The Student View: Online dating


It might feel like we’ve only just got rid of our holiday hangovers (if not the extra weight),but businesses all over the country are eagerly stocking shelves with all things pink and overpriced in anticipation of Valentine’s Day.

With the date falling on a Friday this year, many a student will again find themselves attending whatever traffic light/lock-and-key party is offered by ever-inventive club promoters. Some see these events being as pointless as they are predictable, because students don’t need much encouragement to lock lips with a stranger to the romantic sways of Lil Wayne. But whatever your take on the consumer cringe fest that is 14th February, students are starting to play the dating game by different rules.

According to a 2010 survey, only 20% of female and 17% of male students in the UK expected or even hoped to meet their life partners at university. This suggests an emphasis on casual relationships and that, by deductive reasoning, there must be an awful lot of us here in Oxford aiming for either a Blue or a First.

Clubbing dominates the nightlife at most universities and the combination of beer goggles and conversation-crushing speakers is hardly conducive to a search for lasting love. You’d be hard pushed to find any student headed to Wahoo with hopes of finding “The One”; night-time encounters tend to mean short-term, lasting for hours or even minutes.

And, apparently, this scenario is more than satisfying for many students, since we continue to make up the lion’s share of clubs’ custom. But since the decline of the pub, there are many looking for a new way to meet people in a somewhat less intense environment.

Enter Tinder – the mobile app which has sparked a craze. Spreading like wildfire from California, the site has averaged over two and half million daily users since the beginning of the year.

This new dating app gets users to select or reject nearby singles based on pictures and mutual interests, which it finds via Facebook. It is not the first popular app with the aim of improving its users’ love lives. Grindr, Tinder’s lustier, male-only predecessor, has been around since 2009.

Meeting your partner online can still have a stigma in some circles, but developments like Tinder might be a step in the direction of change. Dubbed “shallow” by some, but “no-nonsense” by others, the app has been successful in capturing the attention of its 18 -to35-year-old target audience and in normalising the kind of match making that has been smirked at for years.

Dating services made the leap from the back pages of newspapers to the forefront of the web a long time ago and recent figures show that over one fifth of new relationships in the UK begin online.

Online dating website eHarmony, though miles away from the non-committal platforms of Tinder and Grindr, has been responsible for nearly 4% of recent US marriages and matches users based on personality profiles.

A single friend recently remarked that the dating culture at university is “practically non-existent”. This certainly doesn’t have to be the case. Maybe it’s time for our generation to begin to embrace the technological alternative.


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