Dating in the modern age: How do I use these apps? (Or what to do if you’d rather avoid them entirely)

How to date in healthier ways, given all the latest options

Stock image (Porapak Apichodilok/Pexels)

In almost all ways, technology has made our lives easier.

Let’s say you have a problem in your home: For example, your drain is clogged. You can look up the problem on Google, see what the experts have to say, watch a video on YouTube about how to fix the issue, check out blogs and forums -- you name it. You have a ton of options and resources right at your fingertips.

You’d think the same concept would apply to dating.

We have the internet -- everywhere. We all carry our phones around in our pockets, seemingly all day, every day. Shouldn’t dating be easier by now? Shouldn’t we have more options, avenues and resources?

“Sure, (these days it might be) easier in terms of accessibility, but the process is just as hard as it’s always been,” said Michelle Warren, a therapist in Birmingham, Michigan.

Warren said she works with a lot of young adults, many of whom are dating. She has clients who are older and dating as well, some widowed or divorced, who haven’t grown up with the level of technology that’s available to young people today. Either way, Warren has gotten familiar with some of the struggles associated with dating online -- or trying to date in this relatively new age of technology.

She wanted to share some insight for the people out there trying to make a romantic connection.

1.) If you’re going to use the apps, just know that they were not all created for the same purpose.

Yes, it’s probably easier these days to get online and see with relative ease who’s available and looking for a date. But the apps and websites are not all the same.

In the end, you could meet someone who could turn into a potential partner -- almost anywhere. But you should know what you’re signing up for ahead of time.

Some sites have no fee to sign up, meaning people don’t have to put much, if any, time or money into the process.

Some apps are just based on looks, so what can you really expect from an encounter? It’s all visual.

And simply put, “Some sites are for hookups,” Warren said.

When you pay to join a site or an app, it can be a lengthy process, but it might give you a better chance of having a relationship come out of that date.

In a way, you’re kind of paying to filter people out -- people who likely aren’t a match.

“And if you’re looking for a no-investment site based on appearance, it’s probably going to be not the most fruitful experience for you,” Warren said.

2.) If you’re looking for something a little more organic, you do have some options.

Warren recommends MeetUp groups.

Are you into running? Painting? Birding? Just grabbing a friendly drink? There’s a group on MeetUp for almost every interest, in almost every locale.

Warren likes the idea of one MeetUp group that picks a new charity to help out every month. There’s another she’s familiar with that simply gathers single young adults for a happy hour every so often.

“It takes a little bit of the guess-work out of the equation,” Warren said. “It makes that awkward part of (asking), ‘Are you single?’ out of it. Maybe you strike up a great conversation. Maybe you make a friend or a date. But it’s such a good resource.”

Stock image (Helena Lopes/Pexels)

Perhaps you’re not into the idea of meeting someone online in any capacity -- or you just need a breather from the apps. You can still meet people the old-fashioned way. If you’re resistant to joining MeetUp or involving your phone in any way, here are a few more ideas from Warren:

  • Try making new friends. You don’t have to intend to meet someone for a romantic connection. Just get to know like-minded people with whom you share common interests and values. “The likelihood of having a healthy long-term relationship comes from that,” Warren said. Maybe you’ll meet someone who will introduce you to a prospective date. Who knows?
  • You could volunteer. “Sure, this is a little unorthodox. But again, you’ll be meeting like-minded people,” Warren said. “And you’ll be doing something good while expanding your social circle.”
  • Network, just like you would in your career. Because you never know! “People say to always network when looking for a job, because you never know who might know someone,” Warren said. But the same goes for dating. If you feel comfortable, tell the people in your life that you’re ready to date again. You never know who their friends, neighbors or relatives are.

“Humans get so regimented in what they’re doing,” Warren said. “If we know we go to the same job, workout place, grocery store and restaurants week in and week out, we have to expand that circle. ... Once we’re past high school and college, and just out of that phase of life, it really does become harder. Meeting people beyond that is going to be limited.”

But we’re going to change all that.

3.) No matter how you meet this person, be clear on your intentions.

If you’re looking for something purely physical, there’s no judgment, Warren said.

“Some people are busy,” she added. “Maybe you just got out of a relationship, or who knows? But if you’re looking for just sex, or a real relationship, make that clear. And make sure the other person is clear with you."

4.) When dating online, be careful with the words you use in your profile.

It should be an accurate reflection of your life, Warren said.

“Sometimes I hear, ‘I put down that I’m outdoorsy,’ but this person is almost allergic to the outdoors. And then if they find someone who likes to hike and camp, (that person might) want to share that part of their life, and it’s going to be a potential problem,” the therapist said.

And if you’re a homebody, embrace that you’re a homebody. There are a lot of people like that in the world, Warren said. No shame!

Stock image (Bruce Mars/Pexels)

This is not the time to pretend you’re someone you’re not.

5.) Consider what images you’re putting out on your profile.

“Girls, you’re more than a pouty face or your breasts,” Warren said. “Guys, you’re more than your abs.”

And that’s not to say you shouldn’t project confidence.

If you want to put those elements out there, it’s fine.

Just keep in mind, this is your first impression. Are you family-oriented? Do you volunteer? What else can you showcase to a prospective partner?

This matters -- because it’s about how you see yourself, as well. You’ll want to be thoughtful and intentional about what you’re showing off.

Same goes for your profile description.

“People will sometimes post, ‘I have a lot of baggage,’” Warren said. “Why is that the first thing you would tell someone? And whoever says, ‘Sign me up for that!’, you might want to question that person. What are you attracting?”

And finally, some things to consider while dating:

-- Be patient in the process.

You have limited leisure time. Going out on one date might not be more than that, and that’s OK. Have fun, but keep in mind: You might not meet your soulmate overnight. Give it time. Don’t force anything.

-- Be picky.

Warren said sometimes she’ll hear people say things like, “Maybe I’m being too picky” or perhaps their friends or relatives say they’re too selective or particular when it comes to dating.

“But I can’t imagine something you should be more picky about in your life,” Warren said. “You have control over this. You can pick when it comes to who you spend your time with. Whether it’s for this season or forever, think about your partner’s hobbies, temperament, etc. If you’re lucky, forever is forever on this earth, so you don’t want to waste your time (with someone who isn’t a match).”

She added, be pickier than you already are.

That’s not to say you should be shallow about things that don’t matter much, like if a man wears bootcut jeans and you’re more into a tapered fit. But Warren does recommend that you’re confident about what you’re looking for and how well your personality balances with your partner’s.

-- Be kind.

“It’s a good time of season to talk about it, but this is a good practice all year -- if you’re not interested, let (that person) know,” Warren said. “Be a grown up.”

Breaking up in person is probably the best form, and Warren said ending a relationship via text, email or social media is really unkind and immature. If you’re old enough to be dating, end it with dignity for the other person. Ghosting feels awful -- don’t do that to someone else.

“How you end a relationship is much more of a testament of your character as a human than how you began it,” Warren said.

Humans are very capable of healing, forgiveness and moving forward, Warren said.

“If you were to say, ‘Our values and temperaments are different’ or ‘I’m not in that place,’ it’s much better than letting that person wonder what the heck happened,” she added.

By the way, if you’re wondering what sites and apps are best for what purpose, we didn’t want to call out the companies. Needless to say, if you give it a quick Google, we have confidence you’ll figure it out! Here’s a helpful article from Mashable.

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