After serving in Afghanistan for three months and traveling around Europe for another month, 23-year-old Brent Olson has finally returned back to his old life in Duluth, Minn. Although happy to be home, Olson was missing one thing: a girlfriend. His solution? Downloading the popular dating application, Tinder, on his iPhone to meet a special someone.
“After a couple weeks of scrolling through and either swiping yes or no, I swiped the right yes,” Olson says, referring to his decision to chat with St. Scholastica student Amy Heilman.
Now, a month after chatting through the application, Olson and his Tinder lady are dating.
According to a study in 2013 by Experian, U.S. smartphone users spend 16 percent of their time on social networks, 20 percent texting, and nine percent emailing. During this era of technology, people have utilized their smartphones, tablets, and laptops for more than just scholarly research—they’ve begun searching for love.
With the use of dating sites and various social media forums such as Facebook, users can learn about other people based on their profiles. Many of these sites allow users to learn if the other person is single, what their interests are, and what they look like.
Tai Mendenhall, a medical family therapist and teacher of the intimate relationships class at the University of Minnesota, believes that social dating sites can help save a lot of time when getting to know someone.
“You already know if the person is a dog or cat person, no need to waste a first date on someone who you know instantly is wrong for you,” Mendenhall says.
While dating sites and applications are great for meeting people online, social media sites are also used to help keep long-distance relationships feel, well, not so long-distance. These sites can help couples stay up to date on what their significant other is doing by viewing posts, pictures, and what other people are posting about their counterpart.
But for some, technology isn’t enough. After dating for four years and trying to keep their three-hour long-distance relationship alive, University of Minnesota sophomore Aspen Lundeen has broken up with her boyfriend, Alex.
“Social media helped at first when I moved away,” Lundeen says. “It was a way I could still see him and talk to him without being there. But after a while, it just wasn’t enough and it felt different when we were actually together.”
According to Mendenhall, this loss of physical connection is becoming a more common trend with the increase of social dating applications, websites, and social media forums. In-person flirting has begun to decrease among the technologically savvy, and unfortunately technology can’t provide the same feelings as real human contact and effort.
“Although one of the most romantic things you can get is a random ‘I love you’ text, there is something about the actual effort it takes to write a handwritten note,” Mendenhall says. “It means more, and can’t be sent to 20 other people at the same time.”
Despite the warnings about being scammed by a fake account, chances of an awkward first encounter, and potentially having your heart broken, these fun and interactive sites continue to be a growing trend, spreading from friend to friend, and group to group.
“All my friends were doing it, so I decided, why not?” Olson says about making the choice to join Tinder.
And although Olson does not know many others with his same luck on the dating app, his optimism about the online dating idea seems to be shared by many, enough to keep online dating a growing movement.
“I’m the only one I know who’s actually benefited from Tinder,” he says. “But I mean, who knows, there are new dating apps and sites everyday.”