OPINION: Dating apps and hookup culture are dehumanizing

Sydney Morgan, Opinion Writer

The global pandemic temporarily closed the door on college students engaging in an in-person dating experience. Dating apps were a solution many turned to. In March 2020, Tinder recorded its highest number of swipes in one day. A year later, a study from the University of South Carolina reported approximately 65% of college students were on dating apps. With great technology comes great responsibility, but are users being responsible? Recent research on how the use of dating apps contribute to hookup culture is something to keep in mind for college students, more specifically women, looking for love. 

Hookup culture is a societal system that accepts casual sex as featured component, not the foundation, of modern day courtship. A recent study on dating app motivations from California State University San Marcos found men scored the highest for casual sex. On the other hand, 59% of women use dating apps to find romantic partners. On dating apps like Tinder, you can say what you are looking for, but are people being honest? In a survey from the Pew Research Center, 71%  of dating app users claim other users lying about themselves to appear more desirable is a regular occurrence. From the same survey, six in 10 female dating app users ages 18-34 say they have been sent unsolicited sexually explicit messages. Finding love on dating apps can be challenging when you are constantly being lied to by people claiming they want a relationship, but in reality, they only want casual sex.

Another thing to consider is that you’re not your matches’ only connection. Dating apps are set up to offer an unlimited amount of potential matches. 32% of dating app users believe online dating prevents people from focusing on one person because of the endless amount of match options. Social media and dating apps are designed to grab and keep our attention. The immediate ego boost users get from a match can lead to people being addicted to swiping. The person you match with is just a match, they have the same value as a like on Instagram. 

With constant social media usage comes anxiety. A study from 2021 recorded 76.9% of the tested college students had social anxiety. A characteristic of social anxiety is loneliness.  Dating can kill two birds with one stone for  socially anxious individuals by creating a non-judgmental social environment to find potential romantic partners. However, the safe and efficient atmosphere provided by dating apps can be an unhealthy crutch. Eventually, relationships transition from online to real life. In real life, conversations happen in real time. There is no time to carefully plan out thoughtful responses. There is no phone to hide behind. 

For socially anxious users, the fear of not having control in real life fuels their dependency on dating apps. The addiction to the dating app gets in the way of getting work done, seeing friends, and finding love. The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships suggests limited use of dating apps may potentially lead to healthy social interactions and turn into possible romantic relationships. 

In a small town like Boone, dating apps can be positive or negative depending on your judgment and what your goals are. If you want to try to find someone, start talking to people in person because at the end of the day, you want your online connections to transition into reality.