How Tinder’s New Feature Changes the Dating Game on the Forty Acres

On a college campus your smartphone can check you into class, hold your digital textbooks, and—even at a school with 40,000 students—it can help you find your college sweetheart. Whether they’re using Tinder, Bumble, or another platform, even freshmen taking their first steps on campus can download a dating app and line up five potential dates on their walk from Gearing to Greg.

Most of these apps work on a double-opt-in system where both users have to swipe right on each other to “match” and begin messaging. The app got its start on college campuses in 2012 and on Aug. 21 they went back to school with the launch of Tinder U. The feature allows students to sign up with verified .edu emails and find other students to match with; it’s also meant to capitalize on 18-24 year olds who make up half of Tinder’s user base.

Normally, when signing up for the app, users fill out a profile with photos, a short bio, and a list of preferences including age range, distance, and gender preference. By choosing to opt into Tinder U, students can find matches who attend their school rather than people in the general Austin population. But, for the most part, most students seem to have been using the app this way before the Tinder U launch. Whether it’s because they’re already searching for other 18-22 year olds or because their distance settings are set for nearby, many students have been finding matches on campus for the past few years.

When recent graduate Caleb Attwell, BSA ’18, arrived at UT four years ago, he was coming from Waller, Texas—a small town outside of Houston with a population of fewer than 3,000. There, he had no reason to use Tinder—everyone already knew each other. But after moving to Austin, he signed up early in his freshman year.

“When I got to college Tinder seemed like a way around the whole ‘Is she interested? Is she not?’ obstacle to hitting things off,” Attwell says. “You can find someone to talk to or date from your living room without having to risk approaching someone and getting shot down.”

The app definitely made it easier to meet people and explore the city, but there were some glaring drawbacks. There was always the risk of being “catfished”—the term used for when the person you’re speaking to online is lying about their identity— or getting ready for a date just to meet up with someone who didn’t quite look like the photos in their profile. But more than that, even if he did find someone he wanted to keep dating, there was a stigma about finding a girlfriend on Tinder.

“If I had friends that I knew might take it the wrong way, I would usually tell them I met my date through other friends or at a party,” Attwell says.

A quick scan through a few Tinder bios, “Just looking for friends,” “Not looking for anything serious,” “Serious inquiries only”—reveals that even though the app makes it easy to meet new people, finding someone who’s on the same page as you can be a bit more challenging.

“I think nowadays most people on Tinder are looking for more of a relationship. It used to be a good mix of people looking for hookups, dates, relationships, but I think with some guys being a little creepy or harassing, it’s scorned people over to Bumble, a dating app where girls have to make the first move,” Attwell says.

Biology and Spanish senior Emmy Coffey started using Tinder and Bumble after getting out of a relationship. After seeing friends use Tinder the first few years of college, she was excited to have some fun and meet new people.

“It was a great way to get some confidence after a break up,” Coffey says. “People would send really nice messages. They seemed excited to talk to me and take me out on dates.”

There were a few creepy messages or unwarranted photos, but for the most part, Coffey said she thinks she got more serious inquiries because of her bio—no winky faces, no emojis, just “biology student.”

Despite the more serious bio, she still had to deal with a few bad dates and swiped left on more than a few guys taking low-lit bathroom-mirror selfies or overly posed “stock photo-like” shots. There was the date she knew was going nowhere five seconds in, the dentist who told corny jokes that reminded her of her dad, and the guy who she let down gently only for him to ask if she had ever heard of “friends with benefits.”

Overall though, she kept using it because it let her meet people she wouldn’t normally interact with. She describes herself as a studious biology major who likes to stay in and watch movies rather than going out. But these apps pushed her outside of her comfort zone and made her get out more.

“I’m the type of person that likes to spend weekends inside, so how can I meet people that way?” Coffey said. “With dating apps, I could find someone completely different than me, someone I might never meet in my classes.”

 
 
 

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