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Understanding and overcoming online dating burnout: a comprehensive guide

Robyn Exton

Jul 28, 2023

Understanding and overcoming online dating burnout: a comprehensive guide

If you’ve dated on the apps before, you know the drill. It’s a lot of scrolling, swiping, matching, chatting, hoping that they reply, meeting, hoping that you don’t get ghosted, rinse, repeat. Sound familiar? If you’re currently single and online dating, you might have experienced what is called “online dating burnout” or simply “dating burnout.”

You’re probably familiar with other types of burnout—in your social life or from the hustle culture of work. 2020 was particularly rife with feeling it. Burnout is simple. It happens when the stress and responsibilities from one particular part of your life become too much, and you’re left feeling exhausted, depleted, or (in other words) burnt out. But there is a new type of burnout that people have been feeling lately:the burnout from dating apps.

Here is what online dating burnout looks like, how to keep an eye out for the warning signs, and how to feel empowered and in the driver’s seat of your dating life again.

A queer Asian woman with a serious expression looking at her smart phone with a soft glow illuminating her face

Online dating burnout: What is it and how to identify it

Dating burnout is the feeling of emotional exhaustion that comes from all of the endless matching, unrewarding conversations, or unwanted interactions that can happen when online dating. While queer dating apps are a great modern invention, they can come with their own unique set of challenges. 

It’s common for people to feel overwhelmed or struggle with ‘decision fatigue’ when dating online. It can sometimes be hard to judge whether or not you will have a connection with someone from a set of photos and a quick biography. When there are so many people out there who you could potentially meet up with, or so many unreciprocated message threads in your inbox, it can feel debilitating to know where to put your energy and how to move forward.

Dating burnout can show up in your life in different ways. You might be feeling hopeless, as if there is nobody out there for you. Or maybe you’ve reached the point of wanting to delete the apps and give up on online dating altogether. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. If you’re feeling this way, know that you are not alone. 

Dating burnout is a common phenomenon. Here is how to tell whether or not you have dating burnout and what to do about it.

How to identify dating burnout

If you relate to any of the following, you might be burnt out or approaching burnout soon.

  • You feel hopeless about finding a romantic partner
  • Every time you open dating apps you feel a sense of dread or disappointment
  • You find yourself complaining to your friends all the time about how much dating sucks
  • You’ve started to feel like online dating is negatively affecting your mental health, including how you view yourself, your self-worth, or your self-esteem
  • Talking to new people online is starting to feel like doing admin work
  • You find yourself opening and constantly refreshing the dating apps all the time to look for more or better matches
  • You feel like online dating is taking you away from being present in other areas of your life

Strategies to overcome online dating burnout

1. Be more intentional

People decide to download the apps for a number of reasons, but sometimes we don’t exactly know what we are looking for. If you are overwhelmed by dating, figure out exactly why you are online dating and what you want. Are you looking for a good time with no-strings-attached? Do you want to find a partner to settle down with? What are your nonnegotiables in a relationship? What are your red flags?

It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to recover from online dating burnout isn’t to give up entirely but to change your relationship to the apps. Don’t be afraid to be choosy and go after what you want. Be intentional about who you match with, and don’t just swipe right on anyone who pops up. This way, you will feel more empowered and in control of who you are connecting to. 

2. Manage your time spent on online dating apps

Make sure that you set boundaries around when you are surfing the apps on your phone and are available to receive messages. Put your phone in another room or on silent at night to make sure that your sleep routine is healthy and undisturbed by notifications.

Make a plan around a certain time of day that you will open up the apps to check your matches, message someone cute, or respond intentionally to someone you’ve connected with—15 or 20 minutes a day will do. With online dating, it’s more about how you spend your time vs. how much time you spend. Focus on quality over quantity. 

3. Let go of your expectations around dating 

You should be dating because you feel positive about the process and excited by the possibility of meeting someone new. Or, at the very least, you should feel neutral about it and detach from any one particular outcome. Whether or not you consciously realize it, you may be hindering your dating life by putting unnecessary pressure on yourself to “find the one.” 

