Michelle Siddiqui/ The Paisano
Is your name Wifi? Because we have a connection.
Keeping consistent with the style of online dating profiles, only the first names of the following people interviewed will be provided.
According to a Pew Research Center survey on online dating and relationships, one in 10 Americans ages 18 to 24 and one in five adults ages 25 to 34 have used an online dating application or website.
Familiarity with online dating has increased as well, consequently peaking curiosity which continues to attract people to the sites. The Pew Research Center reports that 42 percent of Americans who have not used online dating know someone who has.
Convenient Internet access and a market of adults ready to swipe their phone screens for a love connection has inspired new online dating markets for young adults. The online and application dating platform fuses style elements from social media and interactive games.
Different sites cater to different audiences — those looking for a casual fling, those looking to meet new people and those looking for a serious commitment.
According to a 2013 survey taken from the Pew Research Center, a greater percentage of men than women are online daters. For that reason, some male users claim that sites and apps that hinge on superficial selection give women an unfair advantage.
“It’s definitely a girl’s market for sure,” said UTSA student Angel about Tinder, a free mobile matchmaking application. “I got a lot of matches and messages. But (only) when they’d say something interesting or funny I’d respond.”
Since the app’s launch in 2012, Tinder reports that over 1.5 billion profiles have been created, rated and ranked. Additionally, the company estimates that approximately 70 percent of users began conversing through the application after they have been matched.
Tinder offers users who have “liked” one another the options to “send a message,” “keep playing,” or “tell your friends.” Tinder, similar to earlier apps like Hot or Not and Grindr, accesses its users GPS data to suggest matches in a user-specified radius.
To say hello may be the hardest part. “Guys are expected to make the first move; just saying ‘hey ’ doesn’t cut it,” said UTSA student and online dater Bryan.
“I would only message someone if I had a couple of talking points — I can’t tell you how many people I message and got ignored. A good, descriptive profile is important.”
OkCupid, a free online matchmaking website, allows its users a longer biographical section and allows users to browse from a list of other users in the area.
Tinder, like its predecessor app Hot or Not, is listless; users either swipe right or swipe left depending on their initial attraction to the other user. However, an influx of matches and messages may overwhelm users. For example, within 48 hours, a female UTSA junior English major with two photos and a one-line biography received over 100 Tinder messages.
“I met a couple of really nice guys on Tinder and on OkCupid as well, but it just seemed so superficial. Most guys are just trying to get laid,” said Angel, who was an active online dater for only a few months.
The Pew Research Center reports that 60 percent of online daters have been on a date with someone they first met online. Paid matchmaking site eHarmony touts that they have fostered over 600,000 marriages since its 2000 launch with a 3.8 percent divorce rate. Tinder stated that it does not keep track of the connections or relationships made on the app, but rather its main focus is to connect people.
“Online, someone may not seem very shy, but in person they may be,” Angel said.
“You can put up a front online and pretend to be someone you are not. But you cannot keep that (lie) up in person.”
Members of paid sites such as eHarmony and Match.com and free sites such as OkCupid are required to answer a more extensive questionnaire than are those who register on free mobile applications such as Tinder.
Tinder offers its users 500 characters for a bio and accesses users Facebook information, photos and current location to offer selections. Pew reports that over half of online daters have felt that someone else “seriously misrepresented” themselves in their profiles.
A 2013 survey for the Pew’s Internet and American Life Project reports that 42 percent of female online daters have reported being contacted or pursued by someone online or on a dating app in a manner that made them feel uncomfortable or harassed. Seventeen percent of male online daters also reported this experience.
“I was way too trusting of someone who, in truth, was a stranger,” said UTSA alum and an elementary school teacher Mindy. “I only had Tinder for about three days.”
During that period, Mindy exchanged phone numbers with a man she met on the app. The two met in person and began dating.
“After Christmas I learned that he was completely mentally unstable,” said Mindy. “Our break up was awful. He threatened to kill himself and show up at my house at all hours of the night. It’s been weeks, and I still get Snapchats from random screen names that he’s made up everyday.”
Mindy acknowledges her exceptionally negative experience is an anomaly. “The danger of online dating, I guess,” Mindy said. “I’ve learned first hand that technology is giving us a fabricated trust in strangers. Online dating is fine as long as you understand that just like in real life, people aren’t how they always seem.”