To download or delete; to swipe right or swipe left; to ghost her or slide into her DMs. Why didn’t I match with her? Am I unattractive? Will I ever meet anyone? These are the questions we constantly ask ourselves. They’re exhausting. And we need to take breaks.
In 2016, Penn was named one of the top schools for online dating by The Grade, as well as the most attractive Ivy on Tinder by Business Insider. We are at the epicenter of a major part of the hookup culture that has come to define our generation: dating apps.
Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, The League — pick your poison. Penn can be lonely, and it’s difficult to meet people here organically. These apps sometimes provide relief from what feels like a stale hookup and dating scene. Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge the added challenge for queer students, many of whom feel they don’t have a place in the heteronormative party scene where hookups tend to occur. Many queer students, like myself, feel compelled to use these apps to meet people they’re interested in sexually.
But an online world of people seeking sex with no strings attached, waiting to pass judgement on our appearances, can be toxic.
Researchers from the University of Amsterdam found that casual sex was one of the top two reasons people use Tinder. What’s more, Tinder reported that its users spend an average of 90 minutes per day on the app. Ninety minutes of evaluating the attractiveness of potential matches, hoping the ones we like swipe right for us too. These apps damage our self-esteem. They reduce us to a couple of pictures, short bios, and statistics.
There’s a certain shame that can come with using apps like Tinder. Some of our friends criticize us and laugh when we confess to using them. These people are wrong to tease us. Apps offer an efficient way to connect with people; they allow members of the LGBTQ community to meet one another, which can be difficult in real life; they make it easier for introverts to assert themselves. Completely abandoning dating apps would be unrealistic. Instead, we need to understand and acknowledge the toll they take on our mental health and remember to unplug every once in a while.
By taking a break from dating apps, we allow ourselves to avoid the stress they induce, gain some perspective, be more present, and try to forge more organic connections with people. Temporarily removing ourselves from these sometimes harmful online environments is important. It gives us the opportunity to assert control over dating apps, instead of allowing them to dictate our thoughts and feelings.
Tinder and its competitors are addictive. We seek validation through swiping. Who doesn’t want to feel desired? But the compulsion to swipe and match with others stimulates a great deal of anxiety.
By participating in these apps, we open ourselves up to the hateful opinions of others. Perhaps it may come as a surprise that Tinder has taken one of the greatest tolls on men. Its regular users are more likely to have body image and self-esteem issues. Dating apps also can facilitate racism. Researchers from the University of North South Wales in Sydney, Australia found that 15 percent of gay men on Grindr included sexual racism on their profiles. Users pepper their bios with phrases like “black=block” and “no gaysians.”
There’s no question that these apps are dangerous. Still, permanently deleting them isn’t the best answer. While it might be ideal to meet people in real life, online dating is becoming reality. I’ve deleted and redownloaded Tinder and criticized my indecision when it comes to dating apps. I don’t see this cycle ending any time soon.
ISABELLA SIMONETTI is a College freshman from New York. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.