Finding love online: Is it worth the mental burnout?

Burnout and fatigue have transcended the workplace to dating apps. Some users have experienced increased frustration and disappointment, while others have found ‘the one’

If Cinderella existed in 2022, she probably would have wished for an iPhone and swiped to meet her Prince Charming, instead of dropping her slipper at the ball. The modern fairytale has shifted since the invention of online dating, and introduced a new era of rapid swiping and quick judgements in order to find a partner.

Online dating has replaced traditional dating for many in this technological generation. According to a study by Pew Research, 48% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 38% of 30- to 49-year-olds have used a dating site or app. It’s become an increasingly more popular way to meet people — for some people it does work out, but for others it comes at the cost of some swiping side effects.

The swiping mental burnout

Many dating app users are experiencing burnout after years of swiping and searching, according to The New York Times. Burnout is typically a term used about work culture, but it’s transcending the stress of the workforce to refer to other aspects of life that leave one feeling exhausted through overwork, even if that work is channeled into dating.

One of the appeals of online dating is the ability to have so many options, but that can be a double-edged sword. Mental burnout can be caused by the overwhelming amount of choices dating apps present, according to a Sage Journals study, “A Rejection Mind-Set: Choice Overload in Online Dating.”

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“Having extensive choice can have various side effects, such as paralysis and decreased satisfaction,” according to the online dating study. “In fact it seems that people generally experience less benefits when they have more choice.”

Choice overload happens because having more options drains our mental energy and can be overwhelming. Binge swiping through dating apps can cause this overload and cause a toll on one’s mental well-being.

Chief science adviser of Match, Helen Fisher, told the Times that she recommends users stop scrolling and swiping once they find nine people they feel some level of connection with. She suggests they spend time getting to know those nine people in order to combat the dating app choice overload.

“I realized the scrolling method was kind of toxic, I mean it’s like shopping for people and that did not make me feel good about myself at all.”

Additionally, online dating can start to feel superficial. Making snap judgements about a person’s carefully curated profile can start to feel a bit toxic.

“I realized the scrolling method was kind of toxic, I mean it’s like shopping for people and that did not make me feel good about myself at all,” 20-year-old dating app user Hannah Clingan told the Deseret News in an interview.

Clingan said that dating apps have only ever been stressful for her, and she’s not the only one. The Times reported on a study from the data company Singles Reports that found nearly 80% of the 500 participants felt emotional burnout from online dating.

Dating app user Laura Tobler, 34, told the Deseret News that she felt overwhelmed by the dating app scene. “It can be exhausting to feel like this journey to find love will never end,” Tobler said.

“It can be exhausting to feel like this journey to find love will never end.”

Is there an upside?

For some, an issue of online dating can be more about attitudes towards dating apps from other users. A study from last May surveyed users’ motivations behind using dating apps at a music festival. The study found the primary reasons for using a dating app were boredom by 59.7% or respondents.

“Lots of people are either just serial dating and not actually interested or only interested in hookups,” dating app user Lili Criser, 19, told the Deseret News.

22-year-old Jonathan O’Rourke experienced similar issues behind user motivations on his online dating journey. “A lot of the dates I went on were very closed off and just looking for a free dinner,” O’Rourke said in an interview with the Deseret News.

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O’Rourke found dating apps to be an underwhelming experience — going on dates and feeling like people expected a reward for taking time to speak with him rather than making an effort to get to know him.

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However, that all changed for him when he met his wife. He was able to establish a real connection and build a relationship with the assistance of a dating app. So, even though he had a difficult experience to begin with, O’Rourke recommends dating apps. “You can find a lasting relationship and a true love through the phone,” he said.

Dating apps are successful for some users. Pew Research found that 12% of surveyed users have married or been in a committed relationship with someone they met through a dating site or app. Broadly, Pew Research reports, online dating users are more likely to describe their experience with online dating in positive terms rather than negative terms.

While there might be upsides to using dating apps, it can be a mentally draining process. For some it helps them find love, for others disappointment. The answer to the question of whether the process is worth it is different for every person.

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