COVID may have shut down the world, but it caused a tremendous surge in the online dating community.
The mandatory stay-at-home orders in March couldn’t prevent people from seeking out love and relationships. In March of 2020, Tinder recorded its single highest volume of swipes, a reference to the method by which users swipe right or left on the smartphone app, to accept or reject a matched mate. In one day, 3 billion people, probably at home in their pajamas, swiped right and left, looking for love. The number one online dating company also saw a 70% increase in activity between March and May 2020.
Dating on Campus
Online dating seems to be the route that college students prefer to seek out romance. ABODO, an affordable housing company located out of Madison, Wisconsin, recently surveyed 5,000 students on whether they were using dating apps. A staggering 91% reported they had “swiped right for love” in the last month.
Delany Burk, a sophomore at Sierra Nevada University, has been using online dating apps since they were a sophomore in high school. They were willing to take a risk and put themselves out there.
“Going to a boarding school, especially an art school, there weren’t a lot of options,” Burk said. “Most of the guys there were either in a long-term relationship or gay. Even though I never ended up dating anyone in high school, I wanted to put myself out there.”
Tinder, the original swipe right or left app, connects users who have liked each other’s photos. They then can connect via messaging to see what kind of relationship the other person is looking for. While many use Tinder for quick hookups, Burk sought out a deeper connection.
“The hookup culture is the problem that I found,” Burk said. “I am a very relationship-orientated person. I was having trouble getting in the mindset and trying to filter through guys who just wanted hookups.”
Burk expressed that the Tinder profile questions are straightforward. Some examples they gave are: “What is your political view? Do you drink or smoke? Do you have pets?” It is the user’s choice whether they want to divulge more personal information on their profile.
Luck found Burk this spring. They have been dating the same guy for a couple of weeks now.
“I didn’t have that conversation [what kind of relationship he was looking for] with the guy I am dating,” Burk said. “We met up, we watched a movie at his house, and we went skiing the next day. I could just tell he wanted a relationship. It clicked fairly easily.”
According to Burk, the most popular dating apps, Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble, are all pretty much the same as far as results go. It is up to the user to keep searching, in a sea of millions, for what they want.
“It depends on what you are looking for and just your luck. I have had terrible luck on Bumble. Not finding people who I connect with,” Burk said. “I feel like it is just luck of the draw on any of these apps and I don’t know what to recommend, because they are all pretty much the same. You have to know what you are looking for and be okay with filtering through a lot of people to find what you want.”
While Burk met her current dating partner online, SNU senior Kaylee Wahlstrom met hers the “old fashioned” way, in person while she was working at Travel Center of America in North Dakota, her home state. They have been dating five years now.
“I think online dating is a good opportunity to find people with whom they are more compatible or with whom their goals better align,” Wahlstrom said. “I’m a pretty socially awkward person so I feel online dating is something I would be very afraid to do, but if I felt it necessary, I would probably use it.”
The hookup culture is something that seems to reach everyone’s ears, even if they don’t use online dating. According to recent Pew Research Center Survey, 47% of users on Tinder use it specifically for a quick hookup before moving onto to the next.
“I’ve never been one to participate in hookup culture,” Wahlstrom said. “I try not to judge, but I feel that it has a negative impact in people that are involved in it. I say that from an observational perspective.
“I think the fact that society generally says that hookup culture is bad, is what is most harmful for people who participate in hooking up a lot. I think if you are emotionally mature and that’s what you are interested in, then go for it and own it. There’s a lot of power in being who you are and making your own choices without the influence of other people’s opinions.”
Jonathan Breiter, Assistant Professor of Business at SNU, has positive views of online dating. For a baby boomer who met his wife, Tricia, 20 years ago at a trade show in Dallas, he is supportive of the younger (and older) generation’ seeking out relationships when the traditional way is difficult during the pandemic.
“I think online dating is amazing, as a concept, as a business, as a social statement for today,” Breiter said. “There are so many lonely people in the world. Literally, there is a social dating website for every demographic. There is something for everybody. I think it is amazing that these services are available, and they are there to open up relationships and bring people together.”
There are dating services for every category one can imagine. However, how can a students keep themselves safe in the virtual world, where anyone can be anything behind the screen? Breiter shares advice he would give to his own child.
“I would insist on facetiming or zooming with someone prior to meeting them. Ask for references. Do research, find out as much as you can about this person. It is never going to be perfect. There will always be a shadow of a doubt,” Breiter said.
With four years of online dating experience, Burk knows how important it is to protect oneself in this area, to not only trust your instincts, but to also know how important it is to let your community know who you are dating and where you are going to be when out with a stranger for the first time.
“I definitely make sure that I am safe at all times when I do go out with people,” Burk said.
“A lot of times that was my concern is that I wouldn’t be safe. I always make sure that it is actually the person I am talking to before I meet up with them. I always have my phone location sent out to my friends before I go out.”