ghosting is what caused my fatigue,” she says. Srini also feels like a lot of distress is caused because of ghosting.
For Shasvathi Siva, an entrepreneur, the fatigue comes from just too many conversations all at once, and quickly skipping from one to another. “There is no attention span left, very little conversation, and we end up swiftly moving on and forgetting to find a connect. While the want to date is there, it’s also tough to find one decent conversation, she says. To deal with the fatigue, people keep reinstalling and uninstalling these apps. Siva doesn’t uninstall apps, but she can go for weeks without remembering they exist when she feels exhausted. Ektaa installed apps thrice, but ended up deleting them all. Srini has lost count of the number of times he has uninstalled and reinstalled, and puts his apps on snooze mode when experiencing fatigue. “If I feel a sense of fatigue, I just go off them for a few weeks and then get back if I am traveling or feel like I have the energy,” says Srini, while Siva chooses not to respond to messages and shut down her apps.
We may debate the pros and cons of using technology to date, but more and more dating apps are on the rise, and so are the number of users on them. Bumble has over 85 million users globally and more than a billion first moves made since the app launched in 2014. Priti Joshi, VP Strategy at Bumble, says since its launch in 2018, Bumble India’s user base has quadrupled to surpass three million users. Mr. Snehil Khanor, CEO and co-founder of Truly Madly, shares that the app has around six million registered users in total, 22 per cent of which are women. “50 per cent of our users are above 28, and 70 per cent are above 26. On our platform, people are mostly looking for serious relationships,” he says. On the other hand, a Tinder spokesperson reveals that as of the third quarter of 2019, Tinder had nearly 5.7 million subscribers and Tinder India is among Tinder’s top 5 growing markets and the largest in Asia. Mint put out a Google report released last May, revealing the dating app sector was said to be valued at $100 million in the next five to eight years. Clearly, dating apps aren’t going anywhere, but neither is the overwhelming access to it.
From a mental health perspective, Smriti Joshi, lead psychologist at AI life coach start up Wysa, draws a parallel between online shopping and online swiping. “There are too many choices available, which makes it hard to analyse what is right for you and what isn’t. The process of being emotionally and cognitively involved with multiple people can lead to feeling overwhelmed. People also use apps when they aren’t stimulated much, but want to look at something that makes them feel better. For example, I go to a shopping site and keep adding things to my cart. I am not going to end up buying everything I add to cart, but it does make me feel better to browse,” she analyses. Dr Milan Balakrishnan, consultant psychiatrist in Mumbai, feels that when people’s expectations mismatch, it creates a certain frustration. “Fatigue sets in because the whole concept of dating apps is based on impulsive decisions and can be exhausting for someone who is looking for long-term companionship. Incessant swiping right or left is based on perception of what a person is like and very often, it isn’t the true picture. The breaking point for dating fatigue is when self doubt starts creeping in,” he explains.
Psychotherapist Smiti Srivastava, who has done her training research in online romantic relationships, has worked with multiple clients who have experienced dating fatigue. “I think I can safely say that for the age group between 18-35, more than 70 per cent of my clients have found themselves swiping left/right, waiting for someone’s long pending response, being ghosted or even compulsively dating,” she says. Srivastava says the fatigue starts from the lifestyle that we’re currently living where we get to be who we want to be, behind a screen. “With everything moving to digital based platforms, we’re not only getting compulsively busier and preoccupied, we’re also essentially living two identities. The online one as well as the offline one. This way of living in itself is very exhausting,” she says.
Therapists believe that as is the case with any form of fatigue, it is very important that you don’t push yourself further and take a breather immediately. One of the first few things to do, they say, would be to take a step back and take a break. “When you’re ready, you can always go back there,” Srivastava says. Balakrishnan suggests taking a week long break, and get back on with a more authentic profile. “Don’t be disheartened because of a few wrong people and don’t let it create self-doubt.” Joshi suggests going slow. “Take it one person at a time, try and initiate a conversation with one person instead of incessant swiping, get to know someone before moving on to someone else. Set very clear boundaries for yourself of what you’re okay with and how much you want to share,” she advises.