The social stigma of finding romance on your phone decreases every year, and for a good reason—it works.
By Riley Heruska, Austin College
I remember when my best friend first recommended that I create a profile on a dating app.
I snorted and shook my head, chuckling at the mere thought of plastering my face and hobbies on some artificial romance generator. It sounded like a hassle, and to be honest, I was a little bit too prideful to resort to online dating in an effort to meet someone. It wasn’t that I couldn’t get a date…I just couldn’t find a guy that I had a real connection with.
Plus, the idea of swiping left or right rubbed me the wrong way. I told myself it was shallow to browse through pictures of others, rating their attractiveness and envisioning myself meeting them simply based on the few details their profiles provided.
Now, I laugh again because I did give into the dating app realm after MUCH coercion on the part of my best friend. As a result, I have been in a healthy relationship with an amazing guy for over a year-and-a-half. My boyfriend and I met on OkCupid, and while that app doesn’t utilize the swipe left or right method, it allowed us to meet despite the fact that we never attended the same school or had mutual friends. If it weren’t for the app I had previously looked down upon so strongly, I might never have met the guy I currently love. So, maybe my previously held convictions weren’t very legitimate in the first place.
As much as I originally protested the benefits of talking to strangers online, I now have to admit that seeking out romance on apps might not be the worst thing a person can do. Sure, it was frowned upon in previous decades, but statistics have shown that online dating is losing much of the stigma that once clung to it. In fact, attitudes are becoming more and more positive as the number of users increases. Roughly 58 percent of recent college graduates know someone who uses online dating services, and about 46 percent know someone who entered a marriage or long-term relationship with someone they met over the internet. In fact, the number of college students using online dating services has tripled in the past four years. Perhaps the situation with my relationship isn’t such a rarity after all.
So, why are opinions regarding online dating changing?
First of all, there are various kinds of dating apps. From Tinder to Bumble, there are many apps to choose from, and each offers a slightly different experience. For instance, Tinder includes the swipe left/right method and focuses predominantly on matching with a person who deems you attractive.
Similarly, OkCupid allows users to match with one another, but also includes more details about each user (favorites, habits, personal statements, etc.). Bumble places the cards in the ladies’ hands and allows them to choose who can message them. Some apps are more likely to lead to hook-up sessions, and others are geared toward forming lasting relationships. It all depends on what you’re looking for and how you use whatever app you pick.
Interestingly, many people do not even use dating apps to find a sexual or romantic partner. A recent survey indicates that more than half of the students included in a study use dating apps simply to find friends and meet new people, not to go out on expensive dates or hook up. Although many people are still somewhat hesitant to admit to using a dating app for any reason, those who are open about it often claim to just enjoy meeting people for the sake of fun. After all, what’s wrong with getting to know someone in your area without having a romantic agenda?
One of the biggest (and simplest) reasons that people are viewing dating apps more positively is that users really enjoy the experience.
Roughly 80 percent of Americans who have used a dating app or website have admitted that the services helped them meet people. Sometimes it’s easier to meet people online than it is in real life.
I don’t know about you, but it isn’t every day that I haphazardly run into an attractive, charismatic Ryan Gosling-type at the mall who then graciously invites me out on a date. Odds are, I’d be more creeped out if a random stranger in a store approached me than if someone sent me a message over the internet. Dating apps allow people to learn a bit about potential dates before agreeing to spend any substantial amount of time with them, and they take away the social pressure of immediately accepting or declining an invitation out.
About twelve years ago, roughly half of the users on dating services had never actually gone on an in-person date with someone they talked to online. By 2016, that number had gone down by 20 percent, meaning that more users have actually met people from their services for a genuine date. Therefore, the idea of legitimately meeting a person and dating has become far less unlikely in the minds of many individuals.
Despite all of these positive aspects, online dating certainly still has its drawbacks. Meeting a stranger can be somewhat nerve-wracking, and sadly, many people portray themselves falsely online.
Therefore, I don’t blame people for still feeling a little hesitant about meeting a romantic partner over the internet. Even I only agreed to meet my current boyfriend for our first date if we both drove separately, and I won’t lie, I had my best friend ready to call me with an “emergency” if the date turned sour.
Despite my own worries when I went on my first date, I do believe that many people focus too much on the negatives and forget to consider the benefits of downloading an app or signing up for a website. There are millions of normal Americans using online dating services, and the majority of them are not desperate or weird. Sure, it might be an unusual way to meet a significant other or a new friend, but is it really any weirder than flirting with a random stranger at a bar or club?
Personally, I will never scoff again at someone who utilizes a dating app, and if it seems like something you might enjoy, don’t let any social stigma or shame dissuade you. Have fun, be safe and try something new!