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The Hidden Cost of Dating App Burnout

How to recognize and prevent dating app burnout.

Key points

  • People who are burned out on dating apps often run out of energy and feel like they aren’t making any progress toward meeting someone.
  • Burnout can come at an emotional and financial cost, stifling one's success with dating apps.
  • While the circumstances that lead to burnout may not be entirely controllable, certain steps can prevent it, such as seeking support.
PeopleImages - Yuri A/Shutterstock
PeopleImages - Yuri A/Shutterstock

Dating isn’t supposed to feel like work. However, between all the swiping and messaging, online dating can sometimes feel like a part-time job—and a stressful one at that. Swipes don’t always lead to matches, and conversations often fizzle out, meaning many relationships never make it offline. Over time, this can lead to frustration, disappointment, and ultimately, burnout.

Understanding Burnout

Christina Maslach at the University of California, Berkeley has spent decades studying burnout, which she and her colleagues describe as a response to interpersonal stress sustained over an extended period of time. Burnout can take the form of emotional exhaustion, feelings of ineffectiveness, and depersonalization of others.

Burnout has been shown to occur in a variety of organizational contexts, where it's linked to job dissatisfaction and employee turnover. In online dating, burnout can leave people feeling fatigued and unable to achieve their goals. One way to cope with burnout is to:

Tip #1: Seek support. According to Maslach and her colleagues, social support can buffer against burnout. We used to meet people in social settings like bars and restaurants, but now much of our swiping takes place when we’re home alone, curled up on the couch. Making an active effort to share your experience with friends can help get you through the inevitable ups and downs of online dating.

People who are burned out on dating apps run out of energy and feel like they aren’t making any progress toward meeting someone. A few common signs of burnout are feeling tired and mentally drained from swiping on dating apps, downplaying yourself and your accomplishments, and worrying that dating apps might be making you cynical and distant. Rather than swiping to the point of exhaustion, try to:

Tip #2: Practice mindful swiping. If you allow yourself to mindlessly swipe, you can lose hours without actually accomplishing anything. Instead, set aside a window of time when you can be fully present and engaged in what you’re doing. A good stopping point is just before you start to tire out so that you end each swipe session feeling energized, not depleted.

The Cost of Burning Out

Burnout can take an emotional toll, causing people to disengage from dating apps as they grow increasingly disillusioned with the experience. When this happens, people can lose both time and money, an important consideration given that just over a third of users pay for online dating services. Burnout can also cost people relationships. The Pew Research Center reports that 1 in 10 U.S. adults who are in a committed relationship met through online dating. Love them or not, dating apps are one of the primary ways that couples today are meeting. Instead of giving up on them entirely, you can:

Tip #3: Count your successes. Every date, good or bad, teaches you something about what you want and don’t want in a partner. Dating also takes practice, which means each encounter is an opportunity to sharpen your interpersonal skills. By adopting a growth mindset, you can go from seeing these experiences as a “waste of time” to recognizing that you’re learning as you go. With this small shift in mindset, you may find that you’re accomplishing much more than you realized.


Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.

Maslach, C., & Jackson, S. E. (1981). The measurement of experienced burnout. Journal of Occupational Behavior, 2(2), 99-113.

Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397-422.

McClain, C., & Gelles-Watnick, R. (2023, February 2). From looking for love to swiping the field: Online dating in the U.S. Pew Research Center.

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