Erin, a 29-year-old editor, found herself in a situation that we, as online daters, are entirely too familiar with. She was seeing a guy who she had started to really like when she checked his app profile and noticed he had changed a picture. Cue a wave of anxiety and uncertainty about whether she’d misinterpreted where they stood.
“I was initially angry and hurt,” she says. “It made it even worse that he looked really great in the new picture. Who was he trying to attract? Was I not good enough? It made me question if our connection was really as great as I thought it was.”
They had been seeing each other for two months at that point and had yet to define anything, so technically the guy Erin was seeing wasn’t doing anything wrong. Plus, how do you express your hurt when it’s over something you weren’t supposed to see in the first place?
If you’re wondering if you should check up on their profile to gauge their interest level, the answer is simply no.
“I was worried that [saying something] would make me seem jealous, possessive, and clingy. Also, if I noticed the change, didn’t that imply that I was actively on the app, too?” Erin knew she wasn’t exactly in a place to claim the moral high ground.
The answer to whether you can ask someone you’re seeing in an unofficial, non-exclusive capacity to stop being active on a dating app is two-fold. First, if you’re wondering if you should check up on their profile to gauge their interest level, the answer is simply no.
“You can end up playing tricks on yourself,” says online dating and relationship expert Joshua Pompey. “If you had two or three great dates and then see the other person is logged on, your mind starts to wander, and [that] leads to some dangerous thinking.”
Ben, a 28-year-old producer, found himself doing just that when he noticed the person he was seeing updated their Tinder profile often. “I had that all too common, knee-jerk reaction where I thought that just because a few dates went well that they were just seeing me only.”
But there are plenty of reasons why someone might still be active on a dating app, including that if someone has been online dating for a long time, they may log on every so often out of habit. Still, Pompey concedes that while someone updating parts of their profile (like changing a picture) may be cause for some concern, ultimately it means nothing until you have an honest conversation with that person about where you two stand.
“I’m happy that I didn’t bring it up,” Erin says. “I put myself in his shoes: It definitely would be a red flag if two months into dating a guy, he was upset that I was still checking my app.”
This leads us to the second consideration around this issue: deciding whether to delete Tinder entirely is more than just a discussion — it’s a milestone in relationships. For the non-committals out there who want all the benefits of a relationship with absolutely zero responsibility, asking the person they are seeing to get off the apps without labeling their relationship may feel ideal. But Pompey says that’s not fair, and there’s really no middle ground: you either want to exclusively see this person, in which case you likely agree to stop using Tinder for dating purposes, or you keep your options open and apps active.
Ben never brought up the updating of the profile or wanting to be exclusive. Instead, some passive-aggressive behavior ensued and led to the end of the romance. “I grew resentful about their app activity and over time I felt like they weren’t really attracted to me and [were just] playing games.”
His biggest takeaway from his situationship? Don’t monitor people’s app activity — it will only lead to overthinking and paranoia. “If I were to handle that [situation] now, I’d just be upfront with the fact that I want to see them exclusively. [I’d] be communicative about what I want, see if it aligns with what that person wants, and take it from there.”
Erin agrees. While things ended with the guy she was seeing a few weeks after she discovered his photo update, she’s glad that she didn’t prematurely start the DTR talk. “We did have great chemistry, [but] two months [for me] was a short period of time. [A friend who helped put things into perspective] made me realize things weren’t that serious [yet].”
We all hate clichés, but if there is one you absolutely have to listen to, it’s that honesty is the best policy. When and if you want to make things more serious, you have the right to ask your partner if getting off the app and being exclusive is something they want. It’s a little (sometimes a lot) scary but totally worth your time — and sanity — to put yourself out there.