By: Christiana Paradis, Program Coordinator for DOJ OVW Grant, VIP Center
There are many ways that we can meet people and stay in touch through texting, Skype, Instagram, Snapchat and more! In the last few years we’ve seen changes in the ways that the internet has played a prominent role in dating practices. It’s a social norm to meet someone who has tried or is currently using a dating app. In fact, there are 40 million Americans using online dating sites—27% of that population is young adults (Pew Research Center, 2015).
Dating app use on college campuses has grown and people are using dating apps for a variety of reasons. According to Tinder, 70% of college students have never met up with their matches and 45% say they use Tinder mostly for confidence boosting procrastination. In fact, 42% of Tinder users already have a partner (consensual open relationship: cool, cheating: not cool)!
There are many positives and negatives to online dating. For some people, it’s a great way to communicate! Especially if you’re prone to social anxiety the ability to meet, talk, and learn about the other person before meeting in person is incredibly valuable and it eliminates some of that first date awkwardness. Additionally, you meet people you might not normally be exposed to due to social circles or geographic limitations. Finally, more and more people are meeting online and building meaningful, happy, healthy, long-term relationships. I went to four weddings last year and all of them began online!
That being said, there are some downsides. First, there is never a guarantee that the person is who they say they are when you match with them. No matter how many times you talk or share images online, there is never any guarantee until you meet in person. Secondly, often it is hard to get a read on who a person really is. Communicating via messaging can create barriers because it can be hard to fully understand someone’s tone or meaning even with the use of emoji’s. Moreover, sexual racism (sexual preference based on race used to exclude people of specific races) is rampant online (Kim, 2019). Of all dating apps Tinder was found to be the most racially diverse dating app, with 77% of Tinder users claiming to be very open-minded when using dating apps and 74% having gone on a date with someone of a different racial background (Business of Apps, 2017). We also see similar instances of discrimination on dating apps based on sexuality, trans/non-binary identity, weight, and disability. Thus, it’s not surprising that dating apps have been found to lower self-esteem and show an increase in depression (CNN, 2018). Finally, sexual harassment exists both off-line and online, as people receive thousands of unsolicited nudes every day.
At the VIP Center we want everyone to be safe, so we included some safety tips below:
·Avoid giving a cell number. Use Snapchat/WhatsApp, where you can have an account that isn’t tied to a cell number, which can be easier to trace.
·Make it a double date! Meet in a group or take some friends.
·If going solo, tell others where you’re going and what you’re doing. Be sure to update them if plans change and meet in a public place.
·Talk about expectations for when you meet in person. Just because you matched with someone or exchanged nudes does not mean you have consent to hook up. Before you meet and when you meet up, discuss what each other is looking for. Always get an affirmative yes!
·If someone sends you an unsolicited nude report them to the app. If it is another university student you can file a Sexual Misconduct and Gender Based Violence Report.
If internet dating is your cup of tea, go for it! If it’s not, that is fine, too! Dating apps can expand your horizons and create new opportunities to meet people, but they should always be used in a way that all parties feel safe and comfortable!