Memphians reflect on problems, successes with dating apps

By Jon Bell and Natalie Brewer

The choices seem to be unlimited, looking at picture after picture and reading short bio after short bio.

“12 out of 10 moms recommend bringing me home. Also, I’m not very good at math.”

“tbh I just want to get some free chipotle out of this”

After observing a few photos, a bio and other limited information, a crucial but simple decision is made — to swipe left or right. Hopefully a right swipe lands a match and starts a conversation.

“Titanic. Sorry, that was a bad icebreaker. What’s up.”

“Haha well aren’t you clever!”

This can be the start of something as big as a marriage, maybe it is just a hookup or the messages may stop and never start again. But it all depends on what each person is looking for — dating apps present options.

Although many people use the apps for the options they allow, there are problems that may come with using dating apps. People know about the big, highly publicized problems like catfishing, sexual assaults and stalkers. These other issues are less noticeable but more common.

There is a sigma that the apps are most commonly used to hookup. Some people use the apps as a way to hide their flaws, and there actually might be too many people to choose from.

Free dating apps, such as Tinder and Bumble, have gained popularity in the course of the last few years, and the number of daily users has grown by 69 percent in the past 12 months according to Techburg and Wandera.

Most people in the United States that use free dating apps are between the ages of 18-24, which make up 19 percent of users. They are using the apps to form relationships or friendships, to have casual hookups or even out of curiosity.

This may not sound like a big problem, but to many, dating apps have gained the reputation of being hookup sites. While there are people that use dating apps for hooking up, most users do not.

Chia-chen Yang, an assistant professor of educational psychology at the UofM, said that studies and surveys show that most users do not use dating apps for sexual relations, but for romantic relationships. The apps only present an unconventional way for meeting new people — for whatever purposes they prefer.

Yang researches young people’s use of social media and its association with their social experiences as well as identity/self-development.  She said that the apps have not changed people’s thoughts on hooking up. Those who were doing it before the apps might use the app for hooking up, but those who were not, use the app for a different purpose.

Hiding one’s true self

Andrew McDonald, a University of Memphis student, uses the apps as a way to meet people but has an open mind on where a match can lead. He has had his “best relationship of his life,” hookups and gained good friends.

But with all the good that has come from the app, he has noticed something that can be considered good or bad, depending on the person

McDonald and others can only see select photos and communicate with messages on the app, at least until other information is exchanged. That makes it easy for anyone to lie about who they are — or at least not tell the truth.

No, this is not about catfishing, but it is not completely different. People become braver behind a screen.

McDonald also said that some people only post their best photos, talk with more confidence and even become different people behind a screen.

“I feel like people get brave behind the screen,” McDonald said. “I know I say things that I wouldn’t usually say in person.”

Again these may sound good at first, but what happens once people meet in person?

Chip Malone, a Mississippi State University student and Memphis native, made a phone call to get a friend out of a “Tinder date” because the match did not look like her photos or act like she did on Tinder.

His friend met the match at her apartment but was surprised at the difference between her profile photos and what she actually looked and acted like.

Malone receive a “code red” message from his friend, which means call in 15 minutes with an emergency.

“I have had to make three flat tire calls in the past two years,” Malone said.

Too many choices

With so many people to choose from, the options seem limitless, which seems like a great thing because there are plenty of fish in the Tinder sea. But too many choices can lead people to be dissatisfied with their decision.

Because there is a large amount of people to choose from, according to Yang, people regret the decision they made because of all the other options. She said a recent study suggested that when two groups of people were given different sized options, the ones with the smaller pool to choose from were happier with their decisions.

Like McDonald, UofM student Rebecca Irby has used the apps with varying levels of success. She had had a few relationships, hookups and friendships form from matches.

She started using dating apps as soon as she turned 18 because it was an “adult thing to do.” She was the first of her friend group to use Tinder and Bumble, and she likes to keep her options open while using the apps.

“I don’t want to get into anything too fast,” Irby said. “I like to see what else is available.”

Anna Hein, a UofM student and former bumble user, agrees that there are too many people to choose from. She started using the app about year ago and decided to delete her account after a few months.

“There were so many guys to swipe on, and too many matches to keep up with,” Hein said. “It felt weird talking to a lot of guys a once.”

Hein said that the process of swiping on and talking to a lot of people at the same time was too much for her. She decided that using Bumble was not the best way for her to meet new people.

While there is a “hookup” stigma surrounding free dating apps, millions of people decide to use them for different reasons. With millions of people using the apps, there are bound to be issues. There may be some liars or behind-the-screen heroes out there, but most people that use the app are who they say are. In fact, there may be too many good people to choose from.

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