Almost every Tinder date I go on is with someone I already know. A few weeks ago, I was swiping through the app when I saw an acquaintance. After exchanging a few messages, he asked me, “Why are you on here?” I replied, “I only really use Tinder to match with people I already know.” He replied, “That’s weird.”
I had never evaluated my presence on dating apps until someone specifically asked me to. Thinking about the dates I went on recently, I realized I used Tinder and Bumble primarily to match with people I already knew because I feel more confident and safe that way.
At the beginning of the semester, I sat behind a guy I found attractive in class. Due to my shyness, I never would have talked to him in person. But when I saw him on Tinder, we matched, messaged, and ended up going on two dates. Tinder gave me the confidence to talk to someone I already knew but wouldn’t have spoken to otherwise.
I wouldn’t categorize myself as an insecure person, but my confidence wavers a bit in new situations or with new people. Though I have met partners in-person or through friends, I find more comfort in swiping through profiles or exchanging messages over an app. Walking up to someone and asking them out allows for flat out, face-to-face rejection, whereas dating apps wipe away the feeling of harsh rejection. An ignored message or even a “no” can be forgotten easily.
In the age of technology, everything from networking to ordering food can be done at the swipe of a finger. Older generations are quick to chastise millennials for their phone use and anti-social nature because of it. Research backs them up—a 2015 Pew Research Center study found that 89 percent of cell phone owners used their phone during the most recent social gathering they attended, and 30 percent admitted to using it to avoid social interaction. While I see the downsides, I also view technology as a positive tool.
In my experience, hiding behind a screen on a dating app allows for easier and more genuine interaction. Perhaps it is a crutch for social insecurity, but the reality is that people aren’t always as confident in dating as they could be.
As an introverted person, I take comfort in using my phone as a social aid, especially with dating. Tinder is a safe space for low-risk human interaction.
Joseph Walther from the University of California has researched the effects of online communication with others and found it gives people a sense of control. People can decide how they present themselves and their information online and can take more time in their responses to another person, thus allowing self-reflection and accurate self-expression which some find difficult in face-to-face communication. This is the exact reason why many people rely on dating apps to form connections.
Online dating also evens the playing field. The internet exists in a plane free of traditional societal norms, according to Walther’s research, and allows people to be more honest and authentic. Instead of the typical perception of online communication being impersonal, Walther describes it as “hyperpersonal” because people tend to form deeper connections and ignore superficial social boundaries put in place. I have also found this to be the case—I am more comfortable being open with new people over the internet as opposed to in-person. Being able to talk on an app first helps me when meeting people in person because I already know what to expect.
Aside from the increased confidence to talk to new people, online dating apps also make many feel more desirable and wanted from the attention they receive on an app.
I am introverted and awkward, and sometimes I do things so weird I dwell on them for hours. For me, dating apps help reduce some of that insecurity and allow me to show my authentic self when meeting new people. And I don’t believe I’m alone in this belief.