College love: only a swipe away?

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By Kimberly Wethal

Feb. 10, 2016

The pressure’s on.

Walmart’s aisles have transformed from the leftover holiday misfit toys to pink and red boxes of chocolate and teddy bears holding hearts with the sappy “I love you” message boyfriends and girlfriends can’t reiterate in person. As the days go by, Aunt Linda’s small talk from Thanksgiving dinner rings in your ears: “so, haven’t found anybody yet?”

UW-Whitewater Empower has the answer for lonely students: a Speed Dating event, going from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 10 in the University Center Old Main Ballroom, room 275.

“There’s a lot of people on campus who deserve to find the person that they’re meant to be with,” Rondeau said. “A lot of people have trouble finding a significant other, and we’re just trying to give them a helping hand, and to make that process a little bit easier.”

Admission to the event costs a dollar.

“Only a dollar to find your true love?” Rondeau said. “That’s not that bad.”

It’s frustrating for students to be single no matter what day of the year it is, University Health Counseling Services (UHCS) licensed counselor Gwen Hering said, but the holidays are especially hard.

“With Valentine’s Day coming up, students will sometimes have a sibling that’s now in a relationship, or a roommate,” Hering said. “If they don’t, they can feel a lonely, sad feeling too.”

The UHCS counselors and staff help students with relationships and breakups on a daily basis, Hering said.

With social media’s daily prevalence in the average UW-W student’s life, the process of finding a significant other on campus has changed.

Mobile “dating” apps like Tinder, OkCupid and Grindr allow for an unlimited amount of potential dates for students while retaining a level of anonymity, and reduces the feeling of rejection felt from a face-to-face romantic encounter, Hering said.

Romance hasn’t gone completely digital yet – students still meet one another through mutual friends and at social events like the generations before them, UHCS Wellness Coordinator Whitney Henley said.

Online dating is a lot harder than swiping left or right for members of the LGBT community. PB Poorman Pride Center intern and IMPACT president Chelsie Sweeney said many online dating apps aren’t tailored towards people who identify as other than heterosexual.

“A lot of dating websites are very heteronormative,” Sweeney said. “A lot of them are focused on men meeting women … it’s just not geared towards lesbian women. I’m not in a place in my life where I’m looking for something [on dating apps,] but if I were, I’d be really frustrated.”

In life dating is hard too, she said, because you can’t just walk into any bar in Wisconsin and hit on a woman – the chances are stacked that she’s straight, Sweeney said.

Even when you do match with someone in your limited pool to choose from, it’s still not completely genuine.

“The thing that I find most difficult about online dating, as a person who’s queer, is that a lot of times, online dating is meant for sex, to be blunt about it,” Sweeney said. “But ultimately, when you’re swiping left and right, what do you think you’re thinking with? Not your heart … it’s your genitals.”

Swipe first, ask questions later

Students are more connected than ever when it comes to dating, but are finding it harder to connect.

Henley sees students lacking in their ability to engage in interpersonal communication when they use social media in general, but especially with dating apps. The problem comes into play when words and actions of those on either side of the screen don’t quite match up.

“It’s instantaneous, but easily misinterpreted,” Henley said.

While Tinder is a fairly new phenomenon for students that UCHS has had to adapt to in turn, online dating is not.

They’ve seen students use online dating for the past five years as a part of the search for the love of their life, or maybe just the night. Neither Henley nor Hering have seen much success come away from the online dating apps for students, though, because they see plenty of students not taking it seriously.

“It’s almost like students regard it as silly or entertaining,” Henley said.

Despite online dating being seen as ridiculous and unrealistic, it can have very real consequences for those who use the services. The act of judging someone at face value, rather than the aspects of their personality, can lead to a loss of self-esteem and confidence, even if you find yourself overwhelmed with the number of people interested in you, Henley said.

“It’s even stressful if lots of people swipe right for you,” Henley said. “You’re just being judged on your looks, and you have all these people seeking you out for this one photo, and not for who you really are.”

The trend of online dating isn’t always the monster it’s depicted to be, however; for students with busy lifestyles, it serves as an outlet to get to know people outside their social circles, Rondeau said.

“A lot of people are using apps like Tinder and Grindr, or whatever it may be, to try to find somebody they can match up with,” he said. “I think it’s because it’s a really quick way to go through as many people as they can at face value … a lot of it at college has to do with speed and convenience.”

The appeal of online dating and Empower’s event is the anonymity participants feel, and the reduced amount of stress coupled along with it. Whether it’s a match made at Speed Dating or a swipe right, it serves as a confidence boost to know whether someone likes you or not, and not be left questioning.

“In an event like this or on an app like Tinder, you can simply say, ‘No thanks, I’m not interested,’” Rondeau said. “It’s tough to move past it with the awkward factor, so I think that’s why more people are interested in online dating these days.”