In our recent blog post 'Does online dating work?' we discussed the psychological impacts online dating has on your brain which can cause users to become addicted to dating apps.
Mental Health Professional, Laura Burke from With Laura B, tells us more about the impact online dating can have on our mental health and what measures we can take to safeguard our mental health whilst using dating apps.
Laura Burke has worked in the mental health industry for over 13 years and now runs her own mental health training company With Laura B
How does online dating affect your mental health?
Online dating can be fun! It can be a great way to meet people. Chatting online can feel safe, and easy. But it comes with problems.
When we match with someone our dopamine levels shoot up (the reward chemical) and that feels good. This feeling leaves us wanting more, which means once the rush wares off we look for more rewards - this CAN lead people to being disposable. And feeling disposable when you’re looking for love is a hard feeling to manage. Online dating gives us instant gratification - but love and relationships aren’t about that. The fun is the journey!
You are open about having met your husband to be on Tinder and before you met him you were going on a lot of dates. How did the process affect you personally?
I spent my 20’s and early 30’s watching Sex And The City and decided I was going to date like those women - it looked fun and flirty, Carrie Bradshaw would BOUNCE when she walked! I wanted some of that! I forgot to remind myself that it was all scripted, and the women were actresses. So, when my life didn’t turn out like theirs, I was left feeling let down.
I used online dating on and off for almost 20 years. I was on all of the “usual” sites, and I loved filling my life with being busy dating. However, I was ghosted, called names, lied to and manipulated. And honestly, I am sure during those years I didn’t display the perfect picture of dating etiquette.
Online dating gave me high highs but really low lows. It felt unpredictable, and if I am honest, I used online dating when I felt bad about myself to give myself a false sense of self worth. I would head to an app or a site when I was bored or felt low, and would get that hit of chemicals when I had a match or someone started chatting with me.
My partner and I met on Tinder, and we were lucky. We were both in a really laid back place, and something pretty amazing sparked.
What can we do to safeguard our mental health whilst dating?
Having a great group of people around you supporting you is really helpful. I am a fan of talking things out, so while navigating the ups and downs of dating I would say talk about how you’re feeling.
Being in touch with how you feel, and being honest about it always helps. If we’re feeling low, reaching out for that superficial “like” or match won’t help long term. Find what fulfils you outside of dating, and do that more. When you feel in the right frame of mind then head back to dating.
And always remember - you are already whole! A partner is there to support you, enhance who you already are, and travel on the journey with you.
Do you think the problem lies with the online dating platforms or with modern day dating in general?
Oh so many things! Internet dating makes people disposable, you can be on the loo on a date and the other person can be arranging a date for the next day. It’s easier to lie, easier to ghost people too. The TV show Catfish is so popular for a reason. I think everyone who online dates can say they have been lied to for some reason or another. It also has made us unable to (in non COVID times) actually go over and speak to someone and see if there is that physical spark.
Recently there has been an increase of dating tv shows like Married at First Sight, Celebs go dating and First Dates. Married at First Sight has come under a lot of scrutiny for harming contestants' mental health with one of the experts actually quitting for this reason: What do you think about these types of shows? Do they harm the contestant's mental health?
The thing that everyone forgets is that TV shows are there to make money. First and foremost. They seem to lack a duty of care to many people.
Do I like these shows? Some, yes! But there is a fine line between entertainment and using someone for the public to laugh at. I think the people who work on the shows have good intentions, but more should be done to support people. They know that if someone on there acts in a certain way, they will get headlines and therefore more viewers. People want to go on them to find love, have a giggle and maybe get some screen time - nothing wrong there! But if they are TV novices I think there should be more support around the harm being famous (or even just insta famous) has on your mental health.
Reality TV has a mental health problem
When reality TV shows cast their contestants adrift, in comes fame, followers and a toxic influx of hatemail.
Do you have any other advice to those in the dating world struggling with their mental health?
I would say take a break from dating/ finding someone and focus on YOU. Seek professional help if needed. Your mental health is worth so much. Find things that make you happy and do more of them. Focus on your personal growth, and when you feel ready to date then head back. There is such an urgency to meet “the one”, but your mental health and wellbeing is one of the most important things in your life. Then, when you meet someone you’re already mentally healthy so you can really focus on finding the right person for you! It’s easy to dive into an app when we feel a bit low (believe me, I have lived it) but really you should dive into yourself.