Not Even Dating Is Safe From Burnout—and Work Apps Are Fueling the Fire

Photo: Getty Images/Obradovic

Ping! Buzz! Pinnng! A slew of new-message notifications lights up your phone. With a sigh, you sit down and log in, scrolling through your inbox to answer the most pressing inquiries first. For several minutes—or several hours, even—you methodically craft pitch-perfect responses and thoughtful follow-ups. You schedule meetings, as necessary. Finally, exhausted, you take a break, pouring yourself a glass of wine and turning on Grey’s Anatomy. Because this isn’t even work; this is your dating life.

To be fair, dating has always carried the whiff of a part-time job. Really, what more is a first date, than a glorified job interview? You put on a nice outfit and talk yourself up for an hour or two, all in the hopes that it will eventually lead to something full-time, er, long-term. But the introduction and proliferation of dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, and even TwinDog (yes, it’s a thing!) over the years has continued to blur the line between what we do at the office and what we do after-hours. And according to Robby Slaughter, a workflow and productivity expert and principal at AccelaWork, that’s partially by design.

“The messaging apps and social media apps you use in the workplace are designed for the same purpose as the dating apps, which is to keep people engaged—to keep you coming back and using it,” he says. The need for workplace apps to be sticky (read: addictive) has led designers and programmers to bling out the most humdrum of productivity programs with playful bells and whistles so they seem less like a chore and more like a game.

“The messaging apps and social media apps you use in the workplace are designed for the same purpose as the dating apps, which is to keep people engaged—to keep you coming back and using it." —Robby Slaughter, productivity expert

“It needs to be fun to use, and you have to have cute messages and little games and ‘Congratulations, you completed all your items!’ pop-ups and mascots and logos, otherwise you won’t be coming back to your tool,” says Slaughter.

Funny mascots and endless pop-ups? Sound a bit like the last dating app you logged into for endless swiping and countless hours absorbed? Well, that constant clicking from morning to night, for purposes of both work and pleasure, has led many daters to feel burnt out, says therapist Jillian Knight, LMFT and owner of Millennial Couples Counseling. “The effort it takes to reach out to people, to respond to messages, to think about what you want to say—it does sound like it takes a good amount of their time and energy outside of work,” says Knight, adding that the effect is a feeling that the apps—meant to streamline communication and connect people, start to feel inorganic or fake.

So what’s an overworked, weary dater to do? First off, says Knight, set boundaries. “There is this kind of always-working mentality that a lot of millennials have, and it’s really hard to shut it off,” she says. “It leaks into when you go home and you’re on Instagram and you’re on Facebook and you’re on dating apps. Having clear boundaries around your work time, your time for yourself, and the time that you are spending with others or pursuing time with others is really important."

Sometimes that may mean taking a break from the app game, unplugging, and just leaning into some good, old-fashioned self care. Because if you're fatigued by the process of dating via apps, in effect, you may not be as likely to find what you're looking for. If you find yourself in more of a prolonged funk, Knight suggests doing what you would do with any regular job: take a vacation, or in this case, a dating app sabbatical. “I would recommend a short break,” says Knight. “Spend some time focusing on yourself and recovering from that burnout by not being as exposed to it—and then reevaluating what you’re looking for or hoping to get out of the dating apps before going back to it.”

Furthermore, there's no reason to discount therapy as a method for working through burnout issues to help and restore balance. “Having an unbiased outside person help figure out what your priorities are, what your values are, how you could be arranging your life differently to either recover from that burnout or keep it from worsening can be very helpful,” says Knight.

After all, there’s no reason spreadsheets and swiping can’t peacefully coexist in your life.

Ever wonder whether big tech's digital well-being initiatives are really helping you? We investigated. Plus, here's how productivity expert Tim Ferriss prioritizes self care. (And if he can, you can, too.)

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