Allowing the timeline of getting to know someone to unfold naturally can help you get rid of any anxiety or feelings of rejection that come with online dating. If someone doesn’t message you back or a connection fizzles out, they weren’t the right person for you. What is meant for you won’t pass you by. 

4. Focus on other areas of your life 

Does your self-worth feel like it hinges on who you do or don’t match with? This might be a sign that you are pouring too much into the process of online dating and moving from a place of desperation. 

Focus on the areas of your life that you have control over—your work, your passions and hobbies, your friendships and connections to family. By focusing on ourselves, we end up embodying the very things that make us desirable. Confidence, independence, and self-reliance are sexy. If you feel like you are struggling in those areas of your life, figure out what you can give to yourself first. Harness the power of attraction and manifestation.

5. Take a break from the apps

If needed, consider taking a break from the apps or putting your account on pause. Sometimes we all need to take a moment to ourselves, so that we can enter back onto the dating scene with a fresh perspective and positive outlook. Don’t be afraid to step away for a moment away from the apps to recenter. 

What can you do when you have dating app burnout, but still want to meet someone? Here are some strategies for avoiding dating burnout on HER.

Preventing dating burnout: tips for using the HER App

Date the people you want to date, not just who wants to date you

When you match with someone, ask yourself if they seem like someone who you would want to spend time with. Take time to read their biography and the preferences listed in their profile. Is astrology important to you? Check their sun sign! Do you both want kids someday? Are you a major stoner? Make sure they are 4/20 friendly! 

Take the time to really look over and read the profiles of the queer hotties you are matching with. Don’t just swipe right for a pretty face (unless you are just DTF and then by all means, please, please do). 

Ask thoughtful questions and generate insightful conversations

While you might be tempted to just send an emoji or cop out with a simple “hi” or “hey,” be intentional about your first message to someone. Ask them about their interests or something specific you read in their profile or comment on one of their photos. Studies show that people are more successful at finding genuine matches when they include a thoughtful message to show their interest. 

Get out of the messages and meet up in person! 

Some of the most draining parts of online dating can be the back-and-forth messaging with no end in sight. Sometimes it can be exhausting trying to keep the conversation alive and going, especially if there have been gaps or long periods of no replies from either party.

The point of online dating is to tell whether or not you have a connection to someone that will translate into something in real life. If you match with someone you like, message them right away. It’s important to build momentum early on and move towards meeting up IRL. 

If there is a moment of stagnation in your messaging or the conversation has come to a natural lull, don’t be afraid to ask them to meet up in person or if they want to FaceTime! Going on a date can be energizing, exciting, and a little bit scary! Nothing will shake you out of your burnout like those pre-first-date jitters with someone you’ve got chemistry with. 

Two latina lesbians kissing and smiling with flowers and twinkle lights behind them.

How to rediscover joy in dating again

If you’re on the brink of dating burnout, you might feel like you will never find pleasure or excitement in dating again. But you will! Trust me, I’ve been there before. Before my partner and I met, we were both pretty severely burnt out from online dating. AJ was on the dating apps six months before we met and was pretty desperate to find someone after living alone for most of the pandemic.

“My loneliness was crushing me,” she recalls. 

“I knew I wanted to share my life with someone, but my time on dating apps was feeling more and more like admin work. I sort of went on autopilot with how I was relating to people. I didn’t want to just keep messaging more people, so I decided to delete the apps for a bit and focus on myself instead. I started giving myself the things that I was looking for from a partner, like romanticizing myself instead.”

I was also burnt out from all of the matching and messaging that seemed to be leading nowhere. I decided that I wasn’t going to spend as much time mindlessly swiping and scrolling on dating apps. I wanted to let go of my expectations and develop a more detached relationship to the whole process. 

About a week before AJ and I met, she decided to download the apps again on a whim. She told herself that if the vibe was right, she would ask them to go on a date straight away and not spend time stuck in the messages. She set her radius to five miles, and I was the second person who she matched with. We went on a date a week later, have been in a relationship for the last two years, and are building a life together. 

This is all to say that you never know when the moment will strike and the right person will find you. Good things come when you least expect it. As long as you are practicing self-care, staying present with how you feel, and being true to yourself, the rest will follow. You got this!

Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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