Love: Left out? Swipe right!

Photo+courtesy+of+Pixabay.
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Love: Left out? Swipe right!

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Grace Schepis | @GraceSchepisCW, Staff Writer

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As the convenience and normalization of online dating apps have increased their popularity, we take a look into people’s experiences with them and any advice they have for prospective users. 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Today, more and more college students are relying on those pictures to do the talking for them. By using apps like Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and Grindr, students no longer have to spend hours planning an outfit, getting ready, worrying about pit stains and painfully drudging through small talk with someone. Instead, they can rely on their most flattering pictures to make the first impression for them. That is the beauty of online dating apps, a tool that some people are relying on to be their personal Cupid. 

Dr. Jessica Maddox, an assistant professor of digital media technology in the department of journalism and creative media, dedicates her research to this topic. Maddox looks into areas where culture and digital media mix and has published scholarly work on the subject.

“Dating apps have become the 21st century version of striking up a conversation with someone in a coffee shop or a bar,” Maddox said. “They allow any two people who otherwise may have not come in contact with each other to meet.”

Not only does Maddox think that relationships that are born online can prosper, but she herself has been married for four years to someone she met through a dating app.

“He and I never would have crossed paths otherwise,” Maddox said. “Ultimately, dating apps are all about individuals connecting, and sometimes, those connections can last.”

Xenia Cortez, a senior studying microbiology, was another lucky user who found lasting love on a dating app.  

Opting for Bumble, an app that requires that both parties message each other within 24 hours for the “match” to not disappear, Cortez got started on her match-making journey.

“I started matching and messaging around ten people, but most died off, which is normal,” Cortez said. “I wasn’t going to fish for a response from everyone.”

It was after a few dead ends that Cortez struck gold.

“I started messaging this guy for about four days before we decided to meet in person,” Cortez said. 

After hours of talking over coffee, the two planned another date and have been together ever since the chance they took back in February. 

“We have different majors and friend groups,” Cortez said. “We joke that we probably never would have met if it wasn’t for Bumble.” 

Online dating doesn’t always result in a relationship. But for Tanner Bramlett, a junior majoring in psychology and political science, Tinder can provide better odds than other methods. 

“Tinder is probably the best chance you have at meeting another gay person where it could actually develop into something more than just a hookup,” Bramlett said. “But, that’s not really saying that much. Most of the gay people [I have encountered] in the University area are just looking to hook up and aren’t really searching for an actual relationship.”

A common criticism of these apps is that their reliance on pictures to judge potential partners leads to harsh treatment of those who do not fit a certain stereotype. Bramlett finds that these judgements can be limiting.

“Gay men at UA are pretty much only interested in talking to fit, slim, white, masculine men and typically pay no mind to anyone who doesn’t fit that category,” Bramlett said.

However, not all users elect to add a personal photo to their profile. 

“Most people on the app honestly don’t even have a photo of their face on there. These people are often just not out [as gay], which makes sense because it’s the Republican South.”

While users can hide their identity for a variety of reasons, users who conceal their identity with another person’s photo can be disappointing to those seeking companionship. Catfishing, when someone uses another person’s pictures to act like they are someone they’re not, is so common of an obstacle in online dating that it has its own reality television show. 

“Catfishing happens all the time,” Cortez said. “You should report suspicious activity and never feel obligated to message anyone back. They’re just regular people, and none of it should be taken too seriously.” 

Before meeting up with someone for the first time, Maddox advises to let people you trust know who they are and what they look like.

“I recommend screenshotting the individual’s profile, with their picture, and sending it to at least one friend,” Maddox said. “You can never be too safe when it comes to meeting someone offline in person.” 

Despite the few extra precautions and reduced traditional, face-to-face time that goes along with many dating apps, these online match-makers don’t appear to be going away any time soon.  

“Dating apps have done a lot to connect individuals, and while certain apps may fall out of popularity, a new one will be there to take its place,” Maddox said. “Just over the last few years we’ve seen Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, Bumble and Hinge, and there’s probably a whole host of others out there. Certain apps may garner certain reputations, and that may help them gain popularity or fall out of popularity.”