'Whelming' Is a Really Annoying Thing People Keep Doing on Dating Apps

It's kind of like negging, and just as off-putting.

  • "Whelming" is an annoying new dating app trend.
  • It's when a match continuously talks about being overwhelmed by the number of other matches they have.
  • The term "whelming" was coined by Patia Braithwaite in an op-ed for SELF.

    Perhaps you've had an interaction of this sort on a dating app before. You match with somebody, and so you send them a message to say hi. That is how these things are done, after all. Then maybe you don't hear back from them, so you think, Oh well, never mind. Then they do respond, and they're apologetic about their delay in getting back to you, and they say they are struggling to cope with the inundation of matches and messages their profile is getting.

    OK, so... it's a little humblebraggy, but whatever. You forge on with the conversation. But again and again, they're slow to reply and admit to being preoccupied with all the other people they're having (undoubtedly equally one-sided) conversations with. It can be a disheartening experience, as it's hard not to feel like you're being kept on the bench as a backup plan, but equally, it makes you think: is this person actually connecting with anybody if they're stretched as thinly as they profess?

    This irritating behavior is known as "whelming."

    Patia Braithwaite coined the term "whelming" in a SELF op-ed to describe this increasingly commonplace, incredibly rude behavior."You wouldn't approach someone in a bar and say, 'Wow, 37 other people in this bar have expressed interest in me. I'm so overwhelmed,'" she wrote. "So why would it ever be okay to do something so incredibly awkward in the liminal space that is online dating?"

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    You don't even have to be actively chatting with somebody for whelming to rear its ugly head; I've read countless profiles where an individual apologizes in advance if they're slow to reply to messages, on account of how many they receive. Whenever I see this, I take it as an indicator of the quality of interaction I'm probably going to have with this person.

    I'm not saying whelming is irredeemable, or the sign of a bad person, but it is rude. Maybe these people are just being honest, and genuinely think it's a normal thing to say, with no awareness of how they are coming across. Which is a red flag of its own when you think about how that speaks to their general consideration for other people's feelings.

    But could something more insidious be at play? What if they're doing it intentionally?

    Whelming has a lot in common with negging, the practice of undermining someone's confidence by paying them backhanded compliments, which was popularized by so-called "pick up artists."

    In the case of whelmers, instead of belittling or denigrating something about the other person, they are bigging up themselves, albeit in a casual, offhand manner: "I wish I had more time and attention to dedicate to you, but I'm just so in demand with all these other people!"

    The end results of whelming and negging are remarkably similar: they're aiming to place themselves on higher ground, and create some kind of skewed power dynamic where the other person feels fortunate to be given a chance with such a popular, desirable suitor.

    Whether or not someone is whelming on purpose, it's worth noting that nobody on a dating app wants to hear how many other people you're matching, chatting or flirting with. We're all on these platforms for a reason, and we all have matches and messages from different people. You don't score points by referencing yours, but you definitely lose points if you use them as some kind of excuse not to really make an effort with the person you're talking to.

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