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Using a dating app without losing myself?

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  • #403546
    StoutHeartedMen
    Participant

    Hello dear Tinybuddha friends!

    I have been following this site for a while and appreciate the warmth of the community.

    My main query today is: is there a way I may approach dating apps with clarity and spirit? Or, is this inherently something that is detrimental to my soul?

    Here is some context about me. I am a young man, 23 years of age, who came out as male multiple times (15 years old, 20 years old…etc) and in the past 3 years I achieved the adult body I dreamed of having as a child, that I didn’t think was possible to achieve. I have been in 10+ relationships with people of multiple genders, though I am now primarily interested in women. I am autistic, though I mask socially and most people are not able to tell. I have had a few serious long-term relationships over the past few years, but my most recent “big breakup” was in late 2020. I am grateful for the enormous spiritual growth that that breakup provided me; I believe I have gotten through it and embraced its timely end.

    In 2021, I realized I am a Quaker, and therefore I committed to abstain from alcohol, pornography, smoking, cursing, and watching graphic depictions of violence. I had been attempting to quit these for years, but my faith in myself made me want to truly commit to stopping, especially pornography which was my biggest addiction, as it felt like the largest escape from my insecurities. My inner peace has grown significantly since I quit all of these things. It felt like I was honoring the child in me.

    In prior years such as 2019 – while I desperately was trying to build fame, fortune, and ego – I partook in all aforementioned indulgences (drinking, smoking, porn, etc) and part of this was dating apps. Looking back, I no longer relate to those profiles from only two years ago – the shameless dirty jokes and bravado feel immature and even violating to my present self. Yet, my relentless tirade got me more matches than I could keep up with – perhaps because of the sheer shameless confidence it exuded, or perhaps because I lived in an enormous city at the time.

    However, ever since I embraced my faith and became more reclusive, moving to the countryside, I feel like I have become more awkward and vulnerable when it comes to online dating. After having only a match or two this past February, I completely deactivated most of my profiles across all apps. Summarizing my entire self into bytes feels like an insult and a dehumanization. Trying to assemble a bouquet of “attractive” pictures, all while imagining the faults others would see, knocks down my self-esteem. If only they could only meet me in real life, I think, they’d feel my energy, and I could win them over! But if they’re just judging my worth based on words and images, I feel like of course I’ll lose to the  6″1 lacrosse-playing law student who copies and pastes a sexy one-liner from Twitter as his biography and has a six-pack and a dog. Writing a dating bio that’s true to who I am feels like a paradox. And writing it feels like this:

    Hello?

    When I use these apps, I hear a deafening silence, which seems to say, “No one is interested in you.” And this feels a lot like a rejection, which pushes me towards insecurity, even though I think I am not so bad looking and I am proud of the mature person I am becoming. And I do believe I am ready to approach my next partner from a place of curiosity and genuine interest, rather than doing backflips to impress partners so they don’t leave (what I did in years past).
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>It feels like the more honest I am, the more it hurts when I am rejected. I can’t stand the image of dozens of strangers reading my profile, looking at me, and going “Nah, he’s ugly” without even knowing me, my art, my music, my ancestry, etc. (I hear an inner critic say I am taking this way too personally, but this is the truth of how I feel.)</p>
    Inversely, by using the app, I’m also agreeing to judge people into oblivion simply based on their face, body, clothing, race, and a few sentences meant to summarize their entire life. And when I get on an app like this I can easily swipe away, categorizing human beings into would and wouldn’t, before I realize 20, 30, even 40 minutes have gone by. It is like an eerie, objectifying meditation based on assumptions. How can such a practise be ethically permissible? Something about this mutual shallowness feels unsettling and wrong. Spiritually and logically, dating apps seem like an indulgence to avoid.

    ~~~~~~~

    So, what is drawing me to them? Well, this feels like the most relevant way to find people my age to date. I think this is better than meeting people at events, because there is usually: age discrepancy; they’re taken; and/or they’re not interested in me and suddenly I feel ashamed for asking a girl out at an art event when she’s just having fun and being herself. I think dating apps are better than reaching out to fans and dating them, which I have done in my youth and which I now know creates paternalism and a power imbalance.

