Let’s be real. How common is it to meet someone in person out and about? Online dating is just how people meet in this generation. We are glued to our phones so might as well try to find someone on it. I’ve been using dating apps and online sites for about a year now so I wanted to share how I do it with anxiety.
First let me back up. When I started college, I jumped into a long term relationship pretty early that lasted a majority of my undergrad. When that ended, I was a little bit lost as I never really dated and met guys during that prime time of the end of my teens. I was completely lost. I barely knew how to talk to a guy (still don’t but that’s another point) so how was I supposed to start a relationship. It is probably worth mentioning that I’ve been single for about 3 years now and I love it. I am exploring life and learning to be independent. I get to go out, have fun, and do whatever I feel like it. I started using online dating as a way to work on talking to people and going out just to enjoy my time. I downloaded Bumble and used that for about a year exclusively, then adding Tinder, OkCupid and the League later on. I usually just rotate through them so I don’t get too overwhelmed and confused. I have meet some people on the apps and have created friendships and casual relationships. Some go really well and some end not so well.
Dating, especially online, is hard when you have a mental health disorder. It was a strain on my previous relationship and I am still very fearful of how it may affect future ones. Online dating took out the nerves and anxiety I have when talking to someone I don’t know in person. During the first year I was single, I would run away from people who tried to talk to me. Having this medium to get to know someone a little bit before I meet them in person makes me more comfortable. I know things about them and can carry a conversation naturally instead of it being forced. It seems like you would be more anxious to meet someone online because of the dangers of catfishing, but I find that it eases my nerves. It has helped me quit a bit on making small talk and that has transitioned into life in person. While I am still going to be hesitant to talk to someone in person, I feel more prepared to do so if I am interested. I probably won’t talk to a total stranger, but way more comfortable with a friend of a friend.
Now, there is a generalization that all people using online dating are just looking for hook ups. Usually, that is pretty true but there are some who are looking for a real relationship. What I like about online dating is that it is usually pretty easy to figure out what the person is looking for. After talking to them for a bit, you get a sense of what they are looking for and how interested you are in them. Or you can ask directly and you’ll usually get an honest answer. And if it doesn’t align with what you are looking for, you don’t have to make some awkward escape. You can flat out tell them or ghost. Yeah I know ghosting is mean but we’ve all done it cause it’s the easiest way. Sometimes people can have harsh reactions when you tell them you aren’t interested in them anymore, but online at least you don’t have to deal with it in person. I think I will always find it easier than the alternative.
I am very open about dealing with mental health, but people still have a lot of problems with it being so out in the open. It is something that I always discuss with people I meet because they must be prepared if I have anxiety attack while with them. I, by no means, expect anyone to deal with my problems but I would rather inform them than randomly freak out. What I have found with dating online is I can tell someone about my struggles without having to look judgement in the face. Even though I am comfortable sharing my mental health, it doesn’t mean that I still don’t feel ashamed sometimes. There is still a huge stigma when it comes to admitting you have a mental heath disorder and the magnitude that it can affect someone’s life. The online medium allows for me to avoid that shame in their face even if they say they understand and are okay with it. It also allows the person time to digest the information and what that could mean if a relationship were to develop.
Now don’t get me wrong. I still have a lot of anxiety when talking to people online. I can put up this facade of who I am because I am not nervous talking to them. I am always worried that if I meet someone, they are going to be disappointed by the person I truly am. I worry that I won’t be able to be what they thought I was going to be, that pictures and words were false even though they aren’t. I worry that I am going to be taken advantaged of or men are going to be angry if I decide I am not interested anymore. But I feel these are things that I will experience in any dating scenario. The online dating can just heighten these emotions because of the mystery around not seeing the person in the flesh upon talking.
I keep hoping I’m going to have that magical moment where I run into someone at a park or grocery store who I’m going to spend the rest of my days with. But chances of that happening are pretty damn slim. So, I probably will keep online dating for now. As I grow with my strategies in dealing with my mental health problems, I think how I date will change and evolve as well. But until now, time for me to swipe left out of here.