Dating can be quite a lot to handle sometimes. It’s a huge mixed bag of human interaction, uncertainty, and emotion. It’s wonderful and weird, but it can also be hard; hard to put yourself out there, hard to be vulnerable, and hard to be responsible.
Since dating is so difficult, it makes sense that we’ve created online platforms to take out some of the uncertainty involved in the process. Online dating has become hugely popular and changed the way people meet each other. Tinder alone is used by over 50 million people worldwide and racks up over 1 billion swipes per day.
Why so popular? Well with an app like Tinder we have more control over how we expose ourselves to the uncertainties of dating. We put up nice photos of ourselves, we engage with someone when they meet our standards, and we have a conversation with them only after we know that they approve of us too. This happens all before we even meet with them in person for the first time. Tinder makes connecting with people easier by giving us access to a huge number of people while still granting us security and control. But what else are we exercising when we are enjoying all of this control?
Think about It. When we spend time swiping around on Tinder, we spend time evaluating
others. We see a photo of a person, read their age, process that data, and decide if we approve or not, usually within a fraction of a second. I sometimes catch myself swiping on autopilot – ‘liking’ or ‘rejecting’ someone before I even fully register them.
The whole Tinder process runs countercurrent to the idea of mindfulness, that is, taking in an experience without judgment. With mindfulness, we widen the space between data processing and reaction by practicing awareness of what is happening without immediate reaction. Conversely, with Tinder, we get better at judging people faster and faster based on less and less information.
I’m not saying we should do away with judgment altogether; of course it’s a necessary part of life. Especially when searching for a potential partner, having some discrimination is required. But what we need to do is balance our mental efforts so that we don’t carry this snap-judgment attitude into the rest of our lives. We need to build up the compassion, patience, and empathy parts of our brains at least as much as the judgment parts. We can do this with directed practices in mindfulness. Even just 5 minutes of mindful breathing a day for every session on Tinder could make a difference.
How can we learn to be mindful in this way? Try to be curious and critical about how a practice like Tinder affects you. Take a second to note how you feel before and after spending time on it, or on any other judgment practice like shopping or being on Facebook. Then take some time to discover how you can strengthen the compassion and empathy parts of your brain too.
Judgment has its place but let’s not let it be our default mode of operation. Using it with awareness and peppering our day with mindfulness will help us balance our practices in judgment with practices in love and compassion.
Lachlan is a student of natural medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and a prospective student of contemplative psychotherapy at the Institute for Traditional Medicine in Toronto. She combines her learning from both alternative medicine and buddhist-influenced psychotherapy to develop a new way to address mental health concerns in a truly holistic way- with mind, body and spirit. Her professional interest blossomed out of her own struggles with depression and anxiety, helped greatly by her practices in meditation and ecstatic dance. Lachlan is a spirit, a writer and a traveler who loves the smell of Nag Champa.
For more info on Naturopathic Medicine and Contemplative Psychotherapy, see
Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine http://www.ccnm.edu/
Institute for Traditional Medicine http://itmworld.org/?page_id=275