by Laura Lothrop and Jenn S. Tran
While second-year Audrey Huber does admit that Tinder is fun to have, she does not consider herself as someone looking for a relationship on the app.
Huber says dating apps like Tinder appeal to her because of the convenience and multitude of people she can meet so quickly.
While Huber has been on both Tinder and Bumble, she prefers the former over the latter because Bumble forces its female users to make the first move, initiating the conversation; the “match” expires after 24 hours if she does not send that first message.
To her, the appeal in Tinder is the light-hearted fun, and its fast pace on swiping offers.
Huber also shared that she feels that meeting people organically is better than online. She went on to explain organic dating as “meeting someone in person, meeting people naturally, and not through a forced app. If we didn’t have technology, how would we would have met them?”
Huber said the whole premise of online dating was a bit too forced for her liking. “It’s like forcing people to date, when it normally wouldn’t have happened. It’s a little weird to me.”
Tinder and Bumble are popular social mobile apps that are based by location range that allows users to “like” (swipe right) or “dislike” (swipe left) other users in their area. Both apps are used to meet singles or to build connections to those in the area.
Profiles usually consist of up to five photos, basic info — school or workplace, first name, age and general location — a short biography and links to personal social media such as Instagram, Spotify, etc.
Dating apps rose to popularity after the rise of online dating websites began to progress. To name a few, the dating app Grindr launched in 2009, Tinder in 2012, HER in 2013, and Bumble in 2014. Older online dating sites such as eHarmony, Match.com, and OKCupid have jumped onto the bandwagon of mobile apps as well.
Bumble offers a dating profile, bff profile, and a business profile. Bumble’s system requires the woman to make the first move with a message within 24 hours; after the 24 hours are up, the match will expire. On Tinder, HER and Grindr, matches will remain in a bank until either user changes their mind and selects to unmatch.
To students of SPU that come into contact, or are simply aware of this fast paced glance over at available singles, most said that the format and quick pace was actually the most relaxing part of modern dating. Although these online dating sites may be an easy way for singles to meet and date for short periods of time, several in the SPU community do not think such apps are a good way to build lasting relationships.
Instructor of Human Development and Family Studies Alicia Blake said that online dating itself does not determine how meaningful or lasting a relationship will be.
“You’ve gotta, in your own mind know, ‘Am I looking for that instant chemistry? Like I’ve shaken your hand and I literally got a spark from that.’ Or are you open to the idea of ‘I’ve met this person and I like who they are, and I’m willing to spend the time to get to know them better and see if there’s an alignment of values and interests and chemistry as well,’” she explained.
Blake emphasizes on the idea that one must be willing to take the time to meet someone in a traditional setting, because only then will a genuine opportunity to get to know a person beyond a misrepresented online dating site arise.
“Nothing of value comes easily. A valuable relationship is gonna be one of the biggest investments in your time,” she continued.
Blake said that for people expecting to find instant connections online, one must keep in mind that these dating apps are made for a fast-paced environment; they do not guarantee an emotionally healthy, attractive partner.
“[Users] have also known that those algorithms just aren’t that super for the dating sites right now because they’re not really able to match up a percentage of people as accurately as desired,” she said.
Professor of sociology Joshua Tom also believes that online dating coincides with the expansion of the dating pool, which goes on to create raised expectations.
Tom went on to say that from a psychologist’s point of view, “The more options you have, it’s actually harder for you to meet your expectations because your rate is so high.” With an increased amount of potential spouses, users often become overwhelmed with building expectations they have in a partner, to the extent that becomes unattainable.
Dating online, being confronted with thousands of possible partners makes the user think “‘Okay there must be the perfect person in here somewhere.’ So it’s actually harder for people to settle as it used to be because they expect that they’re going to be ‘wowed’ by someone and have a magical experience,” he continued.
Online dating increases much of the contact that users normally would not have, and usually pairs individuals up based off of a handful of pictures and a “catchy” bio. Those who are not using or even refusing to use dating apps are then forced to go outside, sit in a restaurant, go to work or wait to be set up if they want to meet someone.
On the other hand, speaking positively of Tinder, Huber explained, “It’s convenient, and you don’t have to go looking for people; its all just on your phone, which is weird … all these people are so accessible to you at any hour of the day.”
Yet there is the risk of meeting “some creepy people, or people will send you really nasty messages,” she added.
Being behind a computer screen, Tom added, people do not act how they might normally in public, and will say things they would not say in person.
“And this is a common rapport from dating sites; people can get pretty vicious if they’re inclined to,” he concluded.
Huber says overall her opinion on the app is negative.
“You’re judging people just on your first glimpse of them,” she said. “You can just say ‘oh, not attracted? Swipe left.’
“But sometimes the people I meet in person I don’t find attractive at first but then I get to know their personality and I actually find them really attractive. But on Tinder it’s all superficial.”
Blake said meeting people in real life, after communicating online, and then receiving feedback has an effect on the way that people see themselves and can end up wearing us down.
“There is definitely ways to affect your perception of yourself even if its just physical, because again, so many swipes, so many likes, this and that, can only be based on what is presented on paper: which is either factual or not, and physical picture. There is no other basis for it,” Blake said.
