Swipe left on the stigmas of online dating

Melina Khan, Editor-in-Chief

From Googling the best Chinese food in the area to keeping in touch with family members states away on Facebook, using the internet to stay connected is widely normalized and accepted. There’s no reason why dating online shouldn’t be.

Nowadays, it’s extremely common to utilize dating apps like Tinder. A 2020 Pew Research study found 30% of adults in the United States have used a dating app or website at some point. Among college students, the rate is predicted to be much higher; a 2021 study from the University of South Carolina found that more than 93% of surveyed students use Tinder.

While the motivations for joining a dating app may differ for each person, it’s common for college students to join Tinder as a casual way to meet people on campus. Whether you’re swiping right for a hookup, a date or just for fun, what comes out of it is up to you. For some reason, though, dating apps are still widely stigmatized, especially when it comes to opening up to family members or close friends about the topic.

In an interview with Glamour Magazine last year, dating coach Kate Mansfield said many people are dishonest about meeting their significant other on a dating app because of the shame that might come along with it.

“For many, dating apps still evoke the idea of hook ups, affairs and only for the desperate and lonely,” Mansfield said.

Most of my friends in relationships met their significant other on Tinder or another dating app. But in every case, their families don’t know that.

There’s a lot of reasons for this omission, but it always comes down to the stigma that exists about dating apps. The most common sentiment among older generations is that meeting someone online isn’t safe. While 62% of people ages 18-29 consider dating platforms safe per Pew’s study, that number goes down among older generations; just 40% of people over 65 think dating apps are safe.

The reasons people download dating apps vary, but these apps were created with the intention to lead to successful relationships. The reality, especially in college, is that most people on dating apps aren’t on them to meet their husband or wife. They’re on dating apps because it’s normal, casual and fun.

I can understand why people hold back the truth from family. Our parents’ generation didn’t date in the age of Tinder or Hinge, so it’s understandable why the prevalence of these apps might seem strange to them. Whatever happened to blind dates and coworker crushes?

The reality is, online dating is not only more popular than people think – it’s also more successful. According to Pew, 39% of online daters have married or been in a committed relationship with someone they met online. Michael Rosenfeld, a Stanford University sociologist who studies dating, said in 2019 that online dating is more successful than traditional dating because of the internet’s advantages of scale.

“Online dating systems have much larger pools of potential partners compared to the number of people your mother knows, or the number of people your best friend knows,” Rosenfeld said. “Even if most of the people in the pool are not to your taste, a larger choice set makes it more likely you can find someone who suits you.”

Apps like Tinder have become the standard approach to meeting romantic interests in the modern age, especially among college students. Between the popularity and success of online dating, there’s no reason why we have to keep hiding our participation.