#hotgoss redux: Dating Apps Pt. 1: An Appetizer
Dating Apps. If you’re a person between the ages of 14 and 100, you can’t avoid at least a conversation about them. While the media made it seem like dating apps signaled the end of love as we know it, we're seeing now there’s a lot of ways that different folks use them, and ways you can use them healthily too.
Dating apps have become so integrated into the social lives of college students and young adults, that the Speak About It team had trouble isolating just one aspect to focus on. So, we’re dedicating three whole #hotgoss episodes to talking about the apps. In episode one, Shane, Oronde, and Catherine explored why folks might use dating apps in the first place. Next month, we’ll talk about communication (and communication breakdowns) and dating apps. Then, we’ll close the series with a Valentine’s Day special about how to use dating apps in a heathy way that works for you.
Dating apps have taken center stage in conversations about hooking up and dating recently. But the conversation, especially in regards to healthy relationships and apps, doesn’t seem as nuanced as we’d like it to be. There’s still a lot of shame and hysteria surrounding the apps too. On this episode of #hotgoss we aimed for having a realistic conversation about healthy relationships, consent, and dating apps, and tried to put Speak About It's pleasure-forward lens on online dating.
There’s dozens of apps out there. Grindr, primarily used by men-seeking-men, led the pack when it was released in 2009. Tinder began testing on college audiences in 2012, and today it feels like it is Kleenes of dating apps. After filing a sexual harassment suit against Tinder, a co-founder moved on to create Bumble, an app where women get to make the first move. There’s HER, for women-seeking-women, which offers a cool social newsfeed feature. Hinge relies on your Facebook network to connect you with friends of friends. Happn uses geo-location to match you with people you’ve literally passed by in real life. Even the dating website okCupid has Tinder-like app now. Plus, there’s plenty of digital flirting that goes on via Instagram and Snapchat. All these apps appeal to folks for different reasons, but needless to say there’s no shortage of ways to slip into someone’s DMs.
An increasing number of people are meeting online and through apps. As Shane said during the episode, like it or not, apps fit a more mobile lifestyle. They offer an immediacy to flirty communication on the go. Millennials are doing a majority of our communication through our phones: we shop on our phones, find restaurants through our phones, catch transportation through our phones. It only makes sense that we use our phones to facilitate romantic communication as well. There's upsides and downsides to this, and with a new territory comes a new set of rules, new norms, and the need to figure out how to communicate in this new way.
A bad rApp?
First things first: there’s no shame in using dating apps. There’s also no shame in not using dating apps. (In fact, according to this survey, many people don’t.) Like all things in love and relationships: you're allowed to stick with what you’re comfortable. We’ll be talking more about this in our final episode, but it’s never to early to take some time to figure out why and how you want to use dating apps. (Check out this woman’s month-long experiment for inspo.)
Dating apps have garnered themselves a pretty dicey reputation. We’ve all heard it. They’re hormone fueled meat markets. They prey on people’s egos by reducing them to a profile picture. They devalue relationships, and make it easy to jump from person to person, creating a social ADD. They’re exhausting. They’re a breeding ground for misogyny and trolls. Apps make people “lazy, flaky, and frivolous.”
Arguably, some of this reputation is earned, but a lot of it is indicative of wider (and sometimes dangerous) cultural norms surrounding dating, sexuality, and gender.
Using the apps in the first place carries a lot of shame; there’s a reason this BuzzFeed video was so popular. If you’re like us, you have friends who have been super cagey about their boos they met online. Maybe, you and your partner have concocted elaborate stories to obscure the fact that you totally swiped right for each other. And if you haven’t, theres plenty of Men’s Fitness articles to help you do so. (We strongly suggest ignoring these articles, and being honest about how you met. Reducing the stigma around apps can clear the grounds for great communication within your current hookup and with your friends.)
Despite the bad reputation, it doesn’t seem like dating apps are going anywhere. Online dating has certainly become much more normal. The Pew Research center says that 15% of all adults in 2016 used dating apps or sites, up from 9% just a few years prior. Not surprisingly, the most active online daters are 18-24 years olds, at 27%. Likewise, 41% of those surveyed reported knowing someone who has online dated. Of folks who use online dating apps or sites, over 80% believe that online dating is a good way to meet people.
The data specific to apps is more limited, but as Tinder celebrates its five year anniversary and Grindr celebrates its ninth, there’s a lot more information out there about who’s using apps and why. A different survey said that of the 3800 millennials surveyed, 72% had used Tinder or a similar app at some point.
So if the apps are here to stay, isn’t it time to use them in a more healthy way?
Apps...what are they good for?
In order to best frame our discussion about healthy relationships and dating apps, we thought it was important first to dive into how people were actually using them. From casual hook-ups when you’re home on winter break, to looking for your one true love, to just playing the field in a new town, everyone has a different reason for downloading and swiping.
We really loved this New York Times article that followed a number of New Yorkers on their Tinder escapades. From folks aimlessly scrolling through Tinder while out with their friends, to a girl who went on 34 dates in two months because she enjoyed rush of a first date, it’s clear that these apps aren’t just for hooking up. So we asked a few of our own friends--and also our friend Google--and found an equal plethora of reasons why people use dating apps in the first place.
