Dating apps took over my life, so I quit them and learned to live in the moment | Anya Ryan

Yesclean. Strong punch. Strong punch. For a while I was stealing so much I could barely think. Dating apps had taken over my fingers, my brain, and my nights. I would swipe left, without thinking or even looking, under the table at group dinners or during TV commercial breaks. I fanatically reviewed my new matches at the end of each day. “This is modern dating,” he told myself. “It’s a job. I have to move on. This is the key to my happy ending.”

For months, this was my normal. But, unsurprisingly, the lifelong romance he was looking for never materialized. As I sat on my couch another Sunday night, ready to punch myself out of strength, I decided I’d finally had enough. Even if my screen was flooded with likes or messages, my forays into dating app culture rarely ended with in-person dates. I spent hours agonizing over a single answer: it needed to be fun, cool, and engaging, but not reveal too much. But why was he so desperate to impress a distant stranger trapped behind a screen? What was he doing all that monotonous movement for? I decided I had to stop cold turkey and figure out why I had been sucked in so completely.

I realized that, most of the time, I did it out of boredom. Instead of sitting around, enjoying the few moments of the day when I didn’t have responsibilities, I would reach for my phone. The immediate thrill of going through a ton of likes was like nothing else. He was addicted to the dopamine rush and the feeling of being desired: “This person likes me,” he gushed. “This could be the beginning of our future.”

Then my mind would begin its journey of invention, because each new connection would bring with it new possibilities. As I looked at the smiling photographs carefully selected by my potential lover, I planned our life together. I imagined normal weekday afternoons, the things we talked about, vacations and anniversaries. I would consider their favorite food, what time they went to bed, and how many siblings they might have. In just a few short seconds, I would draw them a backstory so perfect and complete that they could never live up to my creation. And all before we even sit face to face.

But worse than the sense of promise was its fleeting nature. As soon as I dreamed a fantasy life with a potential partner, I would be daydreaming about the next person. Everything existed in hypothetical passing flashes. There were infinite possible connections: all he had to do was keep swiping and waiting. Even when messages were exchanged and the idea of ​​a date came up, most of the time he canceled. He would already be dreaming of something and someone new one, two or 100 clicks away.

To have the best chance at romance, I knew I had to look good and my profile had to be updated regularly. On vacation, I looked forward to taking photos of myself bathed in the sun. At family meals he smiled, waiting for the camera to click. I analyzed the photos in forensic detail, zooming in on my face just to make sure it was perfect. All of this fueled an unhealthy obsession with appearance.

Despite the countless hours I spent glued to my phone, the endless conveyor belt of matches never brought me any joy. The dates I had idealized for weeks turned out to be sub-par hours that passed slowly. I got bored exchanging the same work details, information about my housemates, and things I liked to do on the weekends with strangers. He would tell the same jokes and the same stories in the same well-practiced dating lingo. But I always came away feeling hopeless; Even with so many options, I wasn’t having any luck. The initial fun and excitement of what the apps promised slowly turned into something that seemed like a chore. Although I once jumped into dates feeling like the star of my own romantic comedy, I soon became jaded. realizing that they probably wouldn’t get anywhere. I felt like a hamster on a wheel. He was constantly running and was exhausted from the incessant agitation.

Sometimes I still pick up my phone hoping there are dating apps on there, like an old friend. But most of the time I don’t miss them. Now that they’re banished from my screen, I’ve entered a new phase of fostering relationships grounded in reality. And while they haven’t always ended successfully, it’s been refreshing to lean into conversations in bars, reconnect with people I haven’t seen in years, and be open to possibilities.

As each week passes, I’ve also started to worry less about my romantic endeavors. Instead, I’m making friends and having more time to work, and my screen time has been drastically reduced. The people I already know have become my priority, and I’m happier with their company than with anyone I’ve ever talked to on an app. I have realized that life is not a race played on dating apps: it is about living in the moment.

Deep down I am a romantic at heart and I still fantasize about my idyllic future. I’m just not totally consumed with finding ways to make it happen. But who knows? There are thousands of people still searching.

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