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Do dating apps work or are we just self-absorbed?

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Do dating apps work or are we just self-absorbed?

Every time I redownload a dating app, I feel a glimmer of hope that I can revive my pathetic dating life by taking matters into my own hands. This cycle is one that I know all too well.

Here’s how it goes: I gleefully tell my friends that I’m putting myself back onto the market — my first mistake. Then, it’s time for the careful curation of my profile. I have to select photos that make me seem “adventurous, fun, and cute” rather than “desperate, lonely, and looking for someone to bring up during the holidays.”

Next comes the mindless swiping and the incessant urge to fall for anyone who isn’t some dude holding a fish or a dead animal (seriously, this isn’t as attractive as you think it is). If I do happen to match with someone, there’s the insurmountable pressure to come up with a first line that is a) not creepy, b) not basic, and c) reflective of my glimmering, shining personality. This whole ordeal takes place before I’ve even met my match in-person.

Dating apps, as we all know, are tricky. When attending a large university, one would hope the potential dating pool is much greater than that of our smaller hometowns. Dating apps provide a convenient and quick way to meet hundreds of people from the comfort of our couches. They supply tiny bursts of validation and gratification every time we get a match, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that there’s a special someone out there for you, just one click away.

But why are we really on dating apps? To date? To hookup? Or do we just want some attention?

In a 2017 Rentable study that surveyed 3,500 college students, 91% of users reported not using dating apps primarily just to have hookups, and 34% of Tinder users are on the app primarily for entertainment. 

So why do UW students use dating apps?

“I didn’t even want to meet up with them anyways; I just wanted the attention,” first-year student Norah Miller said.

Miller no longer uses dating apps because of the confusing features and how time-consuming and distracting they are. She said she only downloaded them for one reason.

“I just got out of a relationship, so I was like, ‘I just want attention, I need validation,’” Miller said. 

The attention and validation is too irresistible for many students, and it creates a sense of unreliability. How do you know if your match is looking to actually meet or if they’ll leave your message unanswered?

My Tinder match, third-year student Ethan Miedema, represents this unreliability perfectly, as he failed to show up for our interview.

“I’m on [dating apps] because it lets you meet people you might never interact with otherwise,” Miedema said in a Tinder message. “Also, the validation is addictive.”

Truthfully, I think most of us would rather meet our match in-person and skip all the hassle of creating the perfect profile.

“Personally, I like to meet people in-person because I feel like you can establish a friendship before anything else,” first-year student Lea Bodmer said. “I feel like with dating apps, it’s just immediately [like] you’re trying to figure out if this [person] is relationship material, which misses a crucial step ... It’s easier for me to meet people in-person — it feels more organic.”

Yet the cycle continues.

Even when the messages pile up and the late night swipes are no longer exhilarating, dating apps are a sure-fire way to test out your flirting game, get some validation, and potentially meet your next hookup or partner.

According to the Pew Research Center, 12% of dating app users have gotten married or been in a relationship. Who knows if your match is just one swipe away?

Reach contributing writer Adysen Barkhurst at Twitter: @adybarks

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(1) comment


So relatable and well written. The stats used are just bonkers and really make you think.

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