The world of meeting online: Student use of dating apps and their implications

Shannon Hoyt-

 

How did your parents meet? Did they meet in person? Well, today, dating apps like Tinder, OkCupid, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, eHarmony and more, have made meeting a significant other online possible. But, just how popular are these applications? And, why do people use them?

 

A survey, mainly conducted on social media and University of Wisconsin-Stout’s student daily email, Campus Life Today, collected qualitative data from 60 UW-Stout students, asking whether or not they use a dating app and why (this survey is not representative of the UW-Stout student population). Twenty-seven of the 60 students surveyed that they do not use a dating app. The remaining 33 students said that they do.

 

Dr. Markie Twist, an award-winning sexuality educator, sexologist, relationship therapist and family and sex therapy professor for UW-Stout and the University of Las Vegas, said, “Online meeting comes with a lot of text-based talking, which according to research, builds intimacy more rapidly than face-to-face meeting. People can also present in a more favorable way online, because there is greater anonymity.”

 

Benjamin Ritter, a junior studying human development and family studies, uses various apps, but doesn’t use them for what he refers to as “hook-ups.” Instead, he is looking for long-term relationships and friendships. “I want to find something more,” he said.

 

Ritter said dating apps are a convenient way to introduce yourself when time isn’t in your favor. Twist agreed, saying, “Dating apps can be helpful for people who have difficulty or lack of access to a dating pool.”

 

Ritter found what is now a three-year friendship from these apps, but has yet to find that special someone, others have already made a match.

 

Kate Travis, a senior studying professional communication and emerging media, and digital marketing technology, found success with Coffee Meets Bagel, celebrating over two years with her current boyfriend. She said: “It forces you to slow down and take your time with getting to know people instead of treating dating like a game in the way that Tinder does.”

 

“You only get one match every 24 hours,” Travis said. “And they give you meaningful prompts for filling out your profile instead of giving you a freeform bio.”

 

Twist said that more people on average still meet in person, mainly through work and friends. Those who recorded not using dating apps preferred to meet in person, especially in a public setting (bar, coffee, etc.). Sophomore Alexandra Rieck said, “Bad stories from friends makes me feel like apps aren’t trustworthy.”

 

Other students said that online dating apps are artificial, unnatural and, in some cases, scary. With anonymity, dating profiles can give false information.

 

But whether you met your love in person or online, the initial channel of connection may not be as significant as one would expect.  “It’s what you do with a person once you meet and relate that makes a bigger difference over time. That matters more so than how you met. Either way of meeting can be good or bad. It just depends on who the people are and the relationship,” said Twist.