Searching for love in the information age

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Illustration by Estefania B. Alonso

Mobile dating apps continue to evolve.

By R. Eguia

Popular mobile dating app Tinder has coined the term “swipe right” now used in casual conversation as a phrase to describe the acceptance of something.

The phrase is also seen on screen T-shirts in any mall and was recently used as the title for a column dedicated to “online dating for the real world.”

Yet after talking to many users of various mobile dating apps on campus, almost 100 percent of those willing to talk about their experiences were unwilling to go on record with those experiences.

An anonymous female student summed up why: “No one is who they really are online.”

She said she has used traditional mobile apps Tinder, PlentyofFish and Okcupid with nominal success. She recalls being “catphished” by a man on Okcupid.

According to the Better Business Bureau, catphishing is a new label for an old scam. It refers to someone who claims to be seeking a romantic attachment but who is really setting someone up for financial fraud.

“I found the profile picture he used on a gay porn site and asked him about it,” the student said. “He had ripped the greasy six-pack picture from the site to attract people.”

More recent mobile dating apps have been introduced to curb these criticisms, like Hinge, which prides itself on matching participants with friends of friends unlike traditional mobile dating apps that match people based on preferences and location.

Holly Holmes, a psychology major graduating this semester, talked about her experience on OKcupid.

“I thought I was going to end up with someone from online dating because I was online so much when I was single but my inbox was always flooded,” she said.

“Women receive tons more emails than men. Some messages tried really hard, like pages of poetry and compliments, and some people just sent a message that said ‘hey. ’ How are you supposed to respond to that?”

A newer mobile dating app launched in 2014 called Bumble, known as the feminist app, eliminates this criticism by allowing only females to initiate a conversation after a “match” has been made.

Computer science sophomore Clement Fleming has never used any mobile dating apps, but he said he understands why people do it.

“There is nothing like a first approach,” Fleming said. “Meeting someone in real life and feeling all five senses. That’s how real love happens. There is nothing like it.”

A new mobile dating app launched in 2014 called Happn aims to localize matchmaking by linking people who have actually crossed paths in real life.

Happn requires users to link their Facebook account and promises to never publish exact GPS locations of users, only the places where they have crossed paths with another Happn user.

Ray ONeil, KSYM radio’s “Night Moves” co-host, said he refuses to use the apps. He referred to the mobile app Plenty of Fish as Plenty of f ***. “That’s just how men and women work. They want to stack the promiscuous deck. People get caught up with instant gratification and these apps make it so easy to cheat,” ONeil said.

Adultery and infidelity are a huge criticism mentioned by many users of these apps. Apps like Ashley Madison, designed for users who are looking to cheat on a spouse are in demand. Avid Life Media, Ashley Madison’s parent company, claims that regardless of the recent hack, people are still using the service. Hundreds of thousands allegedly signed up following the hack in August of last year which leaked more than 25 gigabytes of company data, including user profiles.

ONeil said he is not “vanilla” and there are plenty of community groups that cater to his sexual preferences like polyamorous swingers, BDSM enthusiasts and various other non“vanilla” community needs that supersede a need for a dating app. Mobile dating apps like FarmersOnly, Gluten-Free Singles and TallFriends also cater to various niche markets.

Sociology Professor Cynthia Flores-Martinez said these niche market apps could be good for developing relationships because so many similar interests are already shared.

Flores-Martinez teaches a chapter on online dating in her SOCI 2301, Marriage and the Family, course. The previous textbook did not include this chapter.

Data included in that chapter said, “Based on a sample of 2,252 adults, 38 percent of Americans are single and actively looking for a partner have used online dating. Of these, 66 percent have been on a date with someone they have met online. Almost a quarter of those have met their spouse or long term partner using these apps, “according to a Smith and Duggan 2013 study.

“It’s very relevant. I think children who grew up with the internet will likely use the dating apps even more than they are currently being used if mobile app designers and companies continue to evolve and change to people’s needs,” Flores-Martinez said.

Match Group, the company behind dating apps Match and Tinder, filed to go public in 2014. The filings show Match generated $888.3 million in revenue in 2014, and $483.8 million in the first six months of last year..

“I am not judging people who use them; I am just old school,” ONeil said.

“I lived without this technology for so long it just feels like there is something lost. There is something so organic about meeting someone in the universe. I don’t want to be on the prowl.”

That is the main distinction of looking for love or letting love find you.


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