On one fall morning this semester, I was walking past Weimer Hall’s bus stop hustling to get an ideal study spot in Marston Library when I noticed a striking yellow sticker on the bus stop’s pole. It was a cute, little hexagonal sticker trying to get students to download Bumble, a dating app. I suppose students do meet partners everywhere: on campus, at bars, in class and even at bus stops. Why would some sticker convince me to try dating apps when my crippling loneliness couldn’t even do that? And why is there a push for young people to go on dating apps as if being single is the absolute worst or something to be embarrassed about? Approximately 50% of Tinder’s users are 18-to 24-year-olds considered to be in the college-age bracket, so when I tell people I’m single they assume I use dating apps. But I don’t.
After I broke up with my boyfriend (don’t worry, I’m doing good), I considered it heavily. At the time of my break up, I was in Gainesville. But no one else really was in town, and it wasn’t safe yet to go out to bars or restaurants to meet people, so dating apps seemed like the easiest way to meet prospective partners. But honestly, it scared me some. I don’t take rejection well, so the idea of someone I messaged not wanting to meet me, not responding at all or ghosting me out of nowhere bothered me. Meeting people in person makes that less likely to happen. This is just one small part of why I don’t use online dating platforms, and why I probably never will. Just a note: I refer to men as the target for my dating journey because that’s my partner of choice, and I’m discussing my personal experience with dating. But that is not to say that online dating is exclusive to heterosexual relationships. It is simply the orientation for which I base my dating experience on.
- I prefer to meet people in person
People can be anyone they want online, and their profiles can make them seem like a totally different person. But in person, it’s less likely that people can lie. As cynical as that sounds, it’s true. I also like the mystery involved with meeting people in person — At any moment, I could run into a guy that I really like. And you might be thinking, “Well, gosh Delaney, you could meet people both ways.” Yeah, I know, but I prefer to do it in person. Call me a romantic, but I want that spark. I want that “and then he saw her” moment. Granted that’s unlikely to happen at Fat Daddy’s on a Friday night, but it’s exciting. I like that possibility. Also, I don’t think I want to date the type of person who uses dating apps. I’m not saying they’re bad people, but I would want to meet someone who values the same chemistry and serendipity that I do.
- It takes so much time
Let’s say I match with someone on Bumble. I have to message them first, wonder if they’ll message me back, constantly look at my phone and then get way too excited when (if) they do. And, if I’m actually interested, I have to message back after a reasonable amount of time, engage with them so they want to talk to me, and potentially go out on a date with them. All of that takes time out of my very busy day and packed schedule. Meeting people naturally, during the activities that I would be doing anyway, is just more efficient. I barely use social media, and dating apps are essentially social media applications with more strangers. Curating a witty and charming profile that represents me accurately to attract others, sounds exhausting.
- It’s Overwhelming
Many college students and young people use dating apps, which makes the market exponentially huge. Users can select from various people when looking for a partner – that’s what makes these apps such handy tools – but that’s so overwhelming to me. The idea that every single in my area (singles into online dating, of course) is available and accessible to me scares me. That’s way too many options for me. That’s like going to an ice cream shop and choosing from 150 flavors. Sure, not all of them will taste great, but I should still try all of them to know which ones I want, and that just takes way too much time (see point No.2) and effort. So, for me, it’s better if I just stick to a limited pool of people, which is still a lot if I’m counting all the men I meet and interact with on an average day.
- The hookup culture
Although it’s far too reductionist to claim that all men on dating apps are looking for a hookup, some men are. Even if they are looking for something more than a hook up, only about 3% of adults in 2013 who used dating apps said they found serious or long-term relationships. The likelihood of me finding something meaningful is slim at best. While hookups aren’t bad, that’s simply not my goal while dating in college. According to an American Psychological Association study, only 26% of college heterosexual women reported feeling positive after a hookup. That number raised to 50% for heterosexual men. “Both men and women had experienced some sexual regret, but women were more negatively impacted by some hook-up experiences,” the study also found.
Apps like Tinder ,Bumble and Hinge are sometimes used for serious dating but are also used for casual sex, and that’s not what I’m looking for right now. Also, I find that more men than women are looking for hookups, and that disparity creates an overwhelming pressure dynamic and worry that whoever I agree to meet is going to want to take me home. So, rather than trying to navigate that realm repeatedly over dating apps, it’s easier if I just put myself in the position to meet serious dating prospects in person.
- I’m a terrible judge of character
When I go out for a fun night on the town, I don’t wear my glasses. I can’t see who’s who, and I have to rely on my friends to tell me if guys are actually cute. It’s also because I’m too nice to boys that are not nearly as nice to me, and I forgive their red flags. When I help my friends sift through Tinder or Bumble, I think that boys holding fish in their pictures are handy and that profiles filled with only group pictures show people with a good group of friends. Those are all huge no-nos apparently. Maybe I’m too nice, but I feel bad judging people based on just a few pictures, so I’d probably end up matching with everyone. I find meeting people through friends or common activities as more reliable because I’ll find committed guys that aren’t total creeps.
- Safety concerns
The danger of meeting people online is that no matter how charming or truthful they seem to me, they could act completely different in person or not be who they say they are. Granted, meeting people in person isn’t much safer, but at least it’s easier to get away from a creep in a crowded bar than in a secluded restaurant. With recent sexual assaults of young women in Gainesville, I’m warier than ever about meeting strangers, even with a friend there. But, there are other concerns. The Pew Research Center found that 57% of women received unwanted images or sexually explicit messages. There’s just something unsettling and completely unattractive about receiving unsolicited naked pictures from boys I didn’t even want to talk to. Those icky photos come alongside men pressuring women to be explicit in exchange. Not to hate on sexting – it can be a fun time – but I don’t want that from every frat dude that likes my picture on Tinder.
Online dating is a handy, intuitive, and easy way for singles to meet and to potentially find a relationship. There are several wonderful things about it, but there are also a lot of problems with it that drive me to not use dating apps. So, if you’re like me and are uncomfortable or unsure about the idea of using dating apps, try to find a partner in your everyday life. All my long-term relationships and best dating experiences were with people I met in person: on campus, randomly running into them, sharing some absurd conversation at a party, making eye contact across a room. As corny as it sounds, looking up from your phone and into the world really does open your eyes to things you wouldn’t have considered otherwise.