Why am I afraid of online dating?

I’m a web developer. I’m a techie. I have fairly severe social anxiety (I’m apparently pretty good at hiding it though). Why the heck does online dating terrify me?

It doesn’t really make sense. At least not on the surface.

I think the reason people think online dating is easier for those with social anxiety, is because you can get to know people without interacting face to face and decide whether or not to meet them.

Honestly, for me it’s a lot harder. I’m not entirely sure why. I’m sure I can’t be alone in this. As uncomfortable as I am meeting new people in person, I feel like it’s easier to read them and get a more genuine conversation out of them. There’s something about hiding behind a computer that terrifies me. Even though my life is spent on the internet, it terrifies me. Yet being out and interacting with people is extremely exhausting. I feel like I can’t win.

Does anyone else find online dating extremely nerve wracking?

 

My Online Dating Experience

I tried online dating for the first time in 2010, while I was at college. It didn’t occur to me at the time, especially since I still had no idea what anxiety was, but I was so nervous and I was convinced that anyone I talked to would have no interest in me. I saw myself as completely unattractive therefore, there was absolutely no reason for anyone else to find me attractive.

My First Time

Because of how terrified I was, I never initiated contact. I think I only had communication with maybe 3 guys. One, it turned out I actually knew, sort of. He knew my dad, which was weird (unless you know how they knew each other, it’s not as weird as you’d think, but I won’t get into that). We started talking a lot. Even added each other on Facebook. But he was in Northern Alberta and I was in Southern Ontario, at the time. Eventually we sort of started talking less, and then not at all, and he started dating someone else, and was posting all sorts of things on Facebook about it, and a little while later I deleted him.

Giving It Another Shot

About a year later, I decided to try out a different dating site. I talked to a couple guys for a little bit, but then they stopped responding. One guy I talked to quite a bit and we went on a date that I thought went well. I tried to message him a few days later (because I knew he was busy with some family stuff for a few days). Being the first to initiate that contact was a huge step for me. But he never responded.

Being in a small city in southern Alberta, we were bound to run into each other at some point. About a year later, I saw him across a parking lot, and I could tell he saw me too. I was so hurt, that I almost burst into tears right there. I was on my lunch break from work, so I got my food and got back into my car as quickly as possible. His work van was just leaving the parking lot. I ended up beside him at a red light, and I could tell he was making an effort to avoid eye contact, so I cranked up my music and when the light turned green, I got away from him as quickly as I could.

Third Time’s a Charm…? Maybe not.

A couple years later I went back onto the first dating site, but didn’t communicate with anyone, and eventually deleted my account.

Try, Try, Try… Try Again

A little over a year ago, when I was diagnosed with social anxiety by a psychiatrist, he also recommended that I try online dating. I thought that was absolutely bizarre. I wasn’t too impressed with him (for other reasons), especially after being told he was a renowned psychiatrist, so I decided I wouldn’t bother. The thing that bothered me most was that he brought up another patient who met a guy on Tinder and how he was so great and helped her through a crisis. And he specifically mentioned that she had far more struggles than I did. Like, thanks for making my issues less valid. I was really annoyed when I left that appointment. Course that was also the same day I was supposed to go back to work from medical leave, which ended up leading to a whole mess of crap that completely ruined my self confidence and esteem with regards to my work abilities.

A week or so later, I was thinking about it more, and though, well, maybe he’s right. Maybe it is easier. So I signed up for a different site, because I hadn’t tried it, and I knew I wouldn’t have to pay to communicate. I figured I would just look around for a while and get comfortable before I started communicating with any guys. The next day, a guy contacted me and we seemed to have a lot in common. As we chatted, I liked him more, and I even opened up about my anxiety and he was totally ok with it. I was also up front about the fact that I wanted to take it slow.

The first clue I had that it wasn’t going to work was that the second day, I was reading his last message and starting to respond, when he came online and started messaging me right away, instead of giving me the chance to respond to his previous message.

I didn’t think much of it at first, I figured he was just excited. No biggie.

But then it happened again. On the second, he asked if I was seriously interested, because he didn’t want to waste time. I reassured him that I was. I certainly wouldn’t have told him as much as I did, nor would I still be talking to him, if I wasn’t interested. I thought it was bizarre that he would ask me that because I thought it was pretty obvious.

He asked for reassurance a couple more times that I was still interested, and I reminded him that I warned him about my anxiety and I wasn’t quite ready to meet yet. I wanted to get to know him some more still.

All in all, we only messaged back and forth for less than a week.

I panicked.

I think it was because in my mind I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone right away. Mentally, I was not ready, I just wanted to get comfortable with the site first before I started really getting into it. I had been on the site for barely five days and I was already scared off of it.

I sent the guy a message explaining that I realized I wasn’t ready and I couldn’t do this anymore. While this was very true, his need for reassurance wasn’t helping, and I just felt completely overwhelmed and I couldn’t handle it.

I cried for a really long time about this.

I signed out of the account and ignored all email notifications for almost two months before I decided to go back in and turn off the notifications and matching. I figured I would check and see what he said, only to find out that the site deletes messages that are 30 days old, so I couldn’t.

And Now…

I recently started following a YouTuber and motivational speaker named Molly Burke. She did a couple videos where she talked about Tinder (here and here), and it got me thinking about online dating again.

Specifically, what caught my attention about it was how highly she spoke of Tinder and how accessible the app is for people who are blind and have to use Voice Over. Obviously, that’s not an issue for me, but knowing that a company is taking the time to put in that extra effort to make their applications accessible to everyone definitely makes me more interested in what they have to offer.

I never joined Tinder before because I thought it was purely photo based and therefore totally shallow, so I was just not interested in it at all. A couple days after watching Molly’s videos about Tinder, I decided to give it a shot. Also, partly because of some other personal things I’ve been thinking about lately, that I’m not ready to talk about on here just yet, I thought I’d give it a shot. I didn’t make my profile visible right away. I needed some time to warm up to it and feel comfortable with the photos I chose and what I wrote in my bio. I also didn’t swipe right on any guys until last night.

Once I started getting matches and messages, I was still scared.

This afternoon, Kati Morton posted a new video about dating. After watching it, it helped give me a little boost. I’m trying to change my perspective on it and be less afraid. It’s hard, but so far I think I’m doing ok.

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