By Frieda Greenthal: Program Intern
Popularity of Dating Apps
Finding romantic and sexual partners can be a stressful part of life for many people, but the world of dating apps has offered a means to make it easier. Dating apps are location-based applications individuals can access from their mobile devices that allow users to upload photos and personal information they want to include in their personalized profile. Users can view others’ profiles to connect, message, and potentially meet in person. The use of dating apps is especially common among younger adults. In 2017, 61% of Americans ages 18 to 29 reported having used dating apps within their lifetimes. On Tinder, a popular dating app, users swipe right or left on another user’s profile to indicate if they are interested. If both users swipe right, they will “match” and are then able to message one another. Other popular dating apps include OkCupid, Hinge, Match, PlentyOfFish, and Bumble. Some dating apps are also geared towards specific populations. For example, Grindr is a dating app for individuals who identify as gay, bisexual, trans, and queer.
Potential Risks Dating Apps Can Pose
While dating apps can make finding a potential romantic or sexual partner more convenient, they also pose risks to their users. The nature of technology allows for people to act, look, and communicate on apps in ways they may not in person. Research on cyberbullying implies that it is easier for people to feel anonymous, and forget or dismiss traditional social pressures, morals, and ethics, when behind a computer or phone screen Such behavior applies to the use of dating apps as well. Dating app users must be conscientious when initially meeting with a “match,” as users can provide falsified information or photographs on their profiles. Further, dating apps reveal personal information about users, which others users can access and potentially misuse.
Consent on Dating Apps
Many users of dating apps also assume that because someone is on the app, they are looking to have sex, which may lead to an assumption of consent. While some people use dating apps only looking to have sex, the reality is that this represents a small minority of users. Still, research shows that a majority of people have the perception that the purpose of apps, such as Tinder, are for casual sex, or hookups. Users must not assume anyone else’s intentions in using a dating app. Even if two users agree that they both want to have sex over messaging on an app, consent must be continuously established throughout their time together in person as well. Users should use dating apps as they choose, as long as they are doing so safely and consensually.
How to Safely Use Dating Apps
All users on dating apps have the responsibility to use the apps safely, consensually, and respectfully. Users should not assume anyone else’s intentions, and they should also be clear with other users about their own intentions in using the app. Communicating clearly with others is key to healthy interactions, especially on technology, where in-person verbal and visual cues may be lost. A little research about other users goes a long way. When users first connect, they should look on Google and social media for inconsistencies between information on these sites and a user’s dating app profile. However, users should also be cautious not to reveal anything too personal on the apps, such as place of work or home address. If users are unresponsive or express disinterest, others should not continue to pursue them. Before meeting or chatting on a different platform, users should first chat on the app to get a sense of whom they are speaking with. Once users plan to meet up, they should meet in a safe, public place and make sure someone trusted knows when and where they are meeting. Lastly, some apps allow users to send pictures. Users should ask their matches if sending any type of pictures is okay with them and should refrain if it is not. Users should report and/or block any users who make them uncomfortable or violate safe practices.
Visit these sites for more tips on how to safely use dating apps:
Elazab, B. S. (2018, May 03). Sexual Assault & Online Dating Apps: What You Can Do To Stay Protected. Retrieved March 7, 2018, from https://safer-america.com/sexual-assault-online-dating-apps-what-you-can-do-to-stay-protected/
Winkelman, S. (2018, October 08). The Best Dating Apps of 2018. Retrieved from https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/best-dating-apps/
About Grindr. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.grindr.com/about/
Calvete, E., Orue, I., Estévez, A., Villardón, L., & Padilla, P. (2010). Cyberbullying in adolescents: Modalities and aggressors’ profile. Computers in Human Behavior, 26(5), 1128-1135. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2010.03.017
Seidman, G., Ph.D. (2017, June 11). Is Tinder Really a Hookup App? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/close-encounters/201706/is-tinder-really-hookup-app