Movies and T.V. shows about college teach us that a surefire way to find romantic partners is by attending a wild house party or crowded bar, locking eyes with a cutie over a sea of people, and instantly feeling a connection. However, many of us have found this apparently quintessential college mating ritual does not line up with our lived experiences. The loud, floor-shaking music can make conversation impossible, and a hundred sweaty bodies packed into a small room isn’t necessarily a setting that inspires a romantic mood. Thankfully, there are many alternative methods to get dates for the introverts among us. One such alternative is to download a dating app like Tinder, Bumble, or Hinge and begin a conversation online.
While dating apps receive a lot of valid criticism, I urge you not to discount them outright. Sure, Tinder’s reputation that “most people are only using it to hook up” is not unfounded. I will add that using a dating app towards this end is valid and ethical if one is straightforward and communicative with their matches about their intentions and boundaries, but this can be frustrating for those who are looking for a lasting emotional connection. However, this phenomenon among the dating pool isn’t a problem that arises from the medium of the dating app itself but rather as a function of dating more generally; lots of people IRL are also not necessarily looking for anything serious. The trick to finding a deeper emotional connection on a dating app is no different from beginning a romantic endeavor with someone you meet in a non-virtual setting: clear communication of what you’re looking for early on.
There are drawbacks to dating apps that any user should consider before creating a profile. Constructing an elevator-pitch version of yourself that fits into the photo and character limits of the app can feel inauthentic. The ability to swipe through a hundred people in thirty minutes can make you feel like you are playing a game rather than genuinely interacting with another human being. On top of this gamification of dating, there is always the looming possibility that you are going to ge catfished; you might flirt with someone online for a week, but when you finally decide to meet up, they turn out to be a trenchcoat filled with three raccoons stacked on top of each other.
Apps like Bumble and Hinge attempted to learn from Tinder’s critics and have programmed features to combat some of these flaws. Bumble will limit your ability to swipe if you like too many profiles too quickly, and Hinge limits the amount of profiles you are able to swipe on to only eight people in a day. Hinge also attempts to give users more freedom of expression in their profiles by offering a greater character limit than Tinder and allowing users the option to accompany their profile photos with short voice recordings. These updates are helpful, but they don’t totally erase the aforementioned pitfalls of dating apps altogether. The cons of dating apps can (and should) make you think twice about whether they are right for you, and it is valid to forgo these apps altogether on account of these drawbacks.
But if you are reading this warning label and still want to proceed with caution, dating apps do have their upsides. Dating apps are a relatively low stakes way to make a potentially amazing connection. User profiles and messaging features are a great way to peek into a potential beau’s interests before deciding to spend time and energy pursuing them. College students are already busy balancing our coursework, campus jobs, extracurriculars, etc., and wasting time on first dates with strangers only to find out there are no overlapping interests can be annoying. And while a seemingly infinite number of potential matches can make some feel overwhelmed with choices, having access to a huge network of people who are all looking for some type of romantic connection can be a great way to reach beyond one’s immediate social circles.
Telling your friends and family that you met your partner on a dating app might not be the most exciting story, but in my opinion, meet-cutes are totally overrated. Once you begin a relationship with someone, there is nothing but time to create an abundance of meaningful and substantive memories together.
So, should you download a dating app? Only you can answer that question through healthy consideration of your own preferences. Maybe not Tinder, though.