Are dating apps changing dating culture on college campuses? What are the benefits and downfalls of a dating-app-driven hookup culture? We talked to relationship psychologist Dr. Thomas Bradbury and Bubmle’s college marketing director Bumble Samantha Folger to get some input.
Sound of Music: “Oh Kurt!” “Mhm,” “Do allow me,” *Waltz.*
The Great Gatsby: “You weren’t very nice to me the other night. However, I do want to see you. I could meet in Southampton if you’d like?” *20s music*
Grease: “Hey I always thought there was more to you than fat – you got a date to the dance off?” “No.” “Wanna go?” “Yeah!”
Shannon: Wait … which one is which? Left, right, right, left – Oops! I meant right. Can you go back? Dating has taken many forms over the years, but lately there’s been a lot of buzz about dating apps and the so called “hookup culture” on college campuses. How would you define hook up culture?
Rachel: Hook up culture is like, I guess people aren’t staying monogamous anymore. It’s more like,’Oh I’m gonna swipe right and talk to you for like five seconds and then never again.’”
Haji: you know, viewing hooking up as not something that’s morally wrong but something that … if everyone wants to do it why not take the stigma out of it.
Shannon: This idea has been around for a long time. Since the 1920s actually … in something called the sexual revolution. Technology such as cars, movie theaters, birth control, mixed gender universities and eventually online dating all contributed to a growing culture of casual sexual and romantic encounters. But there’s always been pushback.
Do you think there are downsides to hookup culture?
Rachel: If you get like too invested in someone, you get really sad when they don’t reply to you.
Shannon: I asked clinical psychologist and professor of the Intimate Relationships class, professor Thomas Bradbury to walk us through some of the implications of a dating-app-driven hookup culture.
Bradbury: And by Tinder, you mean swiping right? Yeah, It’s just your face in a sea of pictures … Boy, it’s hard not to root for the old way. And yet I don’t want to seem old fashioned.
Shannon: One of the biggest complaints is that swiping through Tinder objectifies and commoditizes our peers.
Rachel: I don’t know if i would say materialistic but like superficial. Because you are reducing people to like oh this is the shared interest you have. You both like Harry Potter, here’s five pictures of them and they picked these pictures so you can judge them on like these are the five pictures they chose and this is how they are presenting themselves to the world.
Bradbury: People have said that one of the downsides of a lot of dating apps is that it commoditizes people. Like you’re a loaf of bread on a shelf or a car on a lot. You know, that’s not what people are about. People are way more interesting than that. So so much is the vivid image of a person and that’s … surprisingly terrible given all the different ways that people in this world can appear, that so much of the swiping would be determined on physical appearance. But it’s really at this point that you have to realize theres no picture, there’s no small bit of text, there’s no 20 questions i can ask you that will reveal complexity and richness that is you. Nevermind how we might match up in a sort of partnership. Like that is just … A scratch on the scratch on the surface of who an individual is and it’s so limited and so primitive and so oversimplified.
Shannon: Professor Bradbury also pointed out a second, more subtle downfall of dating apps, which is that you lose much of the social support that has always gone into courtship and dating. In the past, the people you chose to date were a part of your social group.
Bradbury: “It was a friend of a friend, and ohhh right they are from the same hometown as my roommate’s sister and so … they are informal networks”
Shannon: Getting feedback from your friends … wanted or unwanted, is important. Your friends often see things about your relationship that neither person in the relationship can see and they have your best interests in mind. Tinder-dating can be contained entirely in your private life … and that could be potentially dangerous.
Bradbury: I think the value of other people in your life; other friends who are going to advise you or parents who you can kind of disclose to and share information with … Those people will always be important.
Shannon: Despite the two very real concerns that Dr. Bradbury just mentioned, a superficial approach to dating and the loss of social support, could there be some upsides to a hookup culture?
Rachel: Oh my God, the benefits of diner dating is that you don’t actually have to talk to a human being. You can just look at them if you want, you don’t even have to answer them.
Haji: You objectify people when you are dating anyways, so I feel like it just takes one step out of it.
Shannon: I was fortunate enough to talk to the director of college marketing at Bumble – a dating app popular among college students. She joined us from New York.
Samantha: My name is Samantha Folger and I’m the director of college marketing at Bumble. So Bumble is social networking app. We launched as a dating app where the girl makes the first move.
Shannon: This is one of their key tenets at Bumble … allowing girls to make the first move. And Samantha says this could be having a broader effect on dating culture.
Samantha: We are proud to say that more than 100 million women have made the first move. We think it is really having an effect on dating culture. It’s giving women the confidence to take it beyond the app. My favorite thing is when a girl tells me she loves Bumble and uses it all the time, but has started to ask guys out in person instead of waiting for him to come to me. That’s what I define as success.
Shannon: The idea that dating apps could catalyze broader changes to dating culture is tempting. But is it really possible to make a meaningful connection over an app?
Samantha: Absolutely. We’ve seen incredible growth and incredible connections. We’ve seen marriages, we’ve seen babies and I really think that Bumble set itself apart because it’s a place for meaningful connections where you share interest. It’s not just what you look like, it’s not just based on your job. It’s based on things that really last, which is shared interest.
Shannon: So how do you do that? How do you leverage an app that only gives you 300 characters and 6 pictures to find true love?
Samantha: Make your Bumble profile recent. Make your picture, you know … We banned mirror selfies because we know nobody likes that. Keep it up to date, make it about you, make it about you. Really try to really showcase your personality in your 6 pictures. You have 6 pictures and a bio to show people who you are so I would really take advantage of that.
Shannon: Dr. Bradbury has some advice too.
Bradbury: Use the tool for what it’s made for and then when you are done stop using the tool.
Shannon: Dr. Bradbury points out that using dating apps to cheat on your girlfriend, to catfish or to make fun of people cheapens the whole deal.
Bradbury: And so i think the skills are people learning how to listen to another person, learning how to really have a civil conversation with someone who has very different points of view than you. And part of what you have to do is just say this is a big crazy world and who am i going to get in my corner. Who is going to be on my team so that he and i, or she and i, sort of see the world together and can sort of gain strength from that.
Shannon: Dating apps provide a platform that can be really powerful … If used correctly they can help break down antiquated dating norms, help people reach others who share their values and interests and even form long-lasting meaningful relationships. It’s not perfect and society is still trying to figure out where dating apps and hookup culture fit into our concepts of love and dating. But you know what they say … Practice makes perfect.
Bradbury: The idea that people are practicing, i actually kind of find inspiring. i actually like the idea because it does take work but when you are 20 years old … that’s fun work.
Shannon: Though there may be significantly less handwritten valentine making and more furious swiping … We should try to keep an open mind. To quote Jane Austen, “There are as many forms of love as there are moments in time”
*I’ve just seen a face” – Across the Universe
Shannon: Reporting for Daily Bruin Radio, I’m Shannon Roux.