Swipe right for love? Probably not.

By Isobel McCue

(jessicahtam/ Flickr)

For most of us, Tinder has become a standard part of our lives. Odds are, you and your friends have dating app profiles, even if you created them a year ago, used them for a month or two and then forgot about them. Though a host of dating apps exist (Grindr, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, OkCupid), the most common among college students is Tinder, which is used by 84 percent of students that are on dating apps according to an Adobo survey. But the ways in which college students are using dating apps has changed our collective attitude toward dating and relationships.

When dating apps first hit the scene, the media frenzied over the imminent culture of sex-crazed teenagers and 20-something-year-olds mindlessly engaging in internet-facilitated hookups. But dating app or not, ‘f***boys’ have always and will always continue to exist. And as a female student on a college campus, from what I have experienced, there is a plethora of fraternity and club parties which fulfill this need.

Let’s all acknowledge what we actually use Tinder for: entertainment. Most people I talk to corroborate this practice, mindlessly swiping at inconsequential times—before bed, on the way to class, in class, in the bathroom. The prospect of dating has become the new solitaire; it’s never anyone’s first-choice activity, but it’s entertaining to watch the cards do that shuffling thing on the screen. According to the same Adobo survey, for 34.1% of surveyed female college students, entertainment is the #1 motivating force to use dating apps.”

But why are we so bored with dating? It’s not because we’re being so overwhelmed with the profusion of dating options now suddenly available at our fingertips. Any girl who has been on Tinder knows the big pond is really not that big, and more conversations follow the “Send nudes,” “No, thanks,” pattern than anything else. What keeps us at a distance is the abstract nature of the faces on the screen. When each profile could offer a potential relationship, the meaning of that interaction is severely diminished. When you accidentally swipe left on someone you liked, you think, “Eh, I’ll just get the next one.” People are abstractions, and there is a substantial disconnect between reality and the screen.

Within the college demographic, the party scene provides a clear context to meet peers in a looser and more sexualized environment, which starkly contrasts the everyday, academic portion of student life. When these two arenas clash, it can make for some unpleasant situations. Seeing that guy you danced with last weekend show up in one of your discussion sections is cringe-worthy at best. But what Tinder does is it brings these two distinctions together, displaying everyone within a 20-mile radius of the user (depending on the app settings) into a sexualized context. And it’s extremely awkward. It is uncomfortable to see your classmates, coworkers and friends all presented to you as potential partners. Once, in a frantic thumb-spasm, I swiped right on my high school’s IT guy, leading to an extremely uncomfortable and short-lived conversation. Last week, my roommate found our resident assistant’s profile, provoking five minutes of hysterical laughter.

There is also the idea that dating apps are fueled by an overly-egotistic and superficial millennial generation. But while they are extremely simplified, I do not subscribe to the idea that dating apps are vapid and shallow. Yes, whole personalities are reduced to a few cleverly-angled pictures, notable physical attributes (“I’m 6’2” if it matters, lol.”), an atrocious pickup line and a picture of either a fluffy pet or a hooked fish. But that’s the point of dating. No one meets eyes across a crowded room and thinks, “Wow, I have a feeling that girl there has a sparkling personality with genuine intellectual capabilities.” The decision to approach someone is usually fueled by attraction, just as it is on a dating app. Any actual connection beyond physical attraction forms later, but the app’s duties do not extend beyond that initial attraction.

The real problem with Tinder within the realm of the college sphere is that it’s too clinical. Obviously, the app removes the spontaneity of human interaction in preference of convenience. But on campus, that means restricting potential relationships to the bubble of your peers, people who are exactly your age and attend the same school. When you get past the initial texts, possibilities for convenient dates are extremely limited. A dining hall? Blue Wall if you’re feeling daring? The whole process of something so intrinsically organic as the formation of relationships has quickly become rather formulaic, making the practice of finding relationships somewhat generic and less meaningful. Why swipe right if you could just go for the next one? If you decide you feel like it.

Isobel McCue is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]