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The nature of dating in the 21st century

February 11, 2019

Dating in the 21st century is complex. In the past, couples simply met in person and had to contact each other through the home landline, usually after awkwardly meeting whichever family member answered the phone. Today, however, people can be easily contacted through Snapchat, over text, sending a quick meme to Instagram DMs, or, of course, Tinder and other dating apps.

Greg Kerkvliet, an English professor at UW-River Falls has had students examine relationships. Kerkvliet commented on how his students ideas on online dating have changed, “When I first started using online dating as part of a reading theme about 10 years ago, most students thought of it in terms of cat-fishing and didn’t seem to have direct experience with it. The last two or three years of student discussion and papers on the subject seem to indicate more are using the apps.”

Kerkvliet mentioned that students who wrote about the use of these apps have had both positive and negative experiences.

“They either seem to find someone on there without much hassle and are happy with how the app worked for them, or they have the same problems that are often brought up in newspaper and magazine articles about dating apps: too many choices, superficial decisions about who to date, or receiving offensive messages,” Kerkvliet said.

Anna Broll, a Biomedical major with a Chemistry minor at UWRF spoke about her thoughts on dating, “I’m kind of old fashion since I don’t want to start dating based on an app, I’ve actually never used Tinder or any other dating apps. I just would like to meet someone the old way, where you run into each other or your friends or something like that. On a lot of those apps, you don’t really know what the other person’s motive is.”

“I definitely know a lot of people personally who are on those dating apps,” Broll continued. “Some of them have had relationships that have lasted a while, but a lot of them also have had questionable experiences. All the people that I know who are in a serious committed relationship right now met in person.”

Peirre Conwell, a senior majoring in communication studies, commented on the use of dating apps, “I just meet people through friends. I don’t use apps. Some of my friends use Tinder, but they have not had success with that. I feel like there’s a lot of stuff you can’t get from an app like facial expressions and gestures. People can write and tell you anything.”

Though some are suspicious of these apps, according to a study done by the Pew Research Center in 2015, “The share of 18- to 24-year-olds who use online dating has roughly tripled from 10 percent  in 2013 to 27 percent [in 2015].”

Convenience is a factor for most students who turn to dating apps. Elliot Corbett, a student getting their Bachelors of Fine Arts with an emphasis in ceramics and drawing, has used Bumble and OKCupid in order to find dates.

“I’m queer, so it’s much easier to find people on apps. I feel like it’s harder to find other queer people in person,” Corbett said.

Cindy Schmidtke, a graduate from UWRF with a Bachelor in Fine Arts and an emphasis in ceramics and drawing, examined her own reasons for using apps, “The apps just seem to be a better option to meet more people from other areas. I feel so many guys are so [. . .] shy nowadays. I could sit at the bar for literal hours, for a full day even, and no guy will come up and talk to me. The apps is the way I tend to go, but I do still try to meet people in person, since that seems more genuine.”

Schmidtke has used both Tinder and Bumble, though her relationship status is still currently “very single.” Schmidtke said,“Of all the matches you get [on Tinder], sometimes half of them just want to hook up because they don’t want to be in anything serious, which is garbage,” Schmidtke continued. “However, some of my friends have met their significant others through work or through other situations but I just had an acquaintance who married a guy she met on Tinder. My sister is also currently dating the guys she met off tinder, so I remain hopeful.”

A survey collected by the Council on Contemporary Families that analyzed over 24,000 college students at 22 colleges around the U.S. between 2005 and 2011 found that “College students have essentially equal rates of hooking up and dating. Since beginning college, approximately 62 percent reported having hooked up, while 61 percent said they had gone out on a date.”

“Only 8 percent of all students had hooked up without ever going on a date or being in a long-term relationship,” the Council continued. “More than 3 times as many students – 26.5 percent — had never hooked up at all, but instead had dated and/or formed a long-term relationship.”

Though hookup culture may be over exaggerated, there have definitely been real changes. Kerkvliet commented on what he has noticed, “ I’m one generation older than most of my students, so two things stick out in that time. [. . .] My dates at younger ages had to be rooted in making connections related to where I went and what I liked to do, and that’s not required anymore, at least not in areas where there are a lot of options. With that said, a lot of my friends and family who are more recently married didn’t really use technology for help.”

Some may wonder if the gender demographics have an effect on college dating. According to the UWRF website, as of 2018, the student population enrolled is about 61 percent female and 39 percent male. Though there are about 1,400 more women on campus than men, the Council’s study found, “[T]hat on campuses with a higher proportion of women, women were not more likely to hookup with men or less likely to form long-term relationships with them. They were instead more likely to have dated other women.”

Dating has clearly evolved over the years, and had many influences from different apps and social media. Though these changes may seem daunting to those without a list of savvy pickup lines handy, there is still much hope for traditional daters. Students appear to be adapting to this new dating culture well.