As a dating coach and someone who has found her husband online (after several very interesting years of serial dating!), I sincerely see dating apps as a gift. Their technology enables us to connect with geographically diverse folks, with whom we would not cross paths otherwise in our regular routines or social circles. They also provide us with an unparalleled window into our vast, fascinating, multicultural world.
On the flipside, however, online dating has the uncanny ability to throw us into swirls of negativity. Using those apps—most of which gamify dating to make it resemble “hot or not”—can make us feel as though we are products rather than complex individuals, and lead us to regularly question our own value.
Dating App Fatigue
That’s why many people see online dating as a process that is soul-sucking and dehumanizing. In fact, several of my coaching clients suffer from dating app fatigue. They report getting depressed, insecure, cynical, bored, even angry when using the apps.
Let’s face it: there’s nothing inherently enchanting about swiping through hundreds of bathroom selfies, pixelated photos of strangers in sunglasses, awkward group shots, and/or profiles of attractive people who won’t like or write us back.
The trouble is, dating is not a game; our hearts and life narratives are on the line.
So, is there a way to bring more joy and humanity into dating in our increasingly online world?
On the one hand, I always encourage daters to “diversify their portfolio” beyond online dating and look for opportunities to meet like-minded folks in other contexts, such as social events, networking organizations, classes, festivals, and meetups. These activities are both vitalizing and likely to help us attract a compatible partner based on common interests and engagement in an activity that makes us shine.
However, eliminating online dating altogether can result in missed opportunities—both to meet a great partner, and to develop our relational skills. In spite of all their flaws, there are powerful ways to humanize dating apps, use them for our own good, as well as the common good! Enter Mindful Swiping!
What is Mindful Swiping?
Mindful Swiping is a way to use online dating as a mindfulness practice—one that helps us cultivate love, awareness, presence, equanimity, and genuine care for ourselves and others while we look for romantic connection.
It’s not hard to do. Here’s how:
Step 1: Remember that your first responsibility and commitment is to yourself and your own wellbeing. No more swiping through profiles while in line at the grocery store or while sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Instead, create a ritual time and space around your use of the apps. You might want to designate a special spot in your home that makes you feel relaxed, light some candles, listen to some music, and tune into your heart space. Breathe deeply. Connect with your intentions to share your love.
Create a compassionate space within and around you for whatever emotions come up, so that they can be seen, welcomed, and loved. Having at least one friend, coach, or therapist to share your dating journey with is also key in counteracting any sense of isolation that might come up from using dating apps
Step 2: Write a bold, authentic dating profile that truly honors you as you date online. Use the process of profile creation as an act of self-love. Have a friend or photographer take beautiful pictures of you, and practice genuine self-expression when composing the profile text.
Step 3: Connect with the fact that there is a three-dimensional human on the other side of the app. Here is a soul, a heart, a body that’s longing to be loved, with their unique path, traumas, fears, history, and social conditioning. No one is “just a photo”; we are all thirsty for connection, belonging, and respect.
Embrace that online dating is a wonderful opportunity to practice loving-kindness. Loving-kindness is a Buddhist meditation focused on sending love to strangers. Its practitioners aim to cultivate inner peace, while also building a better society.
You can practice it with folks you encounter online by sending the following thought to each one of them, no matter if they initially disgust or attract you: “Just as I wish to, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you live with ease and happiness.” Feel into the truth of these words, and send genuine goodwill to that person. Creating kindness out of a difficult situation is one of the most powerful actions we can take to create a better world and a better self.
Step 4: Accept the outcome. Remember that cultivating your intentions, aligning your heart and your actions, and doing the footwork of looking for a partner will pay off, no matter what the immediate outcome is (or isn’t). Dating apps are not the only way to meet your special someone—or to create love in your life—but they are a fabulous practice ground. Bringing as much intention as humorous detachment into the practice, and be kind to yourself, always.
In sum, Mindful Swiping is all about honoring our own humanity and that of others, even in a context that typically lends itself to forgetting all about it. Sending love to ourselves and others in spite of the negative emotions we feel is a mighty way to grow our own strength, resilience, and to flip the dynamics of online dating from feeling powerless to feeling empowered, from waiting to be chosen to bringing goodness to the world, and from feeling like a victim to feeling like a gift.