Online dating: for better or for worse?

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We have all seen the timeless, tumultuous love story in every romantic comedy. Julia Roberts walks up to Richard Gere’s Lotus Esprit on Hollywood Boulevard, unaware that she was about to have her own rags to riches story. Kate Hudson and Matthew Mcconaughey meet in a bar and accidentally fall in love, even though their aim was to trick one another for their careers. Jennifer Garner sees her lifelong friend 17 years later, only then seeing him as more than a friend.

Do “Pretty Woman,” “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” and “13 Going on 30” have it right? Are we supposed to meet a potential romantic partner in a casual, unexpected, unplanned manner? Such an expectation instilled in countless millennials and even teenagers growing up watching these films presents a problem in today’s era of dating. Gone are the days when two partners recount stories of a spontaneous meeting, like when the girl drops her books in the high school hallway, or in a coffee shop, record store or some other cinematic backdrop. Following the release of mobile dating apps such as Tinder in 2012 and Bumble in 2014, the world of romance has seen a stark shift towards premeditated analysis of a potential partner, the screening of such individuals and a demise of what had once been a natural part of human nature. In 2018, Tinder and Bumble each had a 34.5 percent and 29.2 percent daily usage rate, respectively, according to Statista. Of U.S. users, about half have met or know someone who has met their romantic partner through these platforms. Yet, there is a question that arises time and time again. It has come to be analyzed and answered by many, including notable actor and stand-up comedian Aziz Ansari, as well as countless citizens who have had success with this modernized form of finding a mate: Is online dating a detriment to traditional courting?

Released in 2015, “Modern Romance: An Investigation,” co-written by Ansari and American sociologist and NYU professor Eric Klinenberg, is a humorous, well-researched account of the trials and tribulations encountered by those in the modern dating world of apps and social media. Surprisingly, there were sufficient arguments on both sides of the claim that online dating is a stripping of natural social interaction.

For one, is online dating really inferior to the way older generations met? Could it even have advantages? To test this, Ansari visited senior centers in the Lower East Side of New York and interviewed various residents to learn about dating patterns back in the 1940s and ‘50s. The research revealed that a myriad of residents had met their respective partners through living in the same building, on the same street or working together; introduced them to their parents and gotten hitched all within a matter of months.

Ansari’s work recalls a study conducted by James Bossard at the University of Pennsylvania, revealing that a mere 17.8 percent of 5,000 examined marriage licenses in this time period were between two individuals who lived in different cities. About 30 percent lived within a twenty block radius. In an environment plagued by proximity, it appears online dating could have provided a way out of this limited pool of partners.

Now an argument that will always stand its ground against online dating is the negative effects of extensive screening and the pressure put on “swiping right or left.” Ansari and Klinenberg’s analysis touched on this as well. Online dating sites have equipped users with a means to essentially perform a methodical study on each person they come across through the platform. The rising use of online dating has magnified the sheer availability and visibility of each profile and, as a result, the process to find just one person that fits one’s criteria has become selective and extensive.

Entering the realm of online dating via Bumble, business administration sophomore Hannah Stein mirrored many individuals’ experience at the start in enjoying the wide variety of options made available by creating a profile. Stein believes Bumble proves the most effective host for female users given its platform that allows women to make the first move in an effort to avoid the timeless and tiring innuendos often sent their way by male users.

I liked Bumble because it is marketing to people who are more interested in dating rather than hooking up. There were also lots of people in SLO on the app, so I felt there was a good dating pool. I honestly have some pretty high expectations regarding who I swipe right on. Bumble seemed to have the most candidates I would consider for me,” Stein said.

Journalism freshman Tessa Hughes opted for Tinder. Her experiences have shaped her perception of the dating platform in several ways.

I don’t see online dating as a negative thing. I received judgment from people at first for using Tinder but have since cut them out of my life because I viewed it as a form of slut-shaming. Especially being a girl, online dating is viewed very harshly, and people are critical of those who engage in the process. I think it is a fun way to get to know people and maybe even develop relationships, so my view on the whole thing has definitely changed,” said Hughes.

Like Hughes, business administration junior Lauren Ross used Tinder. She recalled one individual sending, letter by letter, “S-E-N-D N-U-D-E-S.” You have to admire the effort, maybe? Nonetheless, after ignoring the ill-natured messages, Ross learned that it was her willingness to look for those she may not have initially considered and possibly those she already knew that led to her success in finding her current partner.

Maybe swipe on someone you don’t necessarily think could be the person for you. We judge so many people by their photos, but there’s something more… I think before I found a relationship through [Tinder], I was definitely a part of that group of people who weren’t the greatest proponent of it. Afterwards, I [realized] there really are some amazing people out there looking to see what could happen on the off chance that they find someone,” said Ross.

Whether joining alongside friends as a form of entertainment or for the chance of finding someone sharing their interests and experiences, online dating has undoubtedly prevailed in today’s world. Yes, it is filled with individuals whose aims do shy away from an actual relationship, but it also has users who are looking for someone serious. Yes, it takes away the conventional way in which individuals meet and interact with one another, but it also expands upon the opportunities each person has. Yes, it tarnishes the tear-jerking, movie-like aspect of meeting someone, but it also does its part to empower women and allow them to take control in the search for a partner. After all, most of us would probably not walk up to a rich man’s Lotus Esprit on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard—at least, not without inspecting his profile first.

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