    I keep hearing from childhood friends, written articles, and even my therapist that putting myself out there on a dating app is my best chance of achieving fun dates and possibly a relationship.

    One of my largest goals in life is to enjoy the beautiful Universe, so it only makes sense to open these doors of opportunity and cross paths with diverse lives that inhabit my world. Plus I still want to continue discovering who I am through dating.

    This has all been on my mind and it is a relief to type it out. Thank you for reading!

    What do you think? I hope to hear more thoughts on this complex matter.

    #403556
    anita
    Participant

    Dear StoutHeartedMen:

    I didn’t thoroughly read all of your original post, but I was wondering: did you consider using a dating app like Match. com or Plenty of Fish? I believe that in these two sites you can put together a personal profile where you can express yourself genuinely and honestly. What would such a profile be for you, what would you put in it?

    anita

     

    #403560
    anita
    Participant

    Dear StoutHeartedMen:

    You shared that you are 23, autistic, not evident socially. You’ve been in more than 10 relationships, a few of them were serious and long-term, and your most recent breakup was in late 2020 (about a year and a half ago). In 2021 you adapted the Quaker faith/ life-style: “abstaining from alcohol, pornography, smoking, cursing and watching graphic depictions of violence”. You moved to the countryside and you are experiencing significantly more inner-peace than earlier in your life. However, you are now feeling awkward in regard to online dating:  it feels dehumanizing for people to be judging your worth “based on words and images”. Writing a bio/ using the apps feels like talking to the wall, hearing a “deafening silence” and feeling rejected.

    “My main query today is: is there a way I may approach dating apps with clarity and spirit? Or, is this inherently something that is detrimental to my soul?.. I can’t stand the image of dozens of strangers reading my profile, looking at me, and going ‘Nah, he’s ugly’ without even knowing me, my art, my music, my ancestry, etc… Inversely, by using the app, I’m also agreeing to judge people into oblivion simply based on their face, body, clothing, race, and a few sentences meant to summarize their entire life… How can such a practice be ethically permissible? Something about this mutual shallowness feels unsettling and wrong… What do you think? I hope to hear more thoughts on this complex matter”-

    -As I am typing this post to you, I know- from my experience of submitting thousands of posts in these forums for over seven years- that it is likely that you will not respond, not even a thank you for my time and effort. It happens a lot, that like you, I am facing a deafening silence/ a wall, in these forums. Some of the members who do not reply to me, probably don’t like my posts, and don’t think I am worthy of a reply. And yet, I keep posting because my self-worth is not dependent on whether or not I receive a response. I focus not on Others who may read my posts and what they think of it. I focus on being as genuine and sincere as I can be.

    I suggest that you focus on being as genuine, as sincere and as authentic as you can be while you put together your bio and while interacting with others on the dating apps. Focus on being you, and not on that wall of silence/ others who may reject you. And as you interact with others on the apps, treat them with respect and dignity, no matter how they look, etc.

    Imagine being a dancer, dancing on a stage in front of.. no one, no audience: dance as if everyone- or no one- is watching you!

    anita

    #403566
    StoutHeartedMen
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    Thank you so much for your response. I have been reading the TinyBuddha forums for a few months now, and I had hoped you may see my thread! I deeply admire your methodology wherein you state portions of the person’s response in order to help them gain clarity. Reading through replies including your own has made a difference in my life and self-perception – even when I carried a vastly different problem than the OP.

    In regards to your reply: thank you so much, I am so glad to hear your thoughts. Your response has given me a whole new way to look at this. Hearing the comparison of your own experience on this very forum was unexpected and deeply helps to hear. Verily, I do get lost in “how I am perceived” and it stops me from being myself.

    Wow, focusing on being me feels like an idea I haven’t consciously explored before. I had never consciously decided to having sincerity as a goal…that feels brave and scary (in a good way)! From a young age my goal was to impress, and in many cases, it still is. Impressing others is a neverending arduous task with external loci, while sincerity seems to light up my world from within. I now see impressing empowers others, while sincerity empowers me.

