"I just want to tell you that I’ve had enough." NSYNC, Bye Bye Bye, 2000
One year ago this month, I deleted all of my dating apps. No fanfare, no champagne, just me in Target sweatpants propped up on four pillows before bedtime. I never re-downloaded, I never even wanted to — and that’s the truth. After a decade of online dating, removing them from my life completely is one of my greatest accomplishments. Because their spell is very hard to break. Of course it is. Dating apps sell themselves to single women as the place they’ll find their partner. They hold themselves out as the answer to the exhausting question: "Where are all the single men?" After 10 years, I finally realised something: Dating apps give me hope, take my time and never, ever have to deliver.
Single women are societally groomed to believe we have to do anything, everything to fix being single — because it’s something that’s wrong. And what could be an easier fix than a dating app? High level, dating apps are ideal. Nothing but swiping and messaging without exerting any real effort, barely looking up from watching Stranger Things, all the while assuming your partner is somewhere in all those "millions" of guys. Minimal effort, maximum reward. But the actual experience, as single women and countless Instagram meme accounts are well aware, isn’t rewarding. It’s punishing. I didn’t want to punish myself anymore.
The same three questions tend to come up around this fairly significant change: 1) Why did I do it? 2) How did I do it? 3) How has life changed? I’ll answer all three here.
Why did I do it?
Simply stated, I deleted the dating apps because they were not serving me. They were giving me nothing. Wait, that’s not true, they were giving me lewd messages, personal discomfort, a Grand Canyonesque void of nonmatches, and maybe three dishwater dates per year.
In a decade of online dating, I’d never had even one relationship to show for my efforts. Which, to be fair, is also my fault. All of my relationships have begun through real-life encounters that allowed connection to build over time; why did I ever think apps would work for me? I should have known that they weren’t a fit, and that IRL experiences were far more likely to lead my particular personality type to a genuine connection.
I was getting nothing from dating apps, so I decided to give them nothing in return. I deleted my accounts, my apps, everything. I’m gone.
How did I do it?
More specifically, how do I keep them gone? We have all re-downloaded. I online dated for a decade, I can’t count how many times I deleted the apps to take a "break", only to re-download later in a panic that I wasn’t doing "enough" to try to end this horrific single status of mine. Wasn’t dating supposed to be fun? Wasn’t it supposed to feel good? So why are we on apps that we screenshot twice a day and text to our friends saying, "Can you believe this shit?" We can stay in the shit, or we can get out of the shit. I got out.
The apps are genius. They make you feel lazy for not using them. So you re-download. And then you pour hours and hours of your time into them, and the apps never have to give you anything positive in return. They know they can offer as little real value as possible, because single women will always come back. Who’s lazy, exactly?
Wasn’t dating supposed to be fun? Wasn’t it supposed to feel good? So why are we on apps that we screenshot twice a day and text to our friends saying, “Can you believe this shit?”
The real reason I never re-downloaded the apps was that I saw how much I loved my life without them. I noticed how free and light I felt, how much more positively I viewed my own life, and I actually got hours of my week back (to say nothing of phone memory) to do with whatever I pleased. Life feels really good when dating apps aren’t a part of it. (Unless you’re loving them and having like, the best time. If that’s you, enjoy. If not, keep reading.)
How has life changed?
"Well... then... how are you going to meet someone? Are you just giving up on meeting someone? How will you ever meet someone if you’re not on the apps? How many dates have you been on since you deleted the apps? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO IF YOU’RE NOT ON THE APPS?!?"
I’m so glad you asked, Karen, thanks. Here’s the truth: I have not been on one date since I deleted the apps. I have not had one guy romantically interested in me since I deleted the apps. I have not had one guy ask for my phone number since I deleted the apps. And with the exception of one very angry man in a dirty Guns-N-Roses T-shirt whom I went on a date with in Williamsburg in 2018, the same things were true the year before I deleted them, too. When I said the apps weren’t serving me, I fucking meant it.
You know what else hasn’t happened since I deleted the apps? I haven’t received a dick pic. Or a 5am request for a blow job. I haven’t had a man who I’ve never spoken to before ask me to sext him through his morning masturbation routine while I’m searching for my subway card trying to get through the turnstile. I haven’t spent endless hours, if not days, swiping, swiping, swiping, swiping, swiping, swiping, swiping, swiping, swiping with nothing to show for it apart from confusion as to why I so rarely match with men, if ever, and why of the men I do match with, none of them ever, ever, fucking ever responds to my messages. None of that has happened, either.
It’s in their best interest to keep us single, and swiping.
The memes are funny. How the person who experiences the thing that led to the meme feels is not funny. The foul treatment of single women on dating apps is not funny. It’s not even taken seriously, or there would be consequences in place for offensive behaviour, and an inability to populate apps with bots.
Dating apps don’t care about single women. Dating apps care about their numbers. A business has no vested interest in its users no longer needing its services. I don’t care what they say to us on the subway ads. It’s in their best interest to keep us single, and swiping. And because the potential to find love is the greatest, most golden carrot they could ever dangle in front of us, they don’t even have to bother with requiring users to treat us with the slightest amount of respect. They know we’ll take the bait anyway.
In 10 years, the dating apps never changed. So I had to change, and I had to see that something that doesn’t serve me, something that offends me, something that makes me feel small and worthless and unwanted has no place in my life, and never did. I forgive myself for the decade I spent on dating apps. But I don’t think I’m ready to forgive these apps for what they do to single women.
So I'm one less single woman they get to do it to.