Tom also discussed how setting preferences have an effect on interracial dating.
“One of the funny things that happens with online dating in interracial or cultural dating is that people can set their preferences,” he said.
Based on the information students have given him on this subject and what it is like to use sites like Tinder, he feels that people are very open to share their opinion on what kind of a person they are looking for.
From there, people are very open about voicing their disinterest or attraction to people of “X race,” he added.
“If you’re interested in dating interracially, online dating can help you find those kinds of relationships, but interestingly enough, it also sounds like they’re ‘domaining’ people’s racial preferences [which] can be put up front into an environment where people are stating their racial preferences in all sorts of social dimensions. It’s kind of more out there in terms of domains of partner searching,” he said.
Second-year student Dalen O’Dell does not picture himself using dating apps in the future and would rather have face-to-face conversations to figure out his interest in people.
“When it comes to dating, I’ve always found it a lot more meaningful to me to meet face-to-face, to get to know a person. I like things to happen naturally versus looking for somebody [online],” he said.
He acknowledges that they are a method to meet and get to know new people, but they are also a way to find no-strings-attached relationships.
With social media, he feels like there is a lack of emotional connection when communication is simply through a screen. To him, deep connections build on relationships that have time invested into them.
“When you actually have a relationship and know that person and are building that, I think that makes a big difference to me,” O’Dell explained. “I think what [dating apps] can create is a lack of intimacy because it creates expectations for someone.”
He believes that the full story of a person is gained through in-person conversations, learning someone’s quirks and personality. These things are what truly make a person attractive, O’Dell explained.
“I want to give people the benefit to know me as a person with my personality, not just through a screen; and I would definitely want to give the other person that same opportunity as well, so I probably wouldn’t use them,” O’Dell concluded.
First-year and Tinder user Jenna Haines knows that many of her friends are wary of sharing how they met their boyfriend because even the mere mention of Tinder often raises an eyebrow or two.
She said that Tinder is amusing and many people turn to it for pure entertainment, stating that it is hard to meet people otherwise, but people do not buy into the idea of fairytale moments that movies depict in romantic comedies or films about love in general.
“A large part of that is true. A lot of the ways that people used to meet don’t happen anymore in terms of places and interactions,” she explained.
Haines also said that the way her grandmother used to meet men is not the same as it is today, that the places used to meet in do not exist anymore.
“People don’t just hang out in diners like they did in the fifties,” she added
To her, even at a small school such as SPU, it can be hard to find a mutual gathering place for everyone to meet up and say hello to friends and acquaintances. And, in a big city like Seattle, where cultures, interests, ages and different types of peoples gather together, there is not one specific place for college students to gather and see each other daily, or even weekly.
“All the college and high school kids don’t all gather in the same diner like they do in the movies,” she said.
The appeal in taking a chance at online dating is alive, and it is not just because people have the opportunity to pick through endless potential matches while wearing sweatpants and eating cheetos in the safety of our homes, Haines said. There is more to it than that.
“You literally get to see all of your options. I feel like, especially at SPU, I talked to a lot of girls who feel like they don’t talk to guys or don’t know guys, and that kind of thing, where there’s no potential with the people they see, or people in general, [can be discouraging],” she explained. “So when you see the whole world at your fingertips, it’s like realizing that every single one of these people are potential for you.”
Another common reason people go on Tinder, Haines said, is to get over an ex-partner or to remind themselves of the multitude of options they have.
“In my experiences, it does not work,” she said. “When I tried to do that, its like, you see all of these other guys, and it’s like, ‘Yes, there is all of this potential awaiting. The world is your oyster.’ But then you’re like, “Oh, all these people are gross, but my ex wasn’t.”
“But I feel like it’s not just the dating websites in general, I feel like our culture is more of a hookup culture in general.”
Haines went on to say that guys today are noticeably persistent when it comes to asking for a hook up, and that there are guys out there that are also seeking a deep relationship, but those men are “few and far between.”
“I think that’s mostly because most of the people our age are strictly for hookup culture and I think that’s why so many people are on Tinder; because a lot of the time, Tinder is for hookup culture,” Haines said.
Blake said that nasty comments from users on social media and online dating especially have a hugely negative effect on users self-esteem throughout, and after the dating process.
“It can be tough- that’s what the research shows, and I have heard anecdotally; brutal, trolling, a large percentage of women feeling uncomfortable about comments that are made.”
Blake shared she has also heard people talk about dating website users and their intentions, how they are not always as wholesome as they could be.
“One reason why people have a tendency to take on a different persona when they go online; because they know there’s a sort of risk. There’s a lot of vulnerability to participate in this, and what happens if you put yourself out there and you don’t get any attention … It’s safer if you construct a persona for yourself.”
She went on to say that people who “troll” may be acting out from a place of insecurity, under the ultimate desire to protect oneself. She wants to remind people that a college student’s main goal in life should not be to find a partner that will distract them, but getting to know themselves better.
“You’re still discovering yourself, who you are, and what you value,” Blake concluded, highlighting that dating is never going to be clear cut and straightforward, especially while young adults are still learning about themselves.