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Validation. Some people seek it online like it’s their purpose for living.

Continually noting your latest Instagram photo’s likes and comparing that number to your friend’s, sharing a vacation photo on Facebook to see how your family responds, hell — writing an article on Medium and obsessively checking your stats.

If you share online, in a sometimes subconscious way, you are succumbing in some way to validation seeking.

For me, I do validation seeking on dating apps.

It’s been a whopping eight months since my last relationship — a decent amount of time to gain my independence back but still, miss the sweet nothings from a lover.

About three months ago, I got back into the online dating world. Living in Los Angeles, my sea of fish is plentiful; though those fish are usually thrill-seeking-in-the-city men looking for lust, not love.

I re-activated my Bumble account with good intentions; I wanted a serious relationship with someone who valued me for all that I am. I created a profile that was a balance between intriguing, funny, and wanting to find a genuine connection. Add to that a picture of me with Kobe Bryant — that’s usually a slam dunk matcher; pun not intended but leaving.

Starting all over on Bumble meant I got the best of what Los Angeles had to serve — in terms of selection of men — from the get-go. Of course, seeing gorgeous men traveling the world to take photos with tigers and laughing with their unamused dogs was more than enough to keep me swiping.

Several hours into my Bumble endeavors, I started matching with eligible suitors. I was flattered — actual human men wanted to get to know me. After being single for months, this was the sort of confidence booster that surprised me, but I welcomed. From then on, I was hooked.

A month into Bumbling my way through Los Angeles’s below 35 population of men, I started to get a hunch that my intentions weren’t as I initially thought.

I found myself mindlessly reaching for my phone whenever I had a free moment. I just wanted to check real quick if Spencer from Culver City messaged me back. Not Spencer from Venice because he asked me to get drinks, and, on further inspection, I noticed he was just an inch too short for me. Just like Ben from Hermosa.

I was anxious to spend my free time swiping, even though I didn’t see my matches to fruition concerning an actual date. I would chat up a guy or two throughout the day; then they would ask me out to grab drinks. I would quickly re-check their profile, find a reason I didn’t like them, and convince myself not to go on a date.

But it was fine — there were always more guys to swipe on.

Feeling like I wasn’t sure where my life was going? Swipe on Bumble. Missing my ex-boyfriend because of a dream I had? Swipe on Bumble. Worrying that I I look fat today? Swipe on Bumble.

It hit me one day — after promising myself I would get to bed early but continuing to swipe for an hour and a half past that time — that I needed to re-evaluate my true intentions for online dating. If I was continually swiping, yet never going on a date, why was I even on Bumble?

As I considered this, swiping just a tiny bit more for the night, I got a match. A satisfied feeling, almost like getting a point on a game, faintly rushed through me. And that was it.

I was seeking the coveted match to make me feel like I was enough.

Bumbling was like a game. There were all of these men that I judged. I always said that I hated only being able to consider my compatibility with a guy based off his looks, yet I was on the app playing like it was Candy Crush. Every match I received was akin to another point. My queue of men, waiting for me to message them, was a live scoreboard.

Without realizing it, I channeled all of my insecurities into a goddamn dating app. My happiness was in the hands of men I didn’t know, and would apparently never know. Torture is the word that comes to mind.

Coming to that realization; I deleted my Bumble for awhile. The endless cycle of swipe-match-ghost wasn’t fair to my self-growth, or the guys I matched with that were genuinely interested in dating; I needed my time back. I needed my insecurities back. I needed to work on myself.

All of a sudden, I had a lot of free time. It was quite the shocker to realize how much time I spent on Bumble.

Focusing on finding happiness in myself, rather than a slew of single men that probably have their own insecurities, was a game changer. I picked up a new hobby, enhanced my self-care routine, began to create actionable baby steps for my goals and reminded myself every day that I was enough; hell, I was more than enough.

In my hierarchy of needs, thanks Maslov, I was seeking to have love filled in all the wrong places. When it’s so easy to dive into online dating, how is it that we can be more conscious of our actions on these apps?

Check-in with yourself

In 2017, professors at the University of North Texas conducted a study on 1,300 men and women who use Tinder. The results showed that men and women who used Tinder had lower self-esteem than those who didn’t.

There is scientific evidence to show that we can easily lose our sense of worth and identity through online dating. Don’t let that be you. Check-in with yourself every several days; consider how you feel before you open a dating app versus how you feel after you open it. You shouldn’t be closing the app and feeling worse.

Match with five people at a time

I am a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to this. I was swipe endlessly and accumulate a long queue of guys that I have to message since I use Bumble. If I message 10–15 men at a time, I am spreading my attention thin. Sometimes, a potential man will fall through the cracks even.

Focusing on five people tops gives you the opportunity to focus your attention on a small number of people at a time. Your quality of conversation will be better, and you can be more clear in evaluating your compatibility.

Thoroughly look through profiles

Why waste your time or theirs by swiping based purely on their profile pic? If you’re in it for the real deal, do yourself a favor and read their profile. Look at all their photos.

Maybe it’s just Los Angeles, but there have been numerous times where I swiped on someone that clearly stated they were only looking for a hook-up. Cool. Not what I’m looking for, and another space on my profile is taken up.

Put your authentic self out there

I used to have an insecurity that I work as a nanny. I would be worried about bringing it up to guys I matched with, in the event that they would judge me. 
My solution? I put that info in my profile.

Now guys knew what they were getting into from the get-go. Nannying isn’t what I want to do long term, but I sure as hell don’t want to waste my time on a guy that will judge me for paying the bills.

Stepping forth with your most genuine self will save you time in the long-run and not give you room for feeling secretly insecure.

Self-care comes first

Most importantly, treat yourself like the extraordinary human being you are. You don’t need a significant other to pamper you or tell you how incredible you are.

Throughout your time on online-dating, always be your priority. Focusing on self-care, first and foremost, will help keep you from getting sucked into the self-esteem trap that I found myself in.

With all of this said, I am still a proponent of online dating; I think it’s pretty wild that we can now connect with people so quickly. We can now meet people at the touch of a fingertip rather than by chance. I’ve heard of many beautiful relationships blossoming out of apps like Bumble and Hinge.

It saddens me that there is so much insecurity engrained in these apps, but I am confident that with a little self-awareness, we can bypass this negative byproduct.

So venture forth, and happy (conscious) swiping.