“This can set up an obsessive loop like a video game or gambling scenario when we are looking for more feedback or incremental rewards.”
By
Michelle Elias, Presented by
SBS Insight

17 Apr - 11:53 AM  UPDATED 17 Apr - 2:38 PM

Tinder claims 15 per cent of the Australian population use their app, RSVP vows 30,000 new singles sign up to their site each month, while eHarmony say they are responsible for 11,000 Australian marriages since 2007.

But as the dating world is increasingly becoming more online-focused, experts believe some platforms are cultivating confidence issues for users.

“People are reverting to processes of young people in dating life, like teenagers still developing their self-esteem,” says Dan Auerbach, director and relationship counsellor at Associated Counsellors and Psychologists in Sydney.

“Online we have to make do with very limited information; maybe a short text, picture, or a like and we have to do a lot of guessing about what this means. This can lead to a great deal of anxiety because the signal we receive is unclear,” says Dan.

In an ordinary face-to-face interaction an individual sends a sign to show they are interested, whether it is through their facial expression, the tone of their voice or their body language. This is followed by an immediate response from the other person.

None of this feedback can be detected online and users can spend hours or days waiting.

“This can set up an obsessive loop like a video game or gambling scenario when we are looking for more feedback or incremental rewards,” says Dan.

“People can spend hours trolling through pictures and can become completely detached from the outcome in a bid for affection or interest.”

Finn Joseph, 20, is one former user of Tinder who abandoned the platform altogether after the stress it caused him.

“When you’re being judged on how you appear, you start to value your own traits less. It creates superficiality and you begin to lose sight of your own personality,” Finn says.

“The entire reward based dating is on looks and contact, people can become obsessed and addicted.”

“Since it’s very visual focused, you’re competing with other people to be the most attractive, rather than to be the most compatible. I also found I was being much more superficial with ridiculously high expectations.”

All about the face

“What apps can do - particularly on Tinder - is place the entire focus of the profile meet and greet on a picture and the short amount of info,” says Professor Adam Guastella, who has conducted research into social anxiety.

“There is lots of research to show that as a result the focus on the initial date is on that visual,” Dr Guastella says.

Popular dating platforms Bumble and Tinder - the latter who claims to have 3.5 million users - operate this way, where users swipe to connect with someone based on images and a short bio.

“The entire reward based dating is on looks and contact, people can become obsessed and addicted,” Dr Guastella says.

So what can you do to help ease the stress of dating online?

Dan recommends a swift change to video chats to eliminate some of this anxiety or uncertainty by providing a richer experience, and of course face to face contact will always prevail.