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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

The Lure Of Tinder: My Experience With Online Dating

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

Hello, my lovers and lovelies. As all the corporations, shops, and businesses capitalize on the beloved (or be-hated) Valentine’s Day, and our world becomes enveloped in bubblegum pink, sickeningly sweet candied hearts, and the near overwhelming scent of roses and carnations, I can’t help but feel a sense of solidarity for my single gals out there. Although there are many other ways one can celebrate love in one’s life, it can be difficult to keep the feeling that something (or someone) is missing at bay.

Before you start the desperate search to try and fill this void for yourself, however, I want to shed a little light on the online dating world. As someone who decided to dive head-first into it last semester without having any experience whatsoever beforehand, I hope to share some of my insight and hopefully prevent others from making the same mistakes I did.

So, let’s begin exploring my personal journey and lessons learned through each of the online dating apps I tried.

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Growing up, I was very much the shy, silent kid in the back of the class. I barely talked to anyone, let alone boys I found attractive. I got nervous, clammy, and even shyer than normal. This made dating basically impossible, and I was okay with that. It was safer in my little bubble of family and friends. I stayed inside my comfort zone and felt no reason to leave it. Not once did I ever think I would become an online dating girl. I believed that if anything was going to happen, it would happen naturally in person and that I’d always be willing to wait. Little did 16-year-old me know that in four years this picture-perfect fairytale version of love would fade and she’d be on Tinder balancing the line of becoming someone she never wanted to be.

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Hinge: Don’t Settle

The biggest goal I set for myself going into the fall semester of my Junior year was to get outside of my comfort zone. I was tired of being too afraid to talk to new people and wanted a chance to experience the kind of relationships I saw in movies and shows. So, I sucked up my nerves, put on a brave face, and downloaded Hinge. It was great at first. I was chatting with guys, getting compliments I never thought I’d hear, and setting up dates. The feeling was similar to giving cotton candy to a baby, almost so overwhelmingly sweet that it drowned out some of the other thoughts I was supposed to keep in mind while dating.

This brings us to our first rule when online dating: don’t settle! There was one guy who stuck out to me during this Hinge period. He gave me loads of attention, texting several times a day and letting me into his life almost immediately. I figured this meant he really liked me and that we made a good match. What I realized when hanging out with him in person, however, is that there is a difference between getting along well with someone platonically and romantically. For some reason, the spark was just missing for me in person. I felt slightly guilty though for ending something that seemingly worked so well on the surface. I had to remind myself, however, that it wasn’t fair to stay in a relationship that personally didn’t feel right. As sweet as he was, and as easy as it would have been to just let the relationship continue, I couldn’t let myself settle.

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Bumble: Don’t Ignore the red flags

Continuing my search for the “perfect” guy, I decided to download Bumble to see what I could find there. I liked the idea of being able to reach out first and found it easier to make more meaningful conversations with guys I matched with if I was the one starting it out. Pretty soon, I found myself in a nice banter with one match. I liked his ability to go along with my bits and knew I had a strong attraction to him as soon as we met in person. I finally thought I had nailed it, and was so excited to be done with the apps. Blindly, I went head-over-heels, brought him back to my dorm, and let him be my first kiss.

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What’s interesting about attraction, however, is that it often takes the form of rose-tinted glasses that make it difficult to see any characteristics you may not want to in someone. Long story short, the guy was never really interested in a relationship with me. He was only looking for a more casual friends-with-benefits situation. Upon reflection, it was kind of obvious what he wanted. There were several innuendos he made that I decided to laugh off or misread just to keep the innocence of the interactions. This was partly due to my ignorance and inexperience with that kind of relationship. I didn’t think it was wrong that he wanted it, but I knew that it wasn’t something that would work for me. Having to say no to him, however, was a hard pill to swallow, to say the least.

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Tinder: Be SAFE!

