With more people than every finding partners and spouses online, Mary Sheehan asks UCD students what they think about the online dating world.
According to a recent poll by Pew Research, 19% of 2017 brides met their spouse online. While the stigma around using online dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble has decreased among young people, there still seems to be some concerns surrounding information sharing and meeting with complete strangers.
Entire TV series such as Catfish are based around the dangers of talking personally with a virtual stranger. The introduction to the show asserts that there are hundreds of thousands of fake Facebook profiles, begging the question, is there any way to keep ourselves safe meeting strangers online?
Darcy Curran, an MSc student in Environmental Resource Management, said that she thought that the use of dating apps is superficial as a concept. Curran asserts that swiping left or right on tinder based on aesthetics is not enough to determine attraction. She agrees that many people often share information online before meeting, but keep it to a minimum in order to ensure safety.
“Some people go on Tinder looking for sex, but there are others that look for friendship or a relationship.”
“I keep things on a superficial level. I ask about their day, their job or degree, and leave it at that. There’s a certain hesitancy that comes with not knowing a person face to face.” However, in Curran’s prior experience, she says there’s no danger in keeping this at a superficial level. “Keeping conversation light doesn’t necessarily harm anyone because of the disconnect. You don’t actually know the person behind the screen.”
In the boom of the social media and dating apps, there is a trend of people becoming more comfortable speaking to strangers as opposed to conversing face to face with someone they know. Deepthi Suresh, an MA student studying International Relations, says that this disconnect can be attributed to confidence, or a lack thereof. She says, “Facing someone and conversing face to face forces a person to be more confident. Hiding behind a screen divides you.
Curran agrees with this sentiment, arguing that there’s a layer of anonymity that comes with meeting someone online before in person. Curran says, “People feel more comfortable talking to strangers. There’s less of a fear of judgment, as this person you are talking to on a screen isn’t actually in your social circle.”
Many associate certain apps like Tinder exclusively with a problematic hookup culture. This aspect of the app has gained criticism, as people claim that being subjected to image after image of another person is ultimately desensitising. Suresh compares Tinder’s reliance on physical attraction to window shopping. She says, “It’s desensitising, like a wishlist for people. There are too many options. How are we supposed to know what we are looking for?”
Fiona Byrne, an MA student studying Modern and Contemporary Literature thinks this association is flawed, as different people have different reasons for turning to apps or dating websites. Byrne states, “Obviously, some people go on Tinder looking for sex, but there are others that look for friendship or a relationship. It all depends what you are searching for, and why you are on the app.”
Even though many couples meet online, they are often very reluctant to admit to this. “If I dated someone I met online, seriously, I would likely lie about where we came in contact to family and people I don’t know too well. I’d rather lie and say we met organically through mutual friends. There’s absolutely still a stigma attached to online dating.”
“Facing someone and conversing face to face forces a person to be more confident. Hiding behind a screen divides you.”
There is still a certain judgment passed on those couples who meet online. There’s also the timeless question as to whether or not exchanging personal details with someone you met is safe, nevermind meeting them in real life. According to Suresh, this is impossible to know. “Everyone wants to be accepted and hear good things. People are extremely desperate and lazy to work hard to find a partner.”
However, all three students unanimously agree that there are ways to minimise the risks associated with meeting someone in person that you’ve met online. “You should always meet in a public place, and inform someone as to where you are going,” says Byrne. Curran concurs: “You should absolutely tell friends where you’re going, but this is the kind of risk that comes from any first date. You never know who you’re dealing with.”
Suresh’s concern regarding online dating also considers its potential self-esteem impact. “People are getting depressed if no one matches them on Tinder or likes their picture. How are they supposed to know the real you from a carefully selected photo? Technology has ruined us, and it will only get
In a world where you can see when a person has read or ignored your message, we become “selfish and extremely needy.” Suresh says, “Everyone is on their phones. You can look around on Dublin Bus, and there’s no way to communicate with our heads down. The phone has become the human companion.”
Dating apps may be another thing stopping us from talking to the people around us, or it could be a reason to meet more people. Either way the flaws and risks are obvious and should not be ignored.