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Swipe Right, Bumble, eHarmony, OH MY: Healthy Ways to Navigate Online Dating

By Alex Kinder

According to Forbes Magazine , there are nearly 2,500 online dating services in the United States vying for space amongst the 90 million single people between the ages of 19 and 45.  During a national survey of about 5,000 college students, ABODO posted that nearly 91.1% of college students are utilizing an online dating service, with 84.4% of them endorsing Tinder as their most used online dating service. Not only are college age students (18-30) downloading online dating apps and creating a profile, they are frequenting the apps an estimated ten hours a week. This post will focus on  healthy ways to navigate online dating, as well as research and statistics about college student use of online dating services.

Why do College Students Use Online Dating Services?

Rumor has it that college is the place to swipe, hook-up, and repeat. Common complaints amongst college students revolve around how awful dating in college is, and how most people just want to hook-up without committing. But, is that really why college students are using online dating services? Nearly 91% of college students using an online dating service report that they are not using the app for hookups. Most of those surveyed endorsed entertainment as the number one reason for app use, with ego boost, casual dating, and love also endorsed. 

How College Students Use Dating Apps? - 4% use apps to meet potential dates. 84% of dating app users are on Tinder, 34% are on tinder for entertainment, 91% aren't using apps for hookups, 27% report harassment on apps

Image from: Global Dating Insights

You Matched, Now What?

That is obviously up for the user to decide. Do you reach out first? Do you wait for them to reach out? Every person using an online dating app will use it differently. For those who chat with their match and intend to meet up, there are a few important steps to take to keep yourself safe. This may seem paranoid and morbid, but you have never met this person and it is crucial to take steps to protect yourself in the event the date isn’t going well.

No Catfish Here

Be sure the person is who they say they are. Google, Facebook, Instagram galore. Check out their social media to be sure they are who they say they are. Ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable; you are in charge of your dating life! 

Meeting Up

Meet in a public place first, and always let someone know where you are going. This is just good practice, online dating or not. When you are meeting someone new for the first time be sure a trustworthy friend knows where you are and who you are with.  

Don't Reveal Too Much Personal Information

You are in charge of the information you want to share on the first, second, third date and beyond. Build trust with your date before divulging too much about yourself.

Set Boundaries

If someone is harassing you, end the connection. A study by ABODO found that 35.5% of women and 14.1% of men experienced harassment while using an online dating service. Online dating apps users of GRINDER and OKCUPID reported that they experienced harassment at alarmingly high rates – 50% and 40%, respectively.  

Revealing Images

Once those images are sent you cannot get them back. If you are going to send revealing images of yourself, be sure they are going to someone you trust with them.

Let's Talk about Sex, Baby 

You swiped, met, and have decided to go home with your date. Be sure to take precautions to protect yourself from STIs and STDs. Condoms, birth control, and regular check-ups are a great way to ensure your safety. Don’t hesitate to ask your date when the last time they were checked – not only are you in charge of your dating life, you are in charge of your sex life, too! 

Don't Forget to Put Your Phone Down

Despite the overwhelming amount of online dating services, ABODO reports that 95% of college students still want to meet their potential partners offline. That is, the majority of single students on a college campus would prefer to go on a date with a person they met while stuck on the PRT, dancing with at the bar, or your new lab partner, rather than an online dating service. So, let this serve as a gentle reminder to put your phone down and look up; your next date could be walking right by you!

Black and white drawing of people texting on their cell phones with emojis

Alex is a 3rd year doctoral candidate in Counseling Psychology at WVU. She is a supervised advanced trainee at the Carruth Center where she provides individual counseling, as well as testing and assessment evaluations to students. She has read about and presented on social media use, in the context of social comparison amongst peers and how that may affect one’s mental wellbeing. When Alex isn’t in class or at the Carruth Center you can find her outside with her dog, spending time with friends, or at a WVU sporting event. 


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