Tinder, Grindr, OkCupid, the list goes on. There are countless apps and websites aimed at finding companionship, and frankly, it’s weird. Swiping through pages of people, judging by a photo and whatever other information they’ve listed on their profile, doesn’t seem very natural.
People with similar opinions seem to be in the minority. Location-based apps like Tinder have surged in popularity over the past few years. When online dating was first introduced in the early 2000s, the general consensus was that it was solely for desperate, middle-aged divorcees—or weirdoes. However, the online dating culture has completely shifted to the mainstream with the surge in popularity of location-based dating apps.
For the handful of those who don’t know anything about mobile dating apps, here’s a quick rundown:
There are different apps for different audiences. For example, Tinder and OkCupid are customizable and open to anyone, regardless of a user’s gender or sexual orientation, while apps like Grindr and Adam4Adam are specifically geared towards gay men looking for other gay men.
Although each app is slightly different, they all have the same premise. Location-based apps use your phone’s GPS to determine your location in proximity to other users who match the basics of what you’re looking for—usually gender, orientation and distance.
From there, it’s all about first impressions. Users make quick decisions about their interest in other users based on photos and whatever other information they include on their profile. If both users give each other the thumbs up, they are considered a match, and given the ability to contact one-another.
It’s that simple. And that simplicity has created some problems for our generation.
Recent WSU alum Anthony Scamihorn has used various dating apps and websites since high school. He says having quick and easy access to hookups can quickly turn into a negative.
“As many times as you get what you want, that sort of builds up and you become callused,” Scamihorn said. “I was celibate for a while because I was sick of feeling used from just hooking up with people. I guess those positive experiences kind of accumulated into a negative experience. It made me re-evaluate myself and the way I respect and treat other men.”
“It really just depends what you’re into,” a 21-year-old student said speaking on condition of anonymity. “One night me and a couple of friends thought it would be interesting to have a foursome. It was like two in the morning, but we found someone on Grindr and he just came over.”
Yes, people use dating apps for different reasons. Whether it’s a hunt for a one-night hookup or your next long-term lover, users go into meet-ups pretty blind. While many users have tons of positive experiences using mobile dating apps, the negative experiences can be pretty scary and tough to ignore.
With so many nearly blind encounters, users are bound to encounter the occasional creep. Scamihorn found himself in a scary situation when meeting up with someone at a hotel that he met on a mobile dating app.
“When I got to the hotel, there were three other people in the room already. Everyone was just drinking and smoking in this hotel room. I was pretty drunk and I didn’t really understand what was going on and I didn’t know why I was there,” Scamihorn said.
His initial uncertainty about the situation proved true when another person in the room decides to warn him.
“He told me ‘you don’t know this guy, but he’s HIV positive, and it’s in his interest to infect another person with HIV,’” Scamihorn said. “I was just so shocked, and I felt sick to my stomach. He was like ‘you need to get out of here. You don’t belong here and I think you knew that from the start.’”
Situations like this, while scary, don’t usually turn people away from dating apps for good. The ease and simplicity of location-based dating apps can prove to be addicting. Scamihorn admits to using some type of location-based dating app every day.
“Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, and I guess apps like this are supposed to make it easier for you to find people. I really just recommend not wasting your time,” Scamihorn said. “But at the same time, it’s not unhealthy to put yourself out there. You never know who you’re going to meet.”