By Ilana Sperling
While searching for a date to her sorority formal last April, University of Florida junior Rachel Reiss decided to try an unconventional strategy. She downloaded Tinder in the hopes of finding a boy to take on the date, instead, she ended up finding her future ex-boyfriend.
“I don’t really use those dating apps, not even for fun, because they freak me out,” Reiss says. “I never respond to anyone on them but I don’t what compelled me to respond this one time.”
Applications like Tinder, Bumble, and JSwipe encourage users to match with people they are attracted to and message them in order to meet up. By narrowing down match results through location and age range, dating apps have become a popular way to meet people of the opposite or same sex who are also interested in a casual encounter without the emotional connection.
A recent article in Vanity Fair titled “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse’” aims to show how this hookup culture is bringing about the demise of dating, but lately, it seems there has been a rise in the amount of people who have met their significant others via dating apps.
Hara E. Marano, editor at large of Psychology Today says most people use dating applications because they think everyone else is using them and that is the most efficient way to meet people.
“If you look at the big picture, dating is an activity where two people get to know each other over time, a sort of trial-and-error method of finding a suitable life partner,” she says. “That is no longer a main goal in our culture among the young, and especially among males.”
Making the decision to be spontaneous this summer is what pushed UF student Arielle (who asked that her last name not be used) to download a dating application. Hesitant at first, she ended up meeting her boyfriend on the app JSwipe, which aims at connecting young Jewish adults.
“I felt like it was hard to meet quality guys in Gainesville through our small social circle of Greek life,” she says. “I thought a dating app would be a new way to meet more people. I figured it would be entertaining at the least and I would get to talk to people I’d never met.”
JSwipe community manager Stephanie Freeman says downloaders of the application are usually in search of relationships as opposed to casual sexual encounters.
“Many users on JSwipe are looking for a more serious relationship than other apps because religious identity is innately more serious,” she says. “If someone is looking for a casual hook up, religion generally won’t matter. However, if they are looking for something long term, religion generally becomes pretty important.”
For Tinder user Reiss, the appeal of the dating app is that since interactions don’t occur in person, it is less intimidating to talk to people, and matching means you are mutually attracted to one another.
“Especially for someone like me who had a fear of rejection, Tinder was a confidence booster because when you match, you know the attraction is mutual,” she says.
Reiss met up with her Tinder match for brunch at a local eatery in downtown Gainesville, Florida, and says she was comfortable doing this because it was a public place, during the day, and she told some friends who she would be going with and where she would be.
“We had the most immediate connection ever,” she says. “He was genuinely interested and we had a lot to talk about. He drove me home and gave me a hug goodbye. He didn’t kiss me on the first date, which I thought was very classy and nice.”
Similarly to Reiss, Arielle met up with her JSwipe match in a public place during the daytime, in order to ensure her safety.
“It scared me but I was very safe about the first few times I met with Dylan,” she says. “I met him in a public place and I drove myself there. Once I got to know him a little bit better, and eventually met his family, all my fears went out the door.”
Just like Arielle, Reiss felt comfortable with her match after their first date, and they were inseparable. They shared many common interests and she trusted him very much, she says. She liked him so much that she started to doubt whether or not she should even ask him to her sorority’s formal, although those were her original intentions.
“I was afraid he was going to think I was using him for formal because that was the whole reason I looked on Tinder in the first place,” she says. She decided to ask him anyway.
“He said I made him feel like he just won the lottery.”
Although she says they had a great time on formal at a waterfront bar in Jacksonville, Fla., Reiss was starting to get a feeling that things wouldn’t end well. Her boyfriend met her family and helped her sister move into her new dorm, but Reiss was leaving to study abroad and was scared they’d grow apart.
Then, Reiss says things started to get strange.
Reiss’ boyfriend moved back to Tampa, when school started. Later, she looked at his Tinder profile, which said he had moved to San Diego. She texted him briefly but hasn’t heard back from him since. She says she lost trust all over again.
Reiss’ ex went ghost on her.
The emotional dangers of using dating applications fall mostly on women. Marano says that dating apps foster short-term relationships based on looks and not on deeper needs.
“Young women today often say they don’t want to be in a committed relationship too early, while they are pursuing their education. So they believe dating apps are fine,” Marano says. “What they want rationally and what they want emotionally may be at odds.”