Why dating apps are considered ‘addictive’ and what drives us to keep swiping | Emotional News

A class-action lawsuit filed in the United States against Match Group – the parent company of popular dating apps Tinder, Hinge, and The League – is grabbing global attention.

The claimants are charging Match with employing a “predatory” business model and utilizing “recognized dopamine-manipulating product features” to ensnare users in their apps.

So, can dating apps genuinely be habit-forming? Are we falling into a snare by swiping right? Here’s the science behind how dating apps are shaping our minds.

The dopamine hit: how do apps provide it?

Dating apps, like many others today, are crafted to maintain user engagement. As with any product, developers aim to sell and use the app.

While dating apps are designed for making connections, some users may find themselves developing an unhealthy attachment to the app, constantly swiping left and right.

Dating apps can be addictive as they trigger the dopamine reward system. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter – a chemical messenger in the brain, essential for survival.

Dopamine plays a crucial role in influencing the experience of pleasure and reward. It is released not only when we experience something pleasurable but also when we anticipate and seek out a pleasurable experience.

The rush of excitement and unpredictability

Certain app features drive us to open our phones and start swiping. When you get a match on a dating app, it feels exhilarating – that’s dopamine in action.

But an element of unpredictability adds to this excitement. Each time you open the app, you don’t know what profiles you might see and who might match with you. This element of surprise and anticipation is particularly crucial in getting us hooked.

Imagine if instead of being drip-fed your matches, you received a list of any matches from the past 24 hours, at 9 am each day. Your excitement and desire to check the app throughout the day would likely lessen.

Smaller features, such as “hearts” and “roses,” make dating apps socially rewarding. These are all forms of approval and activate our dopamine, too.

6 signs of addictive behavior to be aware of

Not every dating app user will develop an unhealthy relationship with it. However, some people are biologically more susceptible to addictions than others.

Problematic use of online dating apps is also linked to low self-esteem.

While there’s no current diagnosis of “dating app addiction,” some people do develop unhealthy app habits and experience day-to-day issues as a result.

These six “addiction components” outline some of the signs you might be developing an unhealthy relationship with dating apps: 1. Salience (dating app use dominates your thoughts) 2. Mood modification (dating apps change your mood) 3. Tolerance (your use of dating apps increases over time) 4. Withdrawals (distress when dating app use is interrupted for a period of time) 5. Conflict (use of dating apps negatively affects your reality) 6. Relapse (you return to a previous pattern of dating app use after some interruption)

Dealing with the addiction

If you find yourself swiping through those matches more than you’d prefer, consider taking a break from the apps for a period of time. Depending on how hooked you feel, stopping completely for a while will help you reset your reliance on them.

Consider what is motivating you to spend time swiping: are you feeling bored, sad, or lonely? What other ways can you find to soothe these emotional experiences instead of turning to the app?

Lastly, remember that apps, while great for meeting people, are not the be-all and end-all of dating. In-person events and opportunities to mingle still exist. So, step away from the screen and embrace the excitement, unpredictability, and dopamine hit you can get from face-to-face encounters too.

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