Why people love talking about bad dates
We’ve all been on dates from hell. Maybe your date made you uncomfortable by talking about sex first thing. Or had super bad breath. Or showed up three hours late. But would you share your worst date stories with millions of people on social media?
Plenty of TikTok users spill all their dating gossip – one of the hashtags associated with the trend (#datinghorrorstory) has 73.9 million views on the platform – and do so casually while in the middle of routine tasks like applying makeup.
There’s nothing wrong with getting a story off your bad-date-burdened chest, but beware of dwelling on the negative so much.
That’s easier said than done of course. In today’s social media age, relatability is currency. “When you share something difficult or horrifying and others respond, validating your experience and reactions through likes, ‘OMG’ comments, reposts or reactions and similar stories, it contributes to a greater sense of belonging,” says Miranda Nadeau, licensed psychologist.
TikTok users share dating horror stories
‘It can feel freeing’
Sure, TikTok is rife with mental health professionals proselytizing the benefits of mindfulness and intention when dating. But people also just want to vent.
“It can feel freeing to share your story with others, lightening the weight of the dating mishaps that could otherwise continue to bother you,” Nadeau says. “Just getting something out of your mind into media, whether through social media or journaling, helps you to not be so burdened by it.”
Discussing a crummy experience with some shades of humor could also just be part of someone’s healing process, and a way to feel less alone. “Maybe they’re trying to create levity about the situation so that they can keep dating,” says Moe Ari Brown, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
The rise of therapy
People are clearly drawn to a bad date story, whether that’s because of second-hand embarrassment or because they can relate to one themselves. In their real lives, people may be less inclined to share bad date stories and mostly keep their friends posted on the good ones. Social media – and the rising number of adults seeking mental health treatment – has helped normalize all kinds of experiences.
“A lot more people are in therapy now than ever before, and are really working through some stuff that maybe gives them more of the tools to talk about some of the things that they’re going through, including the more challenging stuff,” says psychotherapist Madison McCullough.
Be careful, though, to not gather all your dating advice from messy TikToks. “It is important to stay aware of how the kind of content you’re consuming could impact your perspective and impression in a generalizing way that’s maybe lacking some nuance,” McCullough adds.
If you find yourself stuck in a dating horror story black hole …
- Search for healthy relationship tips. It’s easy to laugh at or cringe at everyone’s red flag stories, but focusing on green flags could put daters in a better mindset before their next night out. Otherwise they’ll get stuck in a “dating is difficult” headspace. “That’ll become their narrative, when in actuality dating really varies from person to person, it has a lot to do with your level of intentionality and your ability to really communicate what you need,” Brown says.
- If your habits sound like the villain’s behaviors in a story, time for introspection. McCullough says: “If somebody has that capacity for self-reflection, it could be super valuable for them to have the experience of seeing their own behavior that maybe was hurtful or had a negative impact getting talked about in this public way.”
- If you are posting about dating experiences, be accountable. Tell your story, sure, but think about perspective. “I’d want them to share a more holistic picture of what they’ve learned, how they’re incorporating this information in order to grow,” Brown adds.
- Watch with caution – and don’t only watch negative dating TikToks. Remember you’re hearing one side of the story – and that you don’t have to suffer the same bad date fate. “Even though it didn’t work out for someone else, we get the opportunity to learn from what they did well, what they didn’t do well and we get to incorporate those things in our lives, but their story doesn’t have to be our story,” Brown says.
The next time you come across one of these videos, consider the power in someone putting on makeup and getting on with their lives in the face of embarrassment or trauma.
“Like, yeah, this is horrifying, but it happens,” McCullough says. “And I’m still here, and I survived.”
More dating tips you need
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Good question:Why do all your relationships keep falling apart?
Heard of this? Let’s talk about another toxic dating trend: ‘Paperclipping.’