Looking for love can become addictive.
While dating apps such as Tinder, Hinge and Bumble were developed to help people find each other, researchers from Ohio State University have found that singles suffering from loneliness and social anxiety are more likely to start compulsively using such apps.
“We had participants who said they were missing school or work, or getting in trouble in classes or at work, because they kept checking the dating apps on their phones,” wrote lead author Kathryn Coduto, a doctoral student in communication at the university.
The study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships surveyed 269 undergraduate students who used one or more dating apps by asking questions to measure their loneliness and social anxiety (i.e., if they were constantly nervous around other people), as well as whether they agreed with statements such as, “I am unable to reduce the amount of time I spend on dating apps.”
Coduto found that students who fit the profile of being socially anxious preferred meeting and talking to potential love interests online rather than in person. And when that was compounded by the individual also feeling lonely, it “led to compulsive use and then negative outcomes,” she wrote.
In short, either feeling lonely or feeling socially anxious didn’t lead to dating app addiction on its own, but the combination of the two traits almost always led to “significant” dating app overuse and life consequences among the subjects in this study.
Separately, one in six singles admitted in a 2017 survey from Match MTCH, -0.33% — which owns dating sites Tinder, Hinge and OkCupid — that they felt addicted to the process of looking for a date. And millennials (ages 18 to 30 in this case) spend 20 hours a week on dating apps, according to dating service Badoo.com, with men spending an average of 85 minutes a day on dating apps, while women swipe left or right for an average of 79 minutes daily.
Apparently it often works: a recent Consumer Reports survey found online dating has a 44% success rate, leading to a serious long-term relationship or marriage, so the method is likely to continue to draw more people.
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Coduto at OSU recommends that users stay aware of their dating app use to determine whether it’s interfering with other aspects of their lives, and to consider using screen time management features like these from GOOG, -1.24% and Apple AAPL, -2.12% that can restrict dating app use (or any app use, really) to certain times of the day, or certain length of time each day.