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

Swipe. Swipe. Swipe. For a while I was swiping so much that I could barely think. Dating apps had hijacked my fingers, brain and evenings. I mindlessly and without even looking left swiped under the table during group dinners or during TV commercial breaks. At the end of the day I frantically checked my new matches. “This is modern dating,” I told myself. “It’s a job. I have to continue. This is the key to my happy ending.”

For months this was my normal. But it should come as no surprise that the lifelong romance I was looking for never materialized. As I sat back on the couch on Sunday evening, ready to swipe until I ran out of steam, I decided I had finally had enough. Even when my screen was flooded with likes or messages, my forays into dating app culture rarely ended with in-person dates. I spent hours mulling over a single response: I had to be funny, cool, and engaging, but not give too much away. But why was I so eager to impress a distant stranger stuck behind a screen? What was I doing all that monotonous swiping for? I decided I had to go cold turkey and figure out why I had gotten so completely sucked in.

I realized that I was often swiping out of boredom. Instead of twiddling my thumbs and enjoying the few moments in the day when I had no responsibilities, I picked up my phone. The immediate sensation of going through a pile of likes was unlike anything else. I was addicted to the dopamine rush and the feeling of being wanted. “This person likes me,” I said. “This could be the beginning of our future.”

Then my mind would begin its journey of invention, as each new connection would bring new possibilities. As I stared at the smiling photos carefully selected by my future lover, I planned our life together. I imagined the usual weeknights, the things we talked about, the holidays and anniversaries. I took into account their favorite meal, bedtime and how many siblings they might have. In just a few short seconds, I drew them a backstory so perfect and complete that they could never live up to my creation. And all this before we had even sat across from each other.

But worse than the sense of promise was its fleeting nature. No sooner had I dreamed a fantasy life with a potential match, I would start daydreaming about the next person. Everything existed in hypothetical passing flashes. There were endless possible connections: all I had to do was keep swiping and wait. Even when messages were exchanged and the idea of ​​a date was suggested, more often than not I would cancel. I was already dreaming of something and someone new, just one, two or a hundred clicks away.

To give myself the best chance at romance, I knew I had to look good and have my profile updated regularly. On holiday I wanted photos in which I looked sun-drenched. At family meals I would grin, waiting for the camera to click. I analyzed the photos in forensic detail and zoomed in on my face to make sure it was perfect. All this fueled an unhealthy obsession with appearance.

Despite the countless hours spent glued to my phone, the endless assembly line of matches has never brought me any joy. Dates I had romanticized for weeks turned out to be hours below average that dragged by. I bored myself exchanging the same job details, facts about my roommates, and things I liked to do on the weekends with strangers. I told the same jokes and the same stories on dates in the same well-rehearsed jargon. But I always left the country feeling hopeless – even with so many options, I had no luck. The early fun and excitement of what the apps promised slowly turned into something that felt like a chore. Although I once skipped dates because I felt like the star of my own romantic comedy, I soon felt jaded. realizing they probably wouldn’t go anywhere. I felt like a hamster on a wheel. I was constantly running, and I was exhausted by the relentless rush.

Sometimes I still pick up my phone expecting dating apps to be there, like an old friend. But usually I don’t miss them. Now that they are banished from my screen, I have entered a new phase of encouraging relationships based in reality. And while they haven’t always ended successfully, it’s been refreshing to strike up conversations in bars, reconnect with people I haven’t seen in years, and be open to possibilities.

As the week goes by, I also start to worry less about my romantic endeavors. Instead, I throw myself into friendships and have more time to work, and my screen time has dropped dramatically. The people I already know have become my priority, and I feel more fulfilled by their company than I ever have with someone I spoke to on an app. I’ve realized that life isn’t a race to be completed on dating apps – it’s about living in the moment.

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