Dating Apps @ Dartmouth

Friendsy has developed a loyal user base at Dartmouth, which was one of the first colleges with access to the app

Friendsy has developed a loyal user base at Dartmouth, which was one of the first colleges with access to the app

Dating apps. Almost everyone with a smartphone has them or has had them in the past. As infectious as the STDs that their users hopefully are upfront and honest about, these iPhone and Android applications purport to assist users in the search for friendships, companionships, and relationships. The notion of the “dating app” does not have its own place in the iPhone App store, but these geosocial networking apps can be found everywhere from the Lifestyle to Social Networking sections. It is difficult to discern exactly what portion of the market each app owns, but it’s safe to say that two apps, Tinder and Grindr, are preferred by a sizable portion of dating app users.

Grindr—far and away the most popular of the apps discussed in this article—occupies the number one spot on the App Store’s paid Social Networking chart. Over 10 million users worldwide downloaded “the world’s largest mobile gay dating and social network.” Although a modest effort was made, I could not find a user of the app to comment on the quality and nature of the relationships formed by the men on Grindr.

Tinder, the dominant app among heterosexual users, is something I can offer more personal commentary on. Although perhaps personal experience is not the most objective standpoint from which to write, one reason I felt compelled to write this article is the silence, embarrassment, and shame that can be easily sensed once you begin asking people,

Do you use dating apps?

They stutter and stammer and scroll through their phone hesitantly, trying to recall if they’d deleted the app or just stored it in a folder labelled “Social.” I used Tinder for over a year and then deleted it last week. After allowing the time I spent swiping to percolate as an experience, I look back at my vain online adventures with an unexpectedly severe feeling of remorse. Not only did I fail to form anything other than uninteresting conversation, but—as I learned while exploring this topic—I could be systematically categorized alongside a whole group of people that “just uses the app to see who thinks I’m hot.” I cringe at the vanity I displayed and I wonder about the degree to which these apps can affect our perception of the opposite sex.

After instantly judging hundreds of girls online with simple finger swipes, it becomes second nature to make the same snap-decisions everywhere you look. But conducting your life based on superficial and rash judgements diminishes one’s ability to make meaningful connections with others.

From the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, the noun ‘sonder’ means “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.”

Although this dictionary implicitly categorizes the word as a sorrow, there is something invigorating and life-affirming in that definition that counteracts that dictionary’s title. Meeting people is meant to be random and chaotic and to lead you to unexpected places not molded into a cookie-cutter process conducted on apps. The gamification of dating life next to Angry Birds and Clash of Clans cheapens what was previously one of the fundamental pleasures of existence.

For that reason, I deleted the contents of the “Social” folder from my phone. But for those who do not resonate with this crabby perception of dating apps, there are several unique smartphone experiences other than Tinder to select from.

Bumble is a creative approach to a fundamental problem in the Tinder design. While Tinder simply opens the telecommunicative channel between matches and leaves the couple to foster conversation, Bumble saddles the girl with the responsibility of starting the conversation. After a couple matches, the female has twenty four hours to initiate a conversation before the match expires. It prevents the man from coming on too strong or too quickly. However, it can also can be extremely frustrating to be silenced and watch a potential relationship expire helplessly.

The existence of Bumble alone highlights the aggressive nature of the males on dating apps. The connections are frail and ephemeral, and the users are casting a wide-net and playing a rapid-fire numbers game.

Friendsy is a welcome redesign of the dating app that attempts to minimize the sleaze while maximizing the functionality and connections made. I sat down with a Friendsy Campus Rep, Gina Campanelli, to discuss the app and its purpose on campus.

“I think of Friendsy as a cross between Tinder and Facebook, in a way. It is a dating app, but it’s so much more than that,” Gina told me on Tuesday, September 22. “What I really like about Friendsy is that you have the option to select ‘Friends,’ ‘Date,’ or ‘Hook Up.’” You’re really being specific about what you want. With Tinder, there’s a lot of ambiguity because some girls view it as a dating app and some guys view it as a hook up app. It’s nice that on Friendsy, you can say what you want, and then both parties end up having a better understanding of the nature of the relationship.”

In addition to allowing for an additional level of specificity when sorting through potential matches, Friendsy also offers unique insight into club memberships and Greek affiliations. “The coolest feature is that you can search for people based on their majors and the interest groups that they’re in,” Gina explained. “For example, last year I didn’t know any Art History majors, which is what I was planning to study, so I just found some of them on Friendsy and hit the ‘Friends’ option and sent them my hints and started a conversation that way.”

These club groupings don’t just serve as means of sorting but also as means of revealing yourself to potential matches through “hints” that narrow the candidate pool. Unfortunately, leaving your suitors to give clues can be problematic, especially if they’re shy. “That’s one thing I really don’t like about Friendsy. When someone hits the button on you but then they don’t give you any hints. I don’t know who you are. I guess that’s part of the fun.”

Ultimately though, these apps are evidence of larger societal and cultural shifts: “We’re all incredibly busy people, and it’s really hard to make time to meet people, and where do you even start meeting people outside of clubs and classes?”