Between Tinder thumb, ghosting and an endless sea of airbrushed photos, the quest to find true love can be, well, pretty exhausting.
Apparently, it’s now more common to meet a partner online than through friends. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Research shows that 80% of daters feel emotionally fatigued from online dating, and 60% find it completely overwhelming.
This got us thinking. Could some personality types struggle more with online dating than others? If even the most extraverted Extraverts experience dating app burnout, might Introverts find swiping left and right a huge drain on their social batteries?
We spoke to two experts to find out.
What’s an Introvert, anyway?
Within the 16-type system, an Introvert is someone who is energized by spending time alone. It’s not that they don’t love being around people, it’s just that their social batteries are drained from long bouts of being out and about.
Crucially, while Introversion and shyness are commonly lumped together, Jess Alderson, INFP and founder of personality-based dating app So Synced, says this couldn’t be further from the truth. “Being an Introvert isn't a manifestation of having low self-esteem – it's a personality trait that describes someone who prefers to focus their energy inward rather than outward,” she says.
She goes on to explain that shyness, which is starkly different, is a type of social anxiety triggered by a fear of being judged or disliked. Notably, “both Introverts and Extraverts can experience shyness, and both can be highly confident,” she continues.
Often, society gets the two confused due to the shared preference for quiet and alone time. But, as Alderson explains, “the root cause is different. Introverts prefer spending time by themselves because it energizes them, while people who are shy avoid social interactions out of fear or anxiety. It's a clear distinction.”
Online dating: a playground or battleground?
While shy individuals might struggle with online dating due to nerves, for confident Introverts, the possibility of finding love without even having to leave the house can be quite appealing.
As Irene Schreiner, LMFT and owner of Solid Foundation Therapy, puts it: “Online dating takes less time and energy in the early stages. You control when you engage with someone, and if your emotional battery is low, you can step away. You can also meet a lot more people without having to put yourself into a highly social situation.”
Plus, with the emphasis on written communication over face-to-face chatting, Introverts have time to think before they type. “Having the space to craft their responses can allow them to express themselves in a more meaningful way,” explains Alderson.
But “meaningful” and “dating app conversations” don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Notorious for avoiding small talk, it can be hard for Introverted personality types to feel invigorated by the triviality of most online conversations. “They prefer to have deeper, more meaningful conversations right away,” says Schreiner.
And that’s where their introspective nature can make online dating challenging. “Introverts are naturally more private than Extraverts,” notes Alderson. “They are less likely to feel comfortable sharing parts of themselves with someone they have just met online or have only been talking to for a short period of time.”
Combine their private nature, aversion to small talk and limited social batteries, and it’s easy to understand why some Introverts might find online dating particularly overwhelming.
“Browsing profiles, replying to messages, and deciding who to engage with can be mentally draining for them. The number of potential dates can feel like it’s too much for Introverts to handle, which can cause them to shut down and avoid it altogether,” says Alderson.
The digital search for love can hurt anyone
Although Introverted types might be slightly more prone to dating app overwhelm, it’s something that almost everyone suffers from at some point or another, regardless of their personality type.
“It's hard to put yourself out there and hope the other person likes you,” explains Schreiner, analyzing the universal challenges of dating apps. “Online dating adds an extra layer of waiting and hoping, since you don't get a response right away.”
It’s fair to say that, Introverted or Extraverted, online dating exposes people to rejection at speed and scale. Not many people would spend an evening at a bar walking up to different people they’re attracted to and asking for their numbers. But every time you swipe right on an app, you’re showing someone that you're interested – and that’s inherently daunting.
If they don’t feel the same or they change their mind later down the line, it can bring up all sorts of negative feelings like embarrassment, anxiety and self-doubt, which can take a toll on self-image.
In fact, research shows that dating app users are more likely to experience lower self-esteem and lower psychosocial well-being than non-users.
But that’s not to say these apps are all bad, either. Studies show, for example, that couples who meet on dating apps are more likely to stay together long-term than others, and six in ten daters rate their overall experience of online dating positively.
Perhaps, then, it’s not dating apps themselves that are bad, but how we use them. As another study found, people who use these apps more than four times a day are much more likely to experience negative feelings than those who take a measured approach.
Tips to navigate dating apps in a healthy way
For Introverts (and Extraverts) to get the most out of online dating while preserving their mental health, it’s wise to have a strategy in place. With that in mind, here are some expert tips to make your experience more enjoyable:
#1: Know what you want
Intentionality will help you bring focus to your online dating efforts. Maybe you’re looking for the one or have just had a break up and want something more casual. Whatever your goal, “Take the time to really identify what you are looking for and view online dating as a filter process,” Schreiner recommends.
#2: Find the right platform
Once you know what you’re looking for, you can find the right dating app for you. “Different dating apps cater to a variety of types of relationships, interests, or demographics,” says Alderson. “Finding one that aligns with your preferences will make all the difference.” Her app SoSynced, for example, matches individuals based on their personality types, helping people find kindred spirits.
#3: Take your time
Online dating is kind of like the tortoise and hare. As our experts note, slow and steady wins the race. “There's no need to rush, and you don't have to accept every potential match that comes your way. Take your time and don’t feel pressured to move forward until you’re comfortable,” says Alderson.
#4: Watch out for addiction
It’s wise to be mindful of just how much time you spend on these apps. Like social media, they can be highly addictive, and that’s where things get dangerous for mental health. Consider setting limits on how often you’ll check your chosen app each week and turning off notifications so you don’t get tempted into swiping the evening away.
#5: Cultivate empathy
Here’s a secret: in the same way that you’re afraid of being judged by potential matches, everyone else is too. “It can be easy to be overly picky and judgmental,” notes Schreiner. But this critical approach to dating limits chances for connection. “If you are feeling anxious, consciously remind yourself that you aren't the only one who's struggling with fears and anxieties,” Alderson adds.
By remembering the person you’re talking to is probably just as nervous as you, you can enter conversations with more confidence.
#6: Ease your worries
As well as being empathetic to others, make sure to be empathetic to yourself. “Don’t focus so much on if someone likes you and focus more on if you like them,” suggests Schreiner. Of course, if you find that online dating triggers your insecurities, look after yourself and take a break. “Listen to what your body and mind are telling you. If you're feeling overwhelmed or tired, take a break and engage in activities that bring you a sense of peace,” says Alderson.
#7: Know it will be rough, sometimes
“Not every interaction you have when online dating will be perfect,” says Alderson, noting that setting realistic expectations is crucial to keeping anxiety and disappointment at bay. “By preparing yourself for a mix of positive and negative experiences, you can avoid unnecessary disappointment further down the road.”
A match is what you make it
Ultimately, there’s no finite answer to whether online dating is all good or all bad for Introverts. After all, for every person you meet who met their significant other online, you’re going to meet another who says it sucks.
In that sense, deciding whether dating apps are the way to go for you comes down to personal preference. Put yourself out there, see how you go, and if you enjoy yourself, keep going. But remember, if you find that online dating isn’t a match for you, that’s perfectly okay too.