About a year ago, I vowed to never use gay dating apps again. Too many nights spent engaging in rapid-fire exchanges with perfect strangers who would vanish by morning had left me feeling spent.
Initially, I’d accepted the duty of replying to incessant messages as part of the territory. Always being “connected” is a necessary evil of our age, especially when it comes to online dating, but Grindr’s old slogan “get on, get off” seemed more than ever like a bait-and-switch.
Any wonder. Dating app makers clearly profit by our continued use of them, deploying strategies to keep us engaged, so they can then sell us premium features.
Take for example Tinder’s addictive swipe-based mechanic, or the even more mundane – and equally rewarding – system of push notifications.
For someone who prides themselves in being efficient, I’ve found gay dating apps to be anything but. The sense of never quite being finished – of there always being one more person to reply to – has always nagged at me.
For someone who already struggles with anxiety, it was only a matter of time before I hit a peak and decided to ditch the gay dating apps. Tinder, Scruff, and Grindr – deleted in one fell swoop. But for how long, exactly?
1. Don’t quit gay dating apps cold turkey
A grand total of six months, to be precise. After downloading the apps again, I (surprise!) found myself once more caught up in the drudgery of fielding lifeless small talk.
It’s a pattern we’re all too familiar with: left weary by the sterile objectification, the kinetic five-minute conversations that fizzle for no perceptible reason, we pack it in. Swear off the gay dating apps for good.
Then, in a moment of boredom and loneliness, we hop back on, just to see who’s around and if anything has changed. If we’re lucky, the app will have undergone a snazzy redesign.
Our previous exchanges will have been wiped, so no need to dwell on our many unsuccessful interactions.
Maybe the people around us will have forgotten us too. The novelty of our profile photo in the search grid will be renewed, and the affirming messages will begin to flood in.
We’ll feel momentarily buoyed by the realization that yes, we are still very much attractive, and that there will always be an anonymous mass of strangers waiting to objectify us.
So, we decide to stay a little while, and before long we’re back to lurking, replying, refreshing. And the cycle begins anew.
Falling back into the habit is a very real hazard of quitting anything addictive cold turkey. But for those of us genuinely seeking connection, going back to the dating apps is shooting ourselves in the foot.
We know, after all, that “dating app” is a misnomer and that most gay men use Grindr and its brethren for hookups.
Admittedly, there is a certain comfort in knowing the adoration of another man is just a tap away.
So if you’re not quite ready to cut the cord, but you’re feeling overdue for a gay dating app detox, here are some steps you could consider taking:
2. Disable push notifications
This way, you choose when you engage – and not at the prompting of the app.
3. Limit your app usage
Trial an app-blocking service. These allow you to schedule specific days and times for usage while preventing you from accessing designated apps outside of that window.
4. Delay your replies
Sure, in the fast-paced world of ping-pong messaging, you risk losing the other person’s interest. But slowing down the interaction can help weed out people who weren’t really all that interested in you in the first place.
It’s important to remember that many gay dating app users are simply “playing the numbers game”, texting countless others just to see who will bite.
5. Ask to meet
Just because someone is available on a gay dating app, doesn’t mean they are necessarily available to meet you, if ever. This may seem contrary, given they somehow find time to engage in protracted back-and-forths.
I operate under the assumption that if someone can find the time to chat and both of you live in the same city, you can take 30 minutes to grab a coffee in person.
If you’ve requested to meet and it hasn’t happened after two weeks, you are well within your rights to disengage.
6. Have a cut-off point
Let’s be honest: unless you’re in it just for validation, endless chatting can become tedious. If you’re scoping the other person for facetime eligibility, then it’s perfectly acceptable to set a cut-off point for messaging.
We all obviously need to engage in preliminary screening to get a feel for the other person, their motivations and their general vibe, so it’s difficult to settle on a hard number of exchanges.
But based on my experience, if neither person has broached the subject of meeting in person and set plans in stone by the 30-message mark, there’s a good chance that neither has any intention of doing so.
This is an opportunity to ask yourself why you are sustaining the exchange, and whether you might be better off investing your time and energy elsewhere.
7. Wipe your profile
If more extreme measures are required, consider temporarily wiping your profile before deleting each app from your phone. The effort required to download, log back in, and set the profile back up can serve as a good deterrent.
8. Take a hiatus
Obviously, there are no silver-bullet solutions. Gay dating apps have become a permanent part of the landscape, so permanently quitting them can seem not only daunting but unrealistic.
But too often feeding this time-hungry monster begins to feel like a hopeless, joyless, never-ending task. Like the legend of the Greek king Sisyphus, we feel condemned to keep rolling a boulder up a hill for all eternity.
Unlike Sisyphus however, we have the right to opt-out. If you need a break and a chance to recharge, your priority as a thoughtful gay man should be to take it. It may just be a question of when and how – and sometimes how long.
If you do decide to take a hiatus, bravo. Remember that the apps won’t vanish. Your romantic prospects will not suffer a fatal decline. And best of all, you’ll feel all the better for it.
- Switch off gay dating app notifications and stop the reward mechanism that keeps you coming back.
- If you’re struggling with self-discipline, consider using an app-blocker.
- Weed out people who are messaging for the wrong reasons by delaying your replies.
- Choose a cut-off point for number of messages exchanged and stick to it.
- If the other person is vague or noncommittal about meeting, walk away.
© 2021 Ehsan "Essy" Knopf. Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. All content found on the EssyKnopf.com website and affiliated social media accounts were created for informational purposes only and should not be treated as a substitute for the advice of qualified medical or mental health professionals. Always follow the advice of your designated provider.