    I LOVE your last analogy because I do dance and it’s one of my favorite ways to express my body! Serendipitously, I have taken a half-year break from dancing classes due to budgetary reasons, but I had intended to go to a dance class tonight specifically, so I will take this as another sign to attend.
    In fact, one of my happiest moments was shameless disco-dancing at a 2022 New Year’s Eve event. I think I looked ridiculous and weird and no one else was dancing with my intensity and vigor to<i> Scissor Sisters</i>, but I didn’t care because I was so happy to be dancing as ME!

    Focusing on being myself, I feel like I can just have fun with it and think, “What kind of dating profile would [StoutHeartedMen] have?” and “How can I most sound like myself while talking to this person?” Doing this, I feel like I would almost forget about the wall of silence entirely because it brings the dance-party to me, and I barely care what others will think of the fun I am having. What a shift. Thank you for taking me towards BEING and expressing my inner light.

    I may take your advice and try an online dating site like Match.com rather than an app. I always thought websites were more fun.

    Hearing your perspective has given me a newfound awareness of what to focus on. Again, thank you so much for your response.

    #403567
    anita
    Participant

    Dear StoutHeartedMen:

    It’s been a delight for me to read your reply, thank you for being as kind and gracious as you are. I want to reply a bit further when I return to the computer in about  10 hours from now.

    anita

    #403572
    anita
    Participant

    Dear StoutHeartedMen:

    I am re-reading your reply this Friday morning and responding: you are very welcome. You express yourself so well in writing. I can only imagine how well you express yourself dancing!

    I do get lost in ‘how I am perceived’ and it stops me from being myself… From a young age my goal was to impress, and in many cases, it still is“- to care about how we are perceived/ to want to impress others is so very naturally- genetically human. I don’t think that we have the option to not care about how we are perceived.

    Key is to have a solid core of who you are within and to not compromise that core for the purpose of manipulating others’ perceptions.

    To lose yourself less and less often, it will take finding yourself every time you get lost this way.. again and again. You can use the NPR strategy: Notice when you lost yourself, Pause and Redirect your attention to the core of you!

    Sincerity seems to light up my world from within. I now see impressing empowers others, while sincerity empowers me“- imagine your sincerity empowering others as well!

    I feel like I would…  barely care what others will think of the fun I am having“- but you will care about what other people think of the fun you are having: this caring is a part of who you are. Key is (1) to not get lost in this part, so that all of you becomes this one part, and (2) to not hate this part, trying to get rid of it, so that none of you is this part.

    You are welcome to post again anytime, here on this thread and elsewhere.

    anita

    #403696
    StoutHeartedMen
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    Thank you so much for the kind words on your July 7th reply!! It made me so happy. And the compliment about my writing was so nice that I felt overcome with good feelings!

    I appreciate you reminding me of my own humanity. What you said about sincerity is shocking and amazing, once again reminding me of moments in my past that commenters have told me that my art/posts has helped them to feel seen. I too recall how often another person or character’s mere existence can feel validating! I love that idea.

    The NPR strategy sounds like a beautiful practise, I appreciate you sharing.

    As an update, I did begin an account on OkCupid, a fun dating site I have appreciated since I was a kid (it used to have lighthearted quizzes and games). It feels right for me and it is a fun challenge. I am glad to have received the clarity, courage, and direction to do so by reading your ideas.

    I too hope to see you around the forums and will continue to explore and post when I feel so moved. Thanks again for your considerate responses and unique perspective. 🙂

    #403698
    anita
    Participant

    Dear StoutHeartedMen:

    “Thank you so much for the kind words… !! It made me so happy. And the compliment about my writing was so nice that I felt overcome with good feelings!”-

    You are very welcome! As you go about your online dating experience on OkCupid (and otherwise in life), when you receive a positive response from a dating prospect, maybe an enthusiastic response, and you feel … so happy and overcome with good feelings- enjoy it for a little while and then moderate these feelings: come down from the emotional high just enough to feel good but not too good. This practice will lower the impact of the Fall when you get disappointed. Disappointments are part of the dating experience, often a big part of it, so better be prepared. I don’t have the statistics, so the following is only a guess: out of 20 dating candidates with whom you will be communicating for a while, 1 will not disappoint you.

    “I am glad to have received the clarity, courage, and direction to do so by reading your ideas… will continue to explore and post when I feel so moved” – I am here, StoutHeartedMen, anytime!

    anita

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