The Relationship Between Dating Apps and Body Image

Dating apps have transformed the way people meet and connect, but with their rise comes a host of challenges, particularly concerning body image and self-esteem. Spending significant time assessing one’s appearance and comparing it to others on these platforms can lead to heightened body dissatisfaction and disordered eating behaviors.

The History Of Dating Apps

Dating apps are a relatively new way of meeting people in our society. 1995 was the year of the world’s first-ever online dating website, The early 2000s were the years of the first social media platforms, Facebook and MySpace, with the decade ending with the launch of Twitter and Instagram. As social media became rampantly popular, possibilities began to open up, and by 2012, Tinder was launched. Since then, hundreds of other apps like Grindr, Hinge, and Bumble have taken over online dating.

With every new generation comes a new way of doing things, and by now, online dating is not only normalized but incredibly popular. While it is a great option for meeting and getting to know people, dating apps can bring up a lot of feelings regarding self-image and self-esteem. From choosing pictures to put on your profile, looking through other people’s profiles, and finding matches, much of the online dating experience revolves around judging ourselves and others based on appearance.

What Does This Do To Our View Of Our Body?

Spending a considerable amount of time assessing pictures of our own body as well as others’ bodies can lead to some adverse thoughts about body image. One study found that dating app users had significantly higher body image dissatisfaction scores compared to non-users. Additionally, dating app users demonstrated an elevated likelihood of engaging in eating disorder and disordered eating behaviors, like the use of diet pills, laxatives, and muscle-building supplementation.

Furthermore, dating apps are similar to other media apps in that they most often present and promote muscular, lean body types as the socially acceptable and desired physique. Many also allow users to edit images using digital altering features such as filters and enhancers. These features create an exclusive culture within the apps and further stigmatize diverse body types. This can only lead to more self-judgment and create more opportunities for user criticism. All this to say, with an appearance-centered environment, dating apps can be a toxic place for all people, and even more so for those in recovery from eating disorders or those who struggle with body image.

Tips For Navigating Dating Apps in a Healthy Way

So, how do we navigate the world of online dating without creating more body dissatisfaction and judgment?

Remember the Truth About Dating Apps

First and foremost, it is important to focus on separating self-worth and self-love from relationships and other people’s perceptions. We are not defined by the number of likes, matches, or swipes we get on dating apps. Many dating apps aim not to find matches but to keep us using them longer. They use techniques to manipulate our behaviors, which serves no real purpose in finding our love. So, the lack of matches, likes, follows, or good date outcomes doesn’t come from us lacking attractiveness or likeability but rather us falling into the media’s trap to make them more money.

Knowing what we know now about social media and its ways of tricking us, we can conclude that dating apps are doing the same thing. A profile on a dating app is more like a curated highlight reel than an actual depiction of someone’s life or character. Therefore, how could we expect to find a real connection with others? We can’t! Reminding ourselves of these aspects of the media and dating online is incredibly important, as being present online can greatly affect our self-esteem.

Set Boundaries

Being able to online “date” anywhere, at any time, with anyone around the world sets us up for many opportunities. However, some of those opportunities might not be positive ones. Higher chances of “rejection,” anonymity behind profiles, and lack of guidelines and rules on many apps set many up for failure. It is often unsafe and can take a real toll on an individual if taken too far. Creating and sticking with realistic boundaries can help keep your head where your feet are and not overthink the interactions you are having online.

Keep Having Real-Life Interactions

Online dating can be an attractive option for anyone avoiding awkward interaction. It can also be great to get to know someone online before meeting up in person, and sometimes, can even protect you from an unsafe or uncomfortable interaction. However, keeping real-life interactions as part of your dating life is important. We are all different behind the curtains of our profiles, and real connections can’t truly form in this setting. Far too often, we form judgments about others based on their profile, and we are robbed of the opportunity to meet real-life people. So, if you choose to partake in online dating forums, remember the real deal happens face-to-face.

Remember, You Are Not Defined by the Body You experience Life In

It is important to keep in mind that our bodies are simply vessels we use to live life in. This is the reason dating apps will never out-compete real-life interaction. Comparing our bodies to other bodies only creates opportunities for rumination and negative self-talk. You are far more than you might see in the mirror; any candidate for your love and partnership will recognize that.

While dating apps offer a convenient way to meet potential partners, they can also bring about challenges concerning body image and self-esteem. The prevalence of appearance-focused culture within these apps can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and trigger harmful behaviors, especially for individuals in eating disorder recovery or those struggling with body image issues.

Navigating dating apps involves setting boundaries, prioritizing real-life interactions, and remembering that self-worth is not determined by online validation or physical appearance. By fostering a mindset focused on genuine connections and self-acceptance, people can approach online dating with resilience and confidence, prioritizing their mental health and recovery.

At BALANCE eating disorder treatment center™, our compassionate, highly skilled team of clinicians is trained in diagnosing and treating the spectrum of eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, compulsive overeating, and other disordered eating behaviors and body image issues.

Our admissions team would happily answer any questions about our programs and services or learn about what eating disorder recovery might look like for you. Book a free discovery call with our admissions team below, or read more about our philosophy here.


Hartmans, Avery. “These Are the Sneaky Ways Apps like Instagram, Facebook, Tinder Lure You in and Get You ‘Addicted.’” Business Insider, Business Insider, Accessed 8 Feb. 2024.

Love at First Swipe: The Evolution of Online Dating | Stylight, Accessed 8 Feb. 2024.

Tran, Alvin, et al. “Association between Dating App Use and Unhealthy Weight Control Behaviors and Muscle Enhancing Behaviors in Sexual Minority Men: A Cross-Sectional Study – BMC Public Health.” BioMed Central, BioMed Central, 9 May 2023,,building%20supplements%2C%20and%20protein%20powders.

This post was written by BALANCE Dietetic Intern, Susanna Montgomery (she/her).

Susanna holds a BS in Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Science from the University of Vermont and is currently pursuing a Masters at Hunter College. She is completing a dietetic internship rotation at BALANCE with aspirations of becoming a Registered Dietitian. Her passions and professional dietetic goals are aligned with a focus on HAES, body neutrality, and eating disorder treatment. Beyond her academic and professional pursuits, she enjoys watching movies with friends, practicing yoga, and listening to podcasts during walks around the city.

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