Our friends use dating apps...
- To meet people in a new city. We talked to one person who said, “When you move to a new place, a dating app can be a really good way to not spend Friday night alone. It can also be a way to check out some of the hot spots in town. I wouldn’t go to a cocktail bar by myself, especially on a weekend. So I was sort of like, ‘Might as well take a date there.’ The worst that can happen is they will kinda suck, but I’ll have gotten to try a new bar. And when I make friends, I can go with them instead.”
- For clarity. It can be easier to say you're looking for a date on a Tinder profile than it can be to say to your workplace cutie. “I hate the ‘is this or isn’t this?’ phase of hanging out one-on-one,” said one woman. “At least if I go on a Tinder date...I know it’s a Tinder date.”
- To pre-screen potential dates. One newly single friend said, “Because you can read their profile, and a lot of times peep their Instagram, I feel like I can get a better sense of the kind of person someone is before I agree to go on a date. I like online dating because that pre-screening process fuels your first-date conversation too.”
- To expand your social circle. Especially for 20 and 30-somethings it can be hard to make new friends. “I moved to New York with a bunch of college friends, and honestly, five years later I haven’t made that many new friends. And I don’t want to date any of my friends, so online dating does really help you meet people,” one woman told us.
- Or to not go too far out of your social circle. Apps like Hinge rely on common connections to make matches. Similarly, Tinder has an option to list Facebook friends you have in common. That sense of security can be really helpful. One woman said, “In college everyone kind of knew everyone else. Even if you weren’t friends, you had this community in common. But when I moved to New York it was like a big scary dating jungle. How can I vet someone I meet at a bar or at work? I have a rule that I only swipe on people I have mutual friends with because if anything I can get a second opinion. Plus, it’s a good conversation starter!”
- Cuz you're #busy. Millennials are busy. We’re working multiple jobs, staying out late with friends, and engaged in an increasing number of outside of school or work hobbies. This Guardian article suggests that dating apps are time-saving matchmakers.
- To find common interests. Says Catherine, “You can use apps as a way to weed out people whose interests don’t align with yours. I always put in my dating profile that I’m a feminist. Sometimes people who message me are looking to start something, but I also get people who are really interested in talking about that. I’d rather know up-front than find out later that there’s this fundamental difference between me and another person.” Apps like Twine, J-Date, FetLife, even FarmersOnly (it’s just for farmers!) rely on people’s desire to date someone with shared interests or values.
- Because it's easier to say no. Like Oronde said on the episode, if someone approaches you in public, you can’t just swipe them away. The ability to reject someone without having to say it to their face is double-edged sword when it comes to dating apps, but it certainly is a tool. It also means that you’re already starting a conversation with someone for whom you had some initial interest.
- For self gratification. It’s true, swiping through a sea of faces can be exhausting. But it can be selfishly satisfying. It’s a huge ego boost when someone swipes on you, it tells you, “Hey you’re cute.” It’s a similar ego boost to give someone a big ol’ “nope.” And, if you’re using dating apps for a confidence boost, you’re not alone. It's the top reported reason millennials use them, says one study.
- Not for dating at all! Digging a little deeper into some research, it turns out a large portion of millennials aren’t even using Tinder for actual dates! In one survey, almost 70% of Tinder users said they’d never actually been on a date with anyone from the app. Clearly, some people just like to swipe.
- When you're traveling. Even if you don’t using dating apps in your hometown, lots of people use them when they’re on the road. Whether you’re looking for a buddy to share lunch with, someone to show you the town, or a romantic end to your vacation, you’re not alone in using apps on the go. Says Catherine, “I’ve had a number of really positive Tinder experience when I’ve been on vacation. I like traveling alone because I can be the boss of my own schedule. But sometimes you want someone to show you around a little bit. It’s easier to trust a local I meet and vet online than the rando who hits on me at the bookstore. I’ve also had some really romantic hook-ups in new cities!”
- For hooking up. Hey. Sometimes you just want a quick hookup. And as long as everyone is on the same page, and treating each other with consent and respect, that’s okay. This survey said that 29% of their respondents used Tinder for casual hook ups.
- To find a relationship. According to Tinder’s own research, a majority of folks (80%) on the app want to find romance and long-term relationships. This research was paid for by Tinder (though performed by a non-affiliated research group) and a number of social scientists said more research needs to be done to confirm the initial findings. However, separate studies have found that relationships started online or through an app were no more likely to break up than those started offline. And if you’re looking for hope and inspiration for your next relationship, there’s plenty of examples of healthy, happy couples who met on Tinder or other apps.
Why do you use dating apps? Which ones do you use? Do you like them? Hate them? Let us know!
And remember, as Shane said in the episode, “If you’re using the apps, be kind, be honest. Communicate with people. It’s hard enough dating face-to-face, you don’t need to drag someone along online.”
We’ll be following up this blog post with two more episodes of #hotgoss about dating apps, so stay tuned!
Speak About It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that partners with high schools and colleges to educate, entertain, and empower students to create positive change within their communities, advocate for and practice healthy relationship habits, and prevent sexual violence.
Copyright 2016 Speak About It, Inc. Website by Alexandra Valleau