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Can dating apps affect our mental health?

Whether it's Valentine's Day or any other date on the calendar, Australians need to ensure they practice self-care when it comes to navigating the world of online dating platforms.

The past two decades have seen a trend towards using the Internet and dating applications to meet new romantic partners.

While there are no official statistics noting the number of Australians using online dating, estimates presume that 4.5 million people are using this dating method every year, with meeting someone online being one of the most preferred avenues to meet someone.

Phone app Tinder claims that 15 per cent of Australia's population – almost 3.5 million people – use their app.

RSVP advertises that 1,200 new singles join its site every day, and eHarmony says it has been responsible for 11,000 Australian marriages since 2007.

But while there are many advantages of using such dating apps, including convenience and ease of access, there are also some negatives which users should be aware of in order to exercise caution.

Notably, online dating can be a trigger for people with anxiety or anxious tendencies, which can potentially cause extra stress for some people in this social media age.

"Some people who have mental health issues find that online dating really sets off their social anxieties, feelings of inadequacy and fear of rejection," said beyondblue lead clinical adviser Dr Grant Blashki.

He argued that the tone and nature of social media, and online dating sites or apps, cause understandable issues for some people, specifically those who suffer from anxiety.

"Some people experiencing anxiety conditions avoid social situations or even dates because they find the experience brings on their anxiety," he explained.

"This can sometimes lead to social isolation, which can further compromise a person's mental health."

"Social media often presents an idealised version of people's lives and relationships, which can add fuel to the fire for people who have few social connections."

In response, Dr Blashki said it can be useful for people to balance time spent socialising online with time spent socialising offline.

"In my experience, for some people, there is an obsessive and addictive quality to some of their social media behaviour and this can manifest as frequent checking for likes and approval comments, when their time might be better spent going and meeting some people face-to-face," he said.

"Sometimes, we can lose perspective on the bigger picture and get caught up with the idea that everyone else's lives are so perfect based on social media posts. This can feed into an unhealthy comparative and unrealistic benchmark for their own life."

If in doubt, Dr Blashki suggested taking a "social media holiday".

"Online, people sometimes post harsh comments or behave cruelly in ways they never would face-to-face, so it can be a brutal medium for all of us, including those experiencing mental health issues," he advised.

In the face of such pressures, it is crucial for individuals utilising such online platforms to remember that everyone with whom they interact deserves respect.

In addition, each person has the power to block content or switch it off, if they don't like it, and they should remember that there are other ways to meet people, he said, such as joining a gym or sporting team.


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