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Addiction to dating apps? This phenomenon exists among some people, and so it affects them

Like all addictions, it all started with a taste. This is exactly how the story of Alison Karlene Hodgins begins, who, at just 18 years of age, began her adventure in the world of online dating . And like any other young adult, she did it with innocence and some cynicism. In her chat with The Huffington Post, the woman comments: “She was 18, in my best friend's basement, slightly intoxicated on cheap wine when she profiled her as part of a joke.” However, little did Hodgins know that this joke would become the center of her life some time later.

Soon after, Alison began trying out online dating on her own. Like millions of stories around the world, Hodgins downloaded Tinder at night, only to later regret her matches in the morning and proceed to delete her profile. This action was followed by the promise “not to return”, but as he happens with addictions, his words did not last too long.

However, at this point Hodgins was still relatively healthy. In fact, shortly after she began her adventure in the world of online dating and swipes left and right, the woman she found a partner. This relationship lasted a year, and it is at its end that the real story begins.

A game of tug-of-war

“After the breakup, I mourned the relationship before downloading a new app…” says Alison, explaininghow she managed to meet two more potential partners after the event. Unfortunately, luck was not on her side. “I went out with each one for two months.”

Drugs did not need; I even abstained from alcohol for a whole year. The dating apps? I craved them.

Alison Karlene Hodgins for The Huffington Post “After every breakup, I told myself that I would take some time. I wanted to focus on myself. She would reflect on who I was and what I wanted. I wouldn't download any dating app.” However, two weeks later, Alison woke up with her phone in her hands and an App Store open with the word “Appointments” in the search bar.

But why do we get addicted to dating apps?

Of course, it would be unfair to blame Alison herself for her dating app addiction. After all, they are a means like any other to satisfy one of the most important human needs: the desire for connection.

In fact, it is this very need that makes us “addicted” to these applications. The brain is an organ with impressive plasticity, capable of changing its chemistry in response to a specific experience, and love and attachment are some of the most powerful that you can experience.

According to Dr. Michael Merzenich, chief scientific officer at Posit Science, these are one of the most significant experiences someone can have in their life. “Naturally, these experiences can bring about some of the biggest changes in the brain that a person can experience,” the scientist tells Global Dating Insights.

In addition to his talks about the consequences of love on the human brain, Merzenich has also done some research on the impact of dating apps on it. Here, she explains what happens when we start swiping left and right on apps like Tinder, and why

. “We know that when a person does something rewarding, like going on a great date or meeting a fun person, the brain releases dopamine, a neurochemical associated with reward. The interesting thing is that the brain does not need to get the reward to release dopamine; if the brain anticipates that the reward will come in the future, it also releases dopamine.

So when a person starts scrolling through potential matches on a dating app, the brain automatically begins to anticipate the thrill and reward of a date, and releases dopamine.”

Dr. Michael Merzenich, Chief Scientific Officer at Posit Science But Merzenich is not the only one who has managed to link this phenomenon to the human circuit. Dr. Judson Brewer, in his book The Craving Mind, also offers a look at this effect. Here, Brewer explains how social apps of any kind activate the same “circuitry” as substances like alcohol, cocaine, heroin, oxycodone and many more. Fortunately, in most cases, a dose of Tinder does not have as devastating consequences as the substances mentioned here.

Natasha Dow Schüll, anthropologist and author of a book that links addiction with technology, comments on the similarities between slot machines and dating apps. As Schüll tells the Daily Beast, addiction to these applications works in a similar way to gambling addiction.

“The parallels exist in the way the experience is formatted, with or without rewards. If you don't know what you're going to get or when, this leads to more persevering behaviors, which in turn are the most addictive.

You build this anticipation, that anticipation builds, and there's a kind of release when you get a reward. The jackpot, a ding-ding-ding, a match”.

Natasha Dow Schüll, anthropologist

A problem that affects some more than others

A survey carried out by Match confirms the number of users who tend to return to the application on a constant basis. According to the website, 15% of singles on Tinder comment that they feel addicted to the process of looking for a date.

Of this population, it is men who take the largest share, with a 97% greater chance of becoming addicted. Women, meanwhile, make up the smallest part; but they are 54% more likely to suffer exhaustion after this process.

A third of the users of these apps have never gone on a date with someone they have met on them. For this, everything is summed up to a kind of “video game”. In an article for the BBC, Lucy Vine describes this experience as “earning points in a video game”. “It's a pastime in front of the TV when I'm bored,” she says.

David Greenfield, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, agrees with the reasoning of Natasha Dow Schüll and Lucy Vine. Furthermore, he adds that in most of these cases we cannot do anything to save ourselves from these feelings of addiction.

Dopamine is a powerful neurotransmitter that is wired into survival circuits like eating and sex, so we're talking about going against something that has biologically evolved in the brain over tens of thousands of years.

David Greenfield, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine for VICE For this reason, one of the solutions may lie in understanding in depth that having more options will not make us happier. In fact, according to Greenfield, “it stresses us even more”.