The culture around modern dating, heightened by the use of dating apps, involves a lot of dehumanization–especially towards women. This is set by the long-standing expectation of women to be vessels of healing for heterosexual men combined with the strain on mental health that virtual dating can have on anybody, regardless of gender. This develops a particularly damaging environment for single women and women that have entered relationships with the intention of fixing someone.

The dating landscape for women

From personal experience, dating is an absolute clusterfuck. As someone who’s gone into the dating scene with pretty lax criteria and a lighthearted outlook, I got absolutely wrecked. Navigating through both casual and more committed relationships feels like sifting through a mountain of unresolved trauma that falls on my (or whatever girl he dates next month’s) shoulders.

This isn’t to say that someone who isn’t fully recovered from their own issues or someone who struggles with mental health is not worthy of finding love. However, it becomes a problem when dating apps and constant gratification from different partners becomes a coping mechanism. I’m not completely innocent in this regard, but I can acknowledge some of the emotional damage I’ve dealt with and work towards becoming better.

Relationships formed around co-dependency

I think most women have encountered a man who seeks out girlfriends in lieu of a therapist. Or worse, puts all the responsibilities of both a girlfriend and a therapist onto the shoulders of a partner with which he refuses to commit to. I think these dating patterns are born out of a sense of male privilege, in which a man constantly seeks an enabler to validate his actions. Which, for some reason, we are supposed to treat as a super normal and healthy thing.

There’s evidence that states increased stress, anxiety, and depression correlates with prolonged use of Swipe-based dating apps (SBDAs.) This can deteriorate a person’s mental health that already struggles and serves as a lesser-known, but a quite damaging, form of escapism.

Dating apps and mental health

In terms of how dating apps affect mental health, I’ve encountered two polarizing scenarios. The first being that my self-esteem is so low, I swipe until I get a god complex and shoot finger guns at myself in the mirror for the entirety of the day. The next scenario is that while I’m on this high, one dude holding a fish in his profile picture ghosts me, so I sit in my bed listening to folklore on repeat. This shows how fragile and unhealthy basing your worth in the continued validation of others can be.

Now, from the male perspective, I feel like these two scenarios can have inherently different effects. If a man with existing issues doesn’t get any matches, his damaged self-image can feed into this resentful narrative that women (especially on dating apps) are superficial. When a person like this finally gets into a relationship, it’s very likely it will harbor codependency. On the other end of the spectrum, if a man is overly popular on dating apps, the ego can start to dehumanize women. This is someone who’s likely to gaslight, lovebomb, and trauma dump on a partner. This person will seamlessly move on to the next partner, or even recruit multiple at once when they don’t receive enough validation.

Ultimately, modern dating has become even more virtual since the pandemic. There’s nothing wrong with using apps to meet people in a safe and healthy way. However, the majority of people are at risk of abusing these apps and becoming desensitized to the emotions of others. Being aware and taking care of your mental state is important when looking to date, especially when you could potentially harm others while using dating as a method of coping.

Cover photo: La Collectionneuse (1967)

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