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Hookup Culture & Tinder: A Misconception

Six-feet two-inches, right swipe. Hair too long, left swipe. Listens to Taylor Swift, right swipe. 

Tinder, an online dating app, is this generation’s version of boy meets girl.     

“It’s a cultural movement. Welcome to #swipelife,” its website says.     

A collection of recent research on college sexual activity has revealed that hookup culture is not as prominent as it may seem on campus, yet students are still downloading Tinder.

At the University of Florida, where going to a stranger’s dorm under the cover of darkness is a regular occurrence, there’s a perfect environment for apps like Tinder to flourish.

According to the University of Florida Institutional Planning and Research department, there are 51,887 students attending UF on campus as of 2018, all of whom can either be current Tinder users or potential ones. 

These students live amongst a stereotype of hookup culture, defined by the American Psychological Association as “brief uncommitted sexual encounters.”

On college campuses, hookup culture has made Tinder a popular preference because it creates easy opportunities for any kind of relationship. 

Users can swipe left (no) or swipe right (yes) based on a few photos and a short biography. If two users swipe right on each other, they get a match.

The app offers nearly limitless potential matches, and with settings available for age, location and sexual orientation, it makes it easier to find a date, or, most famously, a hookup.

“We knew that if college students—the most social people—could find value in Tinder, then everyone would,” commented representative Ally Bruschi on Tinder U, a feature exclusively designed for university students to meet.

Some students did find value.     

“If you’re considering Tinder, it’s an easier, somewhat guaranteed response compared to in-person,” said UF student Jandrice Nacier, 21-year-old agricultural construction operations major.

Nacier had used the app before to meet people but deleted it when he reconsidered making judgements solely based off people’s photos and a short biography. 

With time, casual relationships have gained more acceptance, particularly on college campuses.     

“Contemporary student culture normalizes and encourages sex outside of romantic relationships,” write researchers Amanda Holman and Allan Sillars, authors of “Talk About ‘Hooking Up’: The Influence of College Student Social Networks on Nonrelationship Sex.”     

Tinder has gained popularity in part due to this acceptance because a modern app can provide contemporary relationships.

Research in 2017 proved that people do in fact believe that Tinder was created for casual sexual activity. “Swiping me off my feet: Explicating relationship initiation on Tinder,” by Leah E. LeFebvre, indicated that 51% of participants said Tinder was exclusively designed for hookups, although only 5% said their desire for hooking up was their main motivation for joining Tinder.

These statistics point to assumptions centered around Tinder and explain why it holds the reputation of being a hookup app.

Just like with Tinder, assumptions concerning hookup culture are unrepresentative of students’ attitudes or habits. 

“Students guessed that their peers were doing it 50 times a year, 25 times what the numbers actually show,” explains Lisa Wade, author of “American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus.”

Not only are the Chads and Brads of the world having less sex than assumed, but some aren’t engaging in hookup culture at all.

Cosmopolitan article “College Students Are Not Having As Much Sex As Everyone Thinks They Are,” by Prachi Gupta states that 41% of women and 49% of men, from freshman to seniors, said they were not sexually active.  

Students think that their peers are engaging in more sexual activity than statistics show. They think Tinder’s primary purpose is for hooking up. Is hookup culture on Tinder a delusion? 

“Cultures don’t reflect what is, but a specific group’s vision of what should be,” Wade said in a Guardian article.

This culture’s view is that young college students should be sexually active. This inaccurate “should be” view could be what brings students to Tinder in the first place, where they could potentially live up to expectations regarding sexual activity. 

With 30 billion swipes, this app has influenced the social structure of our society. After all, it’s easier to swipe right 50 times than to talk with 50 people at a crowded bar.

Tinder’s “cultural movement” has transformed how college students engage with each other.

“I’m not going to approach people in the street,” said UF student Roberto Pantoja, 21-year-old computer science major. “I assume they’re busy you know? People are easier to approach on Tinder.” 

For some students, online dating apps are preferable to traditional dating. Pantoja met his girlfriend on his first Tinder date. For a spectrum of people, from those with social anxiety to those with non-traditional identities, the algorithm works for some.

Whether Gators choose to make matches on campus or by swiping on Tinder, they’re creating a new definition of dating. Sorry, I mean “talking.”


Public Relations Gator trying to make orange and blue look good. Fan of mom jeans, feminists, and the oxford comma.
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