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3 Ways Dating Apps Have Helped Me Date as a Guy With Social Anxiety

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If you’re romantic life is nonexistent due to social anxiety, welcome to the club. If you’re not using dating apps to find your potential partner, I recommend checking them out. It’s 2017, and I believe the days of online dating being socially unacceptable are over. Dating apps like OKCupid, Plenty of Fish and others are a dream come true for people like me with social anxiety, and I’m about to explain to you why that is.

But why should you listen to me?

Each partner I’ve had in my 32 years has come from using the internet in some form. From using AOL to meet and ask out my first girlfriend when I was 14 to the amazing woman I’m currently with — they’ve all had online origins. I used to be embarrassed about this, but like I said, it’s 2017 now. I believe dating apps are the “new normal,” and it just so happens to benefit my social anxiety.

Here are the areas where dating apps help my social anxiety:

1. The “ice breaker”

My social anxiety was the type that made it so I didn’t even like meeting new people unless someone did the introduction for me. Even still, I was having a panic attack inside my mind. With my brain going a million miles per minute, there was about a 90 percent chance I was going to say something silly and incoherent the first time I met someone new. Now, put me in front of an attractive female, and it’s game over. I’m screwed.

Within one second, my brain has already thought:

What do I say? Do I compliment her? Girls like compliments, right? What if I come off as creepy? What if she doesn’t think I’m interested when I am? Crap. How does my hair look? Do I have anything in my teeth? Does she know how nervous I am? Well, if she didn’t, she does now because she just shook my sweaty hand.

And then before you knew it, I was saying something my brain told me was “dumb” and it’d keep me awake for the next three nights.

With dating apps, I believe that problem is eliminated. I can take my sweet time, and that’s the ideal. Anxiety for me is a lack of control. I have no control of a conversation when it’s happening in real time because my brain is moving way too fast and has irrational fears coming at me left and right. When I have the time to structure my first impression message through a dating app, I can edit that thing like it’s my college thesis.

2. Phone anxiety

Phone anxiety and social anxiety often go hand in hand. For those of you who don’t know what phone anxiety is, it’s brutal. Again, it’s the issue of talking to someone in real time and having a mind that doesn’t stop. One of the worst parts about phone anxiety is the silence.

My worst nightmare was talking to a female on the phone and there being any type of awkward silence because again, a million thoughts would go through my head.

Should I say something? I don’t even have anything to say. Why isn’t she saying anything? What if we say something at the same time? Should I let her talk first? Maybe she’s bored of talking to me already. I probably screwed this up.

All of this while I’m crawling in my skin. No thank you.

With the instant messaging features built into online dating apps, I don’t have to worry nearly as much about the awkward silence or saying anything silly. Much like the ice breaker, I can carefully craft whatever I want to say. If I think it comes off too strong or “dumb” or silly, I can send it over to my friend to see how it sounds before sending it over.

Now, I will say this, something I had to work through was when she would take forever to reply. That’s something I would obsess over, but it was a lot easier to deal with. (Also, am I the only one who thinks read receipts were purposely made to trigger people with social anxiety?)

3. Having a “first date” before the first date

From what I understand, I’m in the minority of men who actually read profiles. But as someone with social anxiety, I have to. It’s also a good thing because I don’t want to come off as some shallow guy who just looked at her pics and decided to send a message. Being able to see what her interests are gives me plenty to talk about and get to know the person.

A huge part of my social anxiety on the first date is wondering what to talk about, if we have anything in common and where the other person stands on certain issues. (I’ve learned some apps even let you use keyword searches! Isn’t technology amazing!?) The last thing I want to do on a first date is touch on a topic that’s going to ignite some kind of conflict on the first date.

With dating apps, I can talk to a person for days or even weeks before I step into the same room as them. (I believe you’ll have to decide for yourself how long you want to wait to meet them though because waiting too long might put you in a bad spot.) I believe getting to know each other online first can make getting to know them in person better because you can connect on a deeper level than most people would ever connect on a first date.

Some people might say, “Then you’ll have nothing to talk about on the first date!” and I think this is completely false. By the time you go out on the first date, it’s almost like you’ve known this person for ages because you’ve had such long, in-depth conversations already. You can ask them if their co-worker did that annoying thing they were telling you about. You can follow up to see how their friend is doing with that breakup they just went through. You can ask them about if they caught up on the TV show you both have in common. The opportunities are endless, and it makes the first date far easier to deal with because you already know a bit about the person.

Best of all, through our previous talks, I can get a pretty good idea of whether or not I should make the move for a kiss at the end of the night, if it goes well. For me, Vince Vaughn in “Wedding Crashers” perfectly depicted what it’s like to end a first date when you deal with social anxiety.

Dating apps give me the confidence I was lacking when it came to talking to potential partners, and I don’t know where I’d be without them. Today, my social anxiety is virtually nonexistent in all other aspects of my life, which is why I work with others who are still struggling with it and also wrote a book about overcoming my anxiety. But even with my minimal symptoms of social anxiety, dating is still an obstacle I deal with. Luckily, I’m currently in an incredible relationship, so I don’t have to worry about that at this time. My relationship began through the beautiful world of dating apps!

So get out there, make the perfect profile, structure the best possible opening message you can and find the person you deserve!

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Thinkstock photo via girafchik123.

Originally published: July 10, 2017
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