Plenty of seemingly harmless things in this life are addictive, from coffee to cheese and even horror movies. So when we consider the concept of swiping left on Tinder an addictive behavior—aka something known as “Tinder addiction”— is it really all that concerning? It’s certainly not surprising—after all, most of us are glued to our mobile phones 24/7, even sleeping next to them and checking them multiple times at night. So can a little too much swiping left and right be harmful? As it turns out, yes, it can be, especially if your end goal is to have a real, healthy and in-person relationship.
“Tinder’s algorithms were developed to keep you swiping in the hopes that a potential match will happen after a while, which basically makes it similar to a slot machine, offering a quick reward for your continued efforts,” explains Antonia Hall, psychologist, relationship expert and author. “That positive reinforcement (a match) gives you a small hit of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that ensures survival needs like food and sex are met.” In other words, it’s easy to fall into a the trap of Tinder Addiction in a desire to find matches just for the dopamine fix, not even for the real reward of finding a potential someone who could become your next relationship.
Any relationship that has a backup plan is not a healthy one, but unfortunately dating apps allow some people who are addicted to tee up the next person, and even go out and meet IRL to see if they can trade up.
If you think you might be hooked on the swiping game, even just a little, here are some obvious signs to look out for that you are, indeed, a Tinder addict.
You’re prompted to respond to every push notification
If you can’t seem to make it through a work meeting or coffee date without responding to every single notification that pops up indicating some action is happening on your Tinder, you might be addicted. “Flattery and attraction can be addictive if they aren’t managed in the same way they would be if you noticed someone attractive offline,” says Julie Spira, online dating expert and digital matchmaker. “If you interrupt your day, or your date for that matter, to view your push notifications or a message from a potential romantic partner, it’s interfering with your personal life, and even your work life.” For that reason, she recommends enabling push notifications until the evening when you’re not on a date and when you’re not at work.
You can’t bring yourself to delete the app when you’re in a relationship.
One of the most frequently asked questions Spira gets is from women requesting help because they, or their friends, have found their partner with an active Tinder profile. “If you’ve agreed to be exclusive, and have decided to mutually delete Tinder to see where the relationship will go, it’s sneaky and a form of emotional cheating to keep the app active and continue to open it to see who has swiped right on you, or to ‘window shop’ for other options should your relationship go south,” she says. “Any relationship that has a backup plan is not a healthy one, but unfortunately dating apps allow some people who are addicted to tee up the next person, and even go out and meet IRL to see if they can trade up.” Her recommendation is to take that leap of faith when you’ve committed to a relationship by deleting your app altogether. Hey, if it doesn’t work out you can always reactivate your profile!
Tinder is interfering with your morning and evening ritual
Routine is important—even for us adults. In order to clock a solid 7-8 hours of sleep each night, it’s recommended that you have a wind-down and wake-up regimen to help you stay on track. When you’re staying up late and spending too much time in bed in the a.m. swiping, it can totally interfere with your routine. “If you’ve increased your activity on the app to 10 times a day or more, it’s a sign that you could be addicted,” says Spira. “Relying on dating app usage that often is a habit you might want to manage in a more effective and reasonable way.” For this reason, Spira suggests logging on only when you have a true break in the day.
You swipe right on everyone to see how many people “liked” and matched with you
Swiping right to find a date on Tinder should involve some effort, and not be an automatic right swipe to see if it’s a mutual match, explains Spira. In fact, she tells singles to take a deep breath, read their profiles to see what you have in common and swipe right only if they’d really like to learn more and hopefully meet that person. “While dating is a numbers game, you could be addicted if you’re counting your matches, even if you don’t plan on writing to your match,” she says. “It’s not the quantity of people who like you that determines the compatibility of a relationship, but the quality of finding things in common, including values, lifestyle and, of course, initial attraction.”
You get upset when someone you were chatting with unmatches with you
Putting yourself out there isn’t easy—and no one likes rejection. But if you find yourself fuming with anger when someone who you thought you were getting along great with unmatches with you, you might be addicted. “There are plenty of reasons that people will unmatch with you, which means their chat history disappears on the app—it could be because they didn’t feel a connection or because they met someone new they want to focus on,” says Spira. Whatever the reason is, try your best not to take it personally. “It probably wasn’t a fit, and there are millions and millions of other singles using Tinder.”
You give up something(s) in your life to use the app more
If you’re skipping lunch breaks or after-work drinks with your friends so you can scour the app, you might be a little more hooked than you think. If you find yourself making too many sacrifices, Elena Murzello, author of The Love List, suggests asking yourself if it’s truly worth it and what you are really gaining out of changing your lifestyle for instant gratification. “Try putting your profile on pause for a day so you can figure out the part of the app that makes you content,” she says. “Maybe you already have something in your life (friends, family, hobbies) that can and will give you more joy than an app.”
You spend more time on Tinder than actual dating
Maybe you’re schedule is just jam-packed and you haven’t had time to schedule a date, which is totally fine, but if you’re simply avoiding in-person meetings for the sake of swiping, you might have a Tinder addiction. “The instant gratification of having numerous matches can feel great in the short term, but that feeling tends to dissipate quickly if there is no real genuine intention,” says Murzello. “The energy wasted swiping could be put to something useful that has a long-lasting gain versus a short-term reward.” She suggests joining a class that piques your interest or challenging yourself to try something new. “Invest in an interesting “real-life” you, instead of just a profile page.”