On March 5, 2019, I updated my Bumble profile: “Giving up Bumble for Lent. (Not a joke. I’ll see you boys on April 21.)” Followed by the praying hands emoji, cross emoji and dove emoji. Then, I deleted the app.
When I was growing up, neither my family nor my faith community did much in observation of Lent. There were a few Lent devotionals up on our church’s blog, or a pastor encouraging us to forsake chocolate or soda for a few weeks, but that’s all I remember. Still, I have always been intrigued by Lent and its practices. I admire the discipline required to give something up, and I can see how a season of deprivation can make the anticipation of Easter more meaningful and exciting. Fasting in some way during Lent is not something that I have ever done for the sake of obligation or tradition, but last year, I decided to try a more modern Lenten fast: 40 days without dating apps.
I’ve been using various dating apps off and on for the past three and a half years. I have tried nearly all of them. I’ve had so many interesting (and uninteresting) dates and, overall, my experience has been quite positive. But occasional breaks are helpful for multiple reasons.
1. The well runs dry
This is a practical and unspiritual reason. I live in Des Moines, Iowa. It’s not a very big city and, as such, the dating pool starts to feel…shallow. If I delete my dating apps for a few weeks, there are bound to be some fresh faces when I hop back on.
2. I waste too much time
Even though apps make online dating more convenient than ever, it still takes time to match, chat and meet up with new people. And I can spend a lot of time just swiping. When I step away from dating apps for a while, I find I spend more time reading and enjoying other activities. And when I start to crave connection, I invest in friendships instead of setting up dates.
3. Check myself before I… you know
This is where I’ll camp out for a minute. I maintain that apps like Bumble can be a great way to date and meet new people and that there is nothing inherently unhealthy about them. However, after a string of bummer Bumble dates, a predictable pattern plays out in my heart and mind. I get cynical. I get bitter and burnt out. All while continuing to swipe left and right. Getting attention from guys can be intoxicating, and dozens, even hundreds, of potential matches are right at my fingertips, 24/7. I’ve found that I start to rely on the attention, compliments and validation of mere strangers online.
So, I occasionally take sabbaticals from swiping. But last spring was the first time I aligned a Bumble break with the Lenten season.
One of the first things I noticed about giving up Bumble for Lent was the discipline it required. For once, my hiatus had a predetermined length of time. I committed to 40 days off all dating apps, so I couldn’t just decide to re-download them whenever I got bored. Accountability buddies helped — I told some friends about my dating app abstinence, and I knew they’d call me out if I bailed.
Lastly, aligning this break with Lent made the season more fruitful and reflective. It made me think about how my dating habits might influence my spiritual and mental health. I now realize my tendency to try to numb loneliness with a bit of Bumble banter. I recognize that I tend to overshare when I’m texting someone new in order to manufacture intimacy. I’ll fish for compliments when my self-esteem is low. I start to feel like capturing guys’ interest makes me more interesting and more valuable. Deleting dating apps for a while forces me out of mindless swiping and into a more mindful state of stepping back and thinking about what I’m really doing.
So when the start of Lent came around this year, I not only knew it would be best to take a break again, but also I was sort of looking forward to it. I’m feeling peaceful so far, and I’m experiencing extra time for reflection in the midst of the revealing discomfort of denying myself something that I enjoy. I enjoy the social aspect of these apps, the excitement of meeting new people and the hope of finding something that lasts. But I also appreciate what a 40-day fast can do for me, and I feel like I’m starting to understand Lent in a whole new way.