By Nicole Prozan and Zoe Cate, Opinion Editor and Online Editor-in-Chief
//“You have a new match!”
Gone are the days of love letters, candlelit dinners, and formal courtship. Now, the new norm consists of late-night texts, unopened snapchats, and swiping in a multitude of directions. Though most assume the world of online dating exists exclusively for adults, Acalanes students indicate the magnitude of its far-reaching influence.
Some look for love or an escape from boredom. Others just look for instant validation from strangers. Through an array of apps, many students explore online dating.
Teens use apps including those specifically aimed for children under 18, like Yellow, or apps meant for adults, such as Tinder and Bumble.
Blueprint spoke to four Acalanes students regarding their illicit use of dating apps. Because none of these students are legally able to use these apps, those quoted have been renamed Student 1 through 4.
A few apps, such as Yellow, market to children under 18 on the premise of, “Making new friends,” as the app’s description states. However, much like commonly-known dating apps, users upload pictures of themselves, biographies, and ultimately swipe left and right on other profiles.
“When I was younger, I used apps like Yellow that was specifically aimed for teens. It was fun, and I was able to talk to people who I never would have met otherwise. No relationships formed from the app,” Student 1 said.
Yellow features include live streaming, private messaging, and swiping. Users have the option to swipe on people closest to them, or on others from anywhere in the world.
Users on Yellow often begin using the app with innocent intentions. Yellow provides an initial platform for children to engage in conversations. Once this becomes dull, however, users often look to more mature apps.
“I used Tinder with a friend of mine. We were bored, so we got the app as a joke so we could talk to random people and have conversations that I normally wouldn’t have. It was honestly pretty fun and exciting,” Student 2 said.
Although dating apps like Tinder sometimes allure young users, they also highlight statutory issues that are often overlooked when teenagers first register for these apps.
“I think it is kind of beguiling because unless you denote your age in the description, I think it touches on a really charged subject of statutory issues,” senior Camryn Langley said. “Honestly, under the law minors have so much protection and that is absolutely not the fault of the people on Tinder for making advances towards minors.”
Student 2 was conscious of the dangers of Tinder when she registered, thus she was careful with how she presented herself on the app.
“I think that as long as you stay smart about what kinds of pictures you upload and what kinds of conversations you’re having, they’re pretty safe. I didn’t run into any unsafe situations and maybe that’s because I got lucky, but I think part of it was because I used a lot of caution when displaying myself,” Student 2 said.
Some students, feeling as though their dating pool is currently limited, use dating apps as a way to explore new possibilities.
“Online dating can be important to gay teens who feel isolated. I only got the app to swipe through girls. I don’t think I would have gotten it for guys,” Student 3 said.
According to the Pew Research Center, 1 in 4 teens have dated someone they first encountered online. As online dating becomes more prevalent, many fear that young people have trouble connecting with each other face to face.
“I think online dating is making us stray from dating in real life. People nowadays are much more comfortable sending a message on Tinder or sliding into someone’s DMs than they are going to go talk to someone at a party. We are more comfortable behind our screens because it isn’t as anxiety-inducing or nerve-wracking,” Student 4 said.
Additionally, users find comfort in their ability to mold their online persona while hiding behind a screen.
“You are really getting a refined perspective of that person and a lot of times your dating career is determined by your ability to text well which is just not reflective of one person’s entire personality,” Langley said. “And especially with electronics, it’s like you are always with that person instead of hanging out with them and going home, I think it can be really harsh on a young person’s mental health to have that constant connection.”
While some users enjoy the privacy and discretion of meeting behind a screen, others utilize dating apps to form real and long-lasting relationships. Student 3 met her girlfriend on Tinder; an opportunity that never would have presented itself without the platform that dating apps provide.
Meeting over the internet is not always viewed as a traditional way of starting a relationship and is often met with stigma.
“Back when I was in high school and in college, it was always kind of a joke when you met somebody on Myspace or in a chat room, it was always so weird and taboo,” Digital Design teacher Chris Busse said.
However, as social media becomes a more prevalent force in the lives of teens, the stigma around online dating has lessened. Once couples get past the initial in person introductions, their relationships transition smoothly.
“We talked for a week before the meeting, we also FaceTimed before meeting. We wanted to meet in real life because texting is not the same. It was awkward for a bit, but then after a few minutes it was fine. Originally, I felt weird about meeting her cause you never know who someone is based off their profile really,” Student 3 said.
People often craft their Tinder profiles excluding specifics about themselves, however, social media apps such as Instagram and Snapchat aim to give a more personalized view of a user’s entire life. Both dating apps and social media provide a platform to create relationships, but the two contain major differences.
“I know a lot of people who meet somebody one time and exchange snapchats and stay connected that way. I think it is the modern-day platform to continue relationships,” Langley said.
Online dating becomes more prevalent on college campuses, where 91 percent of students use dating apps, according to a study by Abodo.
“Dating apps are somewhat prevalent on my campus, and contribute to hook up culture. Most people use them just to meet up, but not necessarily date,” Sarah McCandless, Acalanes alumna said.
Online dating, especially on college campuses, promotes ‘hookup culture,’ which emphasizes one-time encounters with no intentions of dating. While online dating apps connote brief relationships, social media encounters more often lead to long term relationships.
“I feel like on dating apps, it is definitely more of a hookup culture whereas if you are meeting people on social media, it is for more innocent reasons,” Langley said.
Many students actively use precaution throughout online encounters.
“I actively don’t post where I live, or other sensitive information on dating apps. It even can be unsafe to link social media accounts, as those contain more sensitive information,” Student 1 said.
Student 2 was conscious of the dangers of Tinder when she registered, thus she was careful with how she presented herself.
“I think that as long as you stay smart about what kinds of pictures you upload and what kinds of conversations you’re having, they’re pretty safe. I didn’t run into any unsafe situations and maybe that’s because I got lucky, but I think part of it was because I used a lot of caution when displaying myself.”
Overall, as social media and the internet increase their influence over our lives, so does online dating. It is important, however, to be vigilant about what information one shares with the world.
“With so much documentation of kids recording everything and having such a large presence on social media, just remember to be very careful, there are always people out there that are going to try to take advantage of you, so be safe,” Busse said.