I get no attention on dating apps and it’s affecting my confidence
Q: I am a round woman, size 18-20. I’ve often been able to get a date on dating apps, but I’ve never met someone in real life and been able to get a date with them. I have body confidence issues and have worked very hard on myself to get to a place where I am confident. However, I’ve been using dating apps recently and haven’t received any attention. I don’t know if it’s a rut, or if the people in the world right now aren’t my people, but I can’t help but feel less confident knowing that I’m not getting any feedback.
A: I am, deep down, against dating apps. Of course, that’s very easy to say for someone who’s been in a relationship for six years, so please know that I’m aware that I sound like a… asshole. The problem is that it flattens the experience of attraction into something we all think and feel we have a little control over. It gives you silly prompts and questions, choosing the best photos, and the most specific age range. It’s like you can decide how others are going to perceive you, but it’s about as good as an app where you just write down your favorite brand of sliced bread and then people choose you based on that. A dating app may be, in some ways, a reflection of you, but it’s not a reflection of how attraction works. I would never choose my boyfriend over a dating app – for a date or otherwise. It’s not that I think he’s ugly (obviously!), it’s just that he wasn’t at all the kind of guy I was looking for or for whom, and for which I might meet a single stranger, I really needed someone to be exactly my type. Also, a lot of his pictures were “funny” pictures and I can’t take care of that.
I’m not saying that dating apps never work. Obviously they do, otherwise none of us would use them. They can and have worked many times, but that’s the exception, not the rule. This is, of course, obscured by the thrill of it, but if you think about how many people whose faces you’ve seen on apps you don’t dated/kissed/hooked with, the “success rate” is…negligible.
I am pointing this out not to despair or drive you to despair, but to remind you that dating apps are fake. Their success leans, if at all, towards people who are more conventionally attractive or those who fetishize themselves. No one is the most generous themselves when browsing a dating app because they literally don’t have time to be. You don’t have time to get to know the person and what they look like and how silly, nice, imaginative, or loyal they are. You don’t get any of this information in a meaningful way. What you’re left with is a deck of cards that someone put faces on and a bad magic trick.
So why was it working better for you and not now? I’m absolutely not going to condescend to you and say it’s because you’re not in the right frame of mind or because you’re not putting yourself out there enough. It’s not because of your profile picture or your biography. It’s not because of Mercury retrograde or the level of self-love you’re feeling right now. It’s just…algorithms and applications. It’s a house of cards built to make a lot of money for a guy drinking Bulletproof coffee. If I could magically make you drop the result of dating apps and detach your self-esteem from it, I’d do it in a heartbeat, because the reason why your profile isn’t getting the same interactions as before might be anything — which means it’s nothing.
Much easier said than done, of course. I’m not here to tell you to push a little harder and love yourself a little harder and that will be the solution to whatever ails you. It does not work like that. The shitty truth is, in my opinion, as an overweight person, no matter how much body positivity you throw at yourself, there are days, times, weeks, and years when the message of our fatphobic world infiltrates and stays. It just happens. The job of undoing what the rest of society has done shouldn’t just be up to you. Your opinion should not, on its own, outweigh society’s very loud and misguided opinion that bodies that aren’t thin aren’t worth that much. And more specifically, you shouldn’t have to assume all of this and stay happy about it – stay cheerful about it, never complain. You become mad, sad, hurt, angry, heartbroken and bitter that dating is more difficult or different for you than for others. You are welcome to feel these things and in fact I think you should allow yourself to do so from time to time. Every month on the 27th you can have a wallowing day. A day when you complain to a friend or your journal or your therapist about shit. You need some outlet, though, because a lot of people will (or already have) blamed all of this on you. They’ll say it’s about trust and loving each other more, or it’s about showing off more.
You do these things. I’m sure because if you’re dating and have curves, most of those things are necessary. They are inherent. You put yourself there. You are confident. You are not filled with self-loathing. The assumption that you needs to do more is a bit fatphobic I think. My suggestion – and it’s not going to get you loads of dates very quickly; I swear if I knew how to do that, I’d tell you, it’s to get you off the hook. Accept that you can’t do everything, that some things will work and some won’t, and that doesn’t mean you’re failing or not trying. Go easy on yourself. People will come who will want to date you and kiss and date you more than they can even express. They already exist, and you will find them and there is no need to rush at full speed to get there. The fact that they find you does not determine your value. You are already beautiful.
In the meantime, you have the right to be impatient. Don’t let it stop your life. Keep doing things that make you happy, and if that doesn’t include dating apps, fantastic. They just make you feel worse right now, it seems, and they don’t work. I don’t think at the end of your life you’ll look back and think, “I wish I was on Tinder more.”