Modern dating in a mobile generation

Young couples are virtually guaranteed to be pestered at some point by friends and family asking one question: “How did you two meet?”

A growing majority of college-aged couples are answering, “We swiped right.”

Mobile dating apps are an increasingly common way for college students to meet other singles. In fact, a 2018 study by Statistic Brain showed that one-fifth of current, committed relationships began online.

Tinder is reportedly the most frequented dating app among college students, according to one survey by the college start-up WayUp. The app’s parent company, Match Group, notes similar statistics, claiming that at least half of Tinder users are ages 18 to 24.

The app’s massive popularity is often attributed to its college-centric feature Tinder U, launched in August 2018.

Tinder U allows college students to connect with other students from the same university or neighboring schools. Through this feature, Georgia State students are linked directly to other local college-attending users.

With over 33,000 individuals studying at the Downtown campus, it can feel impossible to single-handedly explore the university dating pool. Student Paula Camacho navigates campus romance by using Tinder U to meet other singles at Georgia State.

“Tinder U is a cool feature because this campus is huge, and you can’t talk to all of the people on campus in person,” Camacho said. “I think it improves college dating because it really helps you connect with people on campus who you probably would’ve never spoken to in real life.”

Matching on Tinder can also give young adults an element of confidence they might not feel when approaching an attractive stranger on campus.

“It’s convenient for shy people because it takes away some of the stress of going up to someone you think is cute in person,” Camacho said.

Online networks allow young adults to interact from screen-to-screen rather than face-to-face. For Georgia State students like Camacho, dating apps provide a relaxed, casual space for singles to interact without added social pressure.

However, some may argue that connecting with others online based on a few pictures and a short biography only fosters physical relationships.

For some college students, this expectation is true. Mobile dating outlets such as Tinder and Grindr are often referred to as “hookup” apps, used by young adults to find other singles for casual sex. About one-fifth of college students admitted to using dating apps exclusively for sex, one survey by college startup WayUp reported.

Grindr’s website describes the mobile outlet as “the world’s largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans and queer people.” Reforming the modern world of LGBTQ dating, many recognize Grindr as an easy resource for the gay community to find nearby sex partners.

“You get acclimated to a certain way of interacting with other gay men. It makes dating harder because you become desensitized to feeling anything more than lust,” Cameron Lineberry, a gay Georgia State senior, said. “Most guys are looking for sex on Grindr.”

Lineberry was 14 years old when he came out to his friends and family.  Now 21, he’s familiar with using Grindr to connect with other gay men in Atlanta and at Georgia State. 

Grindr uses geolocation technology, showing the proximity of other active profiles based on the user’s current location. The app’s mapping features are so precise, Lineberry can walk the streets of the Downtown campus and point out exactly where other Grindr users are located.

“I was sitting in class, and mid-lecture, Grindr showed me that this guy was sitting in a row ten feet away,” he said.  “It’s a weird secret we share where we both know that we’re doing something promiscuous. I definitely feel a sense of awkwardness when I see someone from Grindr on campus.”

Outside of Grindr, college students using dating apps to meet other singles are significantly less interested in hookups. In an Abodo survey of 4,000 college students, young adults on Tinder admit to using the app most often for entertainment.

Outside of avoiding boredom, a large group of college-aged users are attracted to localized networking apps for the straightforward purpose of connecting with other like-minded young adults.

Emily Wilson, a Tinder user and Georgia State student, frequents the app for reasons other than sex, love or entertainment. Through dating apps, she admits to looking for platonic friendships more frequently than potential romantic interests.

“I think it can be a cool way to connect with people who you may otherwise not meet. I honestly use it to try and meet cool people with similar interests,” Wilson said. “I don’t necessarily seek out Georgia State students but it often works out that way because we are all close to each other.”

Even with innocent intentions, meeting strangers on Tinder or other sites can lead to uncomfortable interactions. Like Lineberry, Wilson agrees that social networking and dating apps changed the way young singles interact.

“I think Tinder can make modern dating weird because sometimes there are unspoken expectations that create uncomfortable situations. You aren’t always fully aware of what the other person is on the app for,” she said. “When you meet them in person you could both be there for different reasons. For example, I could simply want to make a friend and they could only want to hook up.”

Technology is driving young adults to connect through unprecedented circuits of online flirtation and new-age intimacy. First impressions are transitioning from in-person icebreakers to instant messaging, matching and social media follows.

Whether the effects on modern romance are welcomed or unwanted, location-based social apps are now a basic component of dating and interacting on college campuses. 

For single Georgia State students seeking out an Ebrik coffee date or a new study partner, on-campus chemistry could be just a swipe away.