In an age where everything can be ordered at your fingertips – whether it’s food, COVID-19 testing, or dates – are we realizing a more efficient and effective dating reality? Does the ease with which we can browse local singles options hinder the quality of finding what we are looking for? Both of these issues become more complicated when viewed through the prism of sexuality.
Ari, a third-year student whose name was changed for anonymity because they hadn’t dated their families, gave insight into their experience of being queer on various dating apps including Tinder, Hinge, Bumble and Grindr.
Ari said there’s an inherent community associated with being queer on dating apps — a distinction that’s missing when you’re straight and using dating apps.
“It can be very empowering to see a community and see the people who are part of it, but it can also be very terrifying because it shines a spotlight on you,” Ari said. “[Given] my identity as a person of color, and also [being] queer, I am very, very aware of other queer people around me.
Dating apps have consistently been criticized for perpetuating hookup culture, a phenomenon that encourages college-aged students to abandon the concept of long-term relationships and pursue multiple sex-based encounters.
One element of using these apps while queer is the ability to explore more variety in potential relationships. Matches are not tied to the traditional dating or dating circuit that often happens on dating apps. This could manifest in open relationships or even platonic relationships through apps.
“Pursuing relationships with people is the way I prefer to look [dating apps] because I think it can manifest in very different ways whether it’s intimate or not,” Ari said.
Ari also criticized the way we portray ourselves on dating apps in an age of social media and self-commodification.
“We market ourselves and we market for this digestible brand that we can put on an app, so it’s like, what are you choosing to market for yourself and why did you choose that?” Ari said. “Thinking of ourselves as a brand or something to sell, it can be very difficult to find anything authentic in there because it’s so capitalistic.”
Another anonymous queer student argued that the large amount of people appearing on these apps enhances the dating experience. Yet despite the seemingly endless stream of faces, people still feel there is a lack of choice.
“On Tinder, more interactions happen with men for me, and I feel like Tinder is more geared toward men and hookup culture in particular,” the college student said. “In my experience, if I try to talk to a girl, no one wants to make the first move… Maybe it’s less predatory.”
Hinge, a dating app that lets users enter a variety of information — including built-in sections for their physical characteristics, interests, substance preferences and prompts — takes a different approach compared to apps like Tinder that stick to a purely sweeping approach.
“With Hinge, it’s easier to engage in a queer relationship because there’s more information you’re looking for and looking at,” the student said. “In general, [dating apps] are more conducive to a straight situation [for] connections.
Political science and geography student Zoe Belland shared that she found her girlfriend through Tinder. As the pandemic has limited most people’s ability to get out and form new relationships, Belland first tried using Tinder to form casual relationships. She found it difficult to find people who understood their sexuality and knew what they wanted.
“It was hard to find someone who wasn’t overly romantic or completely removed the sexuality from it,” Belland said. “I think part of it is the age range… A lot of people don’t have queer experiences or don’t come out until college.”
In Belland’s experience, the hookup culture on dating apps doesn’t seem as pervasive for queer women. They argued that there just weren’t as many opportunities for queer women to pursue casual relationships.
“I mean, all dating apps are terrible, but I met [my girlfriend], and it was worth it,” Belland said. “I know a lot of people that it’s worked for…Sometimes it hurts to judge people by their looks, but it helps you connect with people you’re already attracted to.”
Contact contributing editor Rosa Sittig-Bell at [email protected] Twitter: @Rosasittybell
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