Now it’s time to get a little up close and personal. After Bumble, I was feeling pretty down on myself. I didn’t think I’d be so naive and get hurt so easily. I figured my skin just wasn’t as thick as I thought it was, and decided that the best solution to fix that was to expose myself to what I was scared of most: hookups. (*Spoiler* this was not the right answer for me.) There’s a difference between getting yourself out of your comfort zone and being dangerously reckless with your safety and well-being.

I downloaded Tinder at the beginning of Spring semester and decided it best to not tell any of my friends about it. I knew I’d feel embarrassed and judged, and that they would try and stop me. The problem wasn’t Tinder itself, as it is a good app for those looking for more casual relationships. The problem was my plan/mindset for using it. I was tired of feeling vulnerable and like guys had the upper hand due to my inexperience. So, I tried to take control of what I was afraid guys would use to their advantage. I chatted with older guys, guys out of my league, and guys who clearly weren’t my type. I only had one goal in mind: pretending to be someone I wasn’t.

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It was fun at first. Everything was so new and enticing. I thought if I pretended long enough, then my fear would disappear, and I’d finally be able to get the experience I wanted. One guy led the pack during this period. He had many red flags, too many for me to want to date him, but the perfect amount for a hookup. I didn’t want to get attached after all. Plus, he was pushy enough that it wouldn’t be too easy for me to back out. I wasn’t gonna let my nerves win this time. In moments where I got hesitant and tried stopping it all, he’d end up finding me again and talking me back into seeing him. I felt wanted. Comforted. I decided it was time to finally see him for the first time… alone…and at night.

If anyone else has alarms going off in their head right now, don’t worry. Thankfully, I could not keep a secret for the life of me and ended up blabbing to my close friends before anything could happen. They were the ones to wake me up to the risks and dangers of what I was doing. At first, I was only scared of being judged, but now I realize the true fear was putting myself in a situation where I could get seriously hurt. No matter how much I felt like I could trust the guy, the state I was putting myself in just wasn’t safe. Nothing he and I said to try and justify that choice could deny that. I was in a vulnerable place and just wasn’t in the position to be on Tinder in the first place. So, if anyone out there is considering downloading any of these apps, just always remember to keep your safety and well-being at the forefront of your mind. Keep checking up on yourself, and be honest with your true feelings. If you have any hesitations or gut instincts, listen to them!

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Looking back: Stay true to yourself

If in your heart you are a hopeless romantic, then be a hopeless romantic. If you’re looking to explore, then explore! What matters is being true and honest with your own motivations, hopes, and intentions. If you aren’t, then you are likely to get yourself or others hurt. As much as you may think you want to be someone you’re not, no one can hide the truth forever. Plus, being yourself is much more fun! People may tease you for it, but at the end of the day, you’ll be happier with the decisions you make and with those whom you spend your time with. It’s not always easy, but it will make you stronger in the end.

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So, get out there and prove just how strong you are. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but if you end up getting hurt, remember to take the time to heal and always return back to your intentions and dreams. Everyone makes mistakes, but make sure you use them to learn, grow, and hopefully help others do the same. The last thing anyone needs is to feel alone in what they face. At the end of the day, we all deserve compassion, empathy, and love. You may have to kiss a couple of frogs to get there, but you will get there! Sending all of my light to each and every one of you, happy Valentine’s Day!

Makenna is the Treasurer of Her Campus UConn. She is currently a Junior double majoring in English and Psychology who loves using her writing to help others decompress from the chaos that is life and learn more about culture, academics, and wellness along the way. Makenna is also a Supervisor for the UC cafes around campus, so if you ever see her working behind the barista machine and need a quick pick-me-up make sure to stop by! She additionally commutes to her home in Milford, CT to work her second job as a teacher at a local children's fitness center. In her spare time, Makenna enjoys crocheting, practicing yoga, and playing her favorite cozy video games. She is a Hozier fanatic, lover of cats, and is always down for a Studio Ghibli movie night. <3