How To Fight Back Against Option Paralysis When Online Dating

Sometimes, being spoiled for choice is more of a hindrance than a help. For instance, imagine that you're shopping for the best sunscreen. The moment you step into the skincare aisle, you're flanked by floor-to-ceiling options, all of which have distinct qualities meant for different skin types. If you're new to skincare, you'll feel confused and overwhelmed. As a result, you end up leaving the store empty-handed. That, poor dears, is an example of option paralysis. 

Many of us complain about choice deprivation — cases in which we have fewer options than we ideally want. But when we're faced with too much of a good thing, we end up not knowing what we really want. The same goes for online dating. With the emergence of dating apps and an abundance of options in choosing potential prospects, we easily fall into the habit of "obliga-swiping," in which we delay taking action to kickstart real-life dates. The size of the pool pushes us to analyze and assess all the options on various factors before making a decision. If that's what you're going through right now, you're not alone. It's a wildly common phenomenon in the age of AI. 

The good news is there are ways to reduce option paralysis — without having to actually reduce options. Getting clear on what you want and how you'll get it will help you overcome anxiety from option overload to improve your choice satisfaction. 

Be selective about dating apps

The most common cause of decision paralysis is having too many options. If you're in such a situation, narrow down your playing field to a select few that resonate the most with you, starting with dating apps. Not all so-called dating apps and sites are meant for finding "the one." You should prioritize dating apps that align with what you look for in a partner — those that have actual active users who are looking for the same thing as you. Apps that offer a personalized experience — such as filtering your matches based on gender identity or astrological compatibility — help maximize your opportunities while minimizing dating energy waste. Healthy Framework recommends joining, at the most, two dating sites as a time.

Being on only a few good apps also allows you to make more informed decisions. According to dating coach Lily Womble, using a dating app for just 10 to 20 minutes each day while you are aware and attentive would help you make better choices than if you are distracted by cognitive overload and scrolling aimlessly (via InStyle). To keep your dating game strong, take a screen break as soon as you start to feel the overload setting in, and then return to it later, Womble advises.

Know what you want and be honest

If you think about it, the only people who walk into a drugstore unaffected by choice overload are those with a prescription or a specific recommendation. That's because they know exactly what they're coming for. The same can be said for dating. Knowing what you want is the key to drown out the noises and make accurate decisions. What are the top three traits you look for in a partner? Are you looking for a fling or something more serious?

For instance, one sign of knowing your true intentions is to not settle for meaningless small talks about the weather or the daily updates. These frivolous conversations offer no insight into each other's state of mind, and Womble recommends not persisting with them. Instead, cultivate a deeper conversation that helps you get a read on the person, such as discussing hobbies, dreams, and fears.  

If you want to attract people with similar interests and core values, be honest and leave the rest to the universe. "This is an opportunity to be clear about who you are and who you want to meet," psychologist Keely Kolmes tells Better by Today. You may put your best profile picture up, but personality-wise, being sincere about your preferences and deal breakers upfront will save you lots of time and energy in the long run.