By Michael Kimmel | Life Beyond Therapy
I am the first to admit that I have used dating apps: I even met one of my boyfriends on one (no, I’m not telling you which one).
Some apps are more for dating and romance (OkCupid; Plenty of Fish) and others tend to be hookup-oriented (Grindr; Scruff). If an app requires a face pic, it’s usually more relationship-oriented. If body part shots are prominent, it’s probably more about hooking up.
Have you ever noticed that lots of people are on more than one app? Maybe we’re hooking up until we meet Mr./Ms. Right. Nothing wrong with that, right?
Sorry, rhetorical question.
If you are new to the LGBT world and these apps are your first exposure to our community, that ain’t good. If you buy the logic of these apps — without questioning them — you’ll end up with a very narrow definition of what’s required to be popular. Not a perfect face or body? Not white enough? Too old? The message may be that “you don’t belong, so just go away and don’t bother us.”
How can you experience the joys of these apps and connect with people you’d like to get to know? More specifically, how do you NOT get sucked into the unrealistic images of physical beauty that are apparently de rigeur for online success?
Use them judiciously.
Many a client has told me that he/she spent hours online, trying to connect with someone, only to be shocked afterwards at how much time they spent in their “hunt.”
I recommend you partake of these apps just as you do high-calorie desserts: enjoy them sparingly, with a big dose of humor. Without humor, some of the mean comments you get on some apps would make any one of us want to run home and hide under the covers.
What if you’re having fun on the apps?
Then, my friend, go for it. But, again, have some vegetables with your desserts. Spend time with your (real life) friends and monitor the time you spend staring at your phone, hoping that the latest picture you carefully took in your bathroom (perfect lighting, your chin at just the right angle to make your nose look smaller and your eyes bigger) will get more hits from hotter guys/girls.
Dating/hookup apps are great for making a (superficial) connection with LOTS of people. It’s a numbers game: The odds are better the more people that see you (and vice versa). So, take a chance, be respectful, friendly and funny. And be prepared for ANYTHING to happen. It’s really an adventure and you never know what great (or bizarre) things await you on the next screen.
I recommend that my clients see the world of dating/hookup apps as a game: It’s something you might enjoy, but there is no guaranteed outcome.
And — if you find yourself online a bit too much — you might ask yourself: “Am I looking for validation? Maybe I’m not feeling so good about myself, I’ve gained a bit of weight and I noticed a new wrinkle (or two) today.” If you get online validation, good for you! Maybe that’s all you needed.
I’ve had clients tell me that they like online chatting more than actually hooking up. The chatting makes them feel “connected” and less alone. Who can’t relate to that?
Please humor us LGBT elders who pre-date the Internet: We grew up in a very different world. We had to meet a man/woman in person and see what they looked like, how they talked, if they looked us in the eye, how they laughed. We got a wealth of non-verbal information that let us quickly sum someone up as a “yes” or a “no.”
Regardless of the app you use, sexual compatibility can only be discovered face-to-face. Photos and demographic information only take you so far: You gotta meet up in person for the real deal to happen (or not).
Many of us use apps to connect, meet someone to date, or to have sex with. As a psychotherapist, I wonder: Are these dating/hookup apps making us less (or more) lonely?
I hear clients complain that no one really wants to connect; but, if it’s really so hard to be your real, vulnerable and un-Photoshopped self on these apps, is that so surprising?
—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBT clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.