Written by Anyi Cheng and Jenna Marvet
Technology has come a long way since the rise in popularity of dating websites twenty years ago. Today, mobile dating apps have entered and changed the hookup landscape. Across the nation and at Gunn, these apps have taken the ageless practice of casual hookups to a new level, leaving lasting impacts on their users. 15.64 percent of students who responded to The Oracle’s survey agreed that dating apps have increased the amount of hooking up at Gunn.
Over half of the 358 student respondents to The Oracle’s survey about Gunn hookup culture reported having hooked up at least once in the past year. The trend is national: in a 2012 study by the Review of General Psychology investigating sexual hookup culture, 60 percent to 80 percent of North American college students reported having a casual sexual experience in their life. One of the most popular dating apps is Tinder, where users can swipe left and right on a rotating carousel of profiles to indicate interest. With the recent surge of young people using these apps, many have felt their effects.
The digital age
The introduction of screens into flirting has altered the process of building a relationship—sometimes for the better. Alumna Edut Birger had been a Tinder user before meeting her current boyfriend on the app. “The amazing thing about dating apps [is] that they are so low stakes,” Birger said. “You can meet up with someone you have never met and then never have to talk to them again.”
Before apps, casual hookups with strangers were reserved for adults at bars and clubs. Now, the possibility of a quick meet-up with a near-stranger extends to an even younger audience. While most of Tinder’s users are adults, 7 percent of users are minors between the ages of 13 to 17. At Gunn, 14.3 percent of students use dating apps, according to The Oracle’s survey results.
The positive effects of dating apps are different for everyone, with responses such as, “I don’t feel ashamed of myself for having sex or being sexually active,” and, “I feel more comfortable being intimate,” accounting for nearly 20 percent of students surveyed. Although she prefers dating to casual hookups, senior Lindsay Maggioncalda thinks that hooking up and dating apps can have beneficial results on students who use them. “I think they can be confidence-builders for a lot of people, because it allows them to explore their sexuality and experiment without making a commitment,” she said.
Social stigma and gender roles
According to a Pew Research survey published in February 2016 that compared online dating three years ago to that in 2016, the use of dating apps by young people has tripled since 2013.
A number of Pew Research survey takers nonetheless expressed negative opinions about dating apps, with 23 percent claiming that dating app users are desperate.“I think people don’t like to admit that they are having trouble in their romantic life,” Eli Finkel, a social psychology professor at Northwestern University, said in a 2012 “The Washington Post” article regarding the negative stigma around dating app users. “That concern is misplaced. It is totally normal to figure out who is compatible for you.”
Senior TJ Sears believes that the pressure to hook up often stems from the influence of friends. “If all your friends are hooking up with a lot of people, you’re going to feel pressured to do that,” he said. “If you’ve never hooked up with a girl before, other guys might be like, ‘Wow, you’re lame.’”
Even when it comes to hooking up, traces of gender roles defined by traditional and historic values linger. According to Sears, guys are often expected to initiate a relationship. “Some people might say that it’s supposed to be the guys who want it more,” he said. “Girls are not supposed to seek it out as much. It’s how society is right now.” Sears also noted that guys did not experience the same attitude girls do. “Slut-shaming for guys is virtually non-existent.”
In the “slut shaming” phenomenon, girls are often labeled “hoes” or called “easy” if their peers think that they hook up too often. “I think that when girls hook up, it gets spread more easily,” junior Jane Davis, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, said. “First to their friends, and then people find out over social media.” She thought that reactions to girls hooking up are often more negative, while males get positive ones.
Senior Lina Osofsky disagreed that boys and girls received different reactions, but did find gossip to be a universal problem. “I don’t think there is a stigma surrounding hooking up for each gender at Gunn specifically, but definitely if rumors start to spread, that can affect how a person is perceived,” Osofsky said.
Issues with safety
While dating apps can be attractive to many students, they also pose threats. A National Crime Survey published in February 2016 showed that the number of people who reported being raped by someone they met on a dating app increased by six-fold in the last five years.
Birger, too, understands the potential danger that using these apps poses. “Dating apps make it much easier to be deceived and meet creeps,” she said. “The first message I got from one guy on Tinder was: ‘It’s 2015, is anal on the table?’” To ensure protection, Birger always made sure she and her match met in a public place where she felt she was safe. Davis also met with a Tinder match and only felt safe enough to meet him after becoming acquainted through texting and Snapchatting. “I was still afraid that he might be a dangerous guy, even though I felt like I knew he was a real person,” she said.
While the risks seem to dominate the dating app conversation, apps like Tinder are often not taken as seriously by many users. In fact, in a research study published in April 2015 looking into dating app demographics by Globalwebindex, only 42 percent of Tinder users were actually single. “I only know one person who uses a dating app and they just use it for fun,” Osofsky said. “They don’t actually meet up with anyone from the app.”
Dating apps have also had a dramatic effect on long-term relationships for young people. According to a compilation of data from Child Trends, the number of students in eighth through twelfth grades who date frequently declined by more than 16 percent from 1975 to 2013. Mirroring this decline, 17.65 percent of Gunn students stated that hookup culture and dating apps have made it harder to find someone who wants to date, as opposed to casually hooking up. To many students, therein lies the appeal of hooking up; with no need to commit, quick flings or hookup buddies are an attractive alternative to the teenager with a fast-paced and busy lifestyle. “[With dating apps,] I don’t have to try to keep a relationship,” said one survey taker.
Nowadays, students are accepting hookups, as opposed to deeper relationships, as an innate part of teenage culture. “Casual sex and hookups are pretty common and normal now,” Moore said.
Despite the reputation of apps like Tinder for promoting the casual sex culture and their ever-evolving role in forming relationships between people, how one approaches these developments defines the experience. “I think it depends on how you use it,” Birger said. “For me, I’ve had Tinder dates where I never hooked up and dates where the first date was completely platonic.”