Back in the day it was often thought that university was the place where you would find your husband/wife/life partner.
However since the rise of Internet dating and the recent shift to apps such as Tinder and Bumble, the way we, as students, interact and connect with each other has transformed. Nowadays relationship formation is a lot less serious than it was deemed to be in the past. Everyone wants to enjoy the uni experience, have fun and be free, with no real certainties about where they’ll be and what they’ll be doing when the 3 years of uni inevitably (and quickly!!) finishes.
Relationships are therefore seen as short-term flings and temporary escapes from the otherwise often lonely experience of uni life. Also thanks (or perhaps no thanks) to the presence of dating apps such as Tinder, finding dates from a whole pool of ‘eligible’ students has never been easier.
You may be thinking “Internet dating? Isn’t that just for people who struggle to find time to meet people in real life? Why do students need to use that?!” and yes it’s true, as students we are around people our own age all day every day; living, studying and going out with a whole load of potential partners. So, to some extent you’re right and of course using dating apps isn’t for everyone and some people do like to meet people and form relationships in the traditional way.
However the use of dating apps is often seen as a simply more convenient and quicker way to finding out who is available near you. Although at uni you do interact with many different people, sometimes you’re quite confined to groups in terms of who you live with, whose on your course, on your sports team etc. and forming relationships within these pools of people can often be messy and more friendship-based than anything else. Tinder and similar apps therefore give you the chance to meet new people that you may not necessarily have come across otherwise.
"The real problem of dating at uni and especially with using Tinder is then living in constant fear of bumping into old potential matches around campus"
Growing up with such a technology-oriented lifestyle only makes sense for dating to go in the same direction. As sad as it sounds, I think young people now almost self-rely on technology to get through life and ease the often difficult and daunting prospect of dating. The fact that Tinder only allows you to talk to people you have already matched up with, signals an already established interest from the other party and therefore chances of rejection are minimised from the get-go. This saves the embarrassment of potential rejection when asking someone out face-to face, which is an absolute rarity in today’s day and age.
In case you didn’t know, Tinder is an app which, as their slogan states, allows users to “Match, Chat, Date” and essentially that is all there is to it. Users create their own profile and are then able to swipe through potential partners, swiping right if they like the look of someone and swiping left for people that they don’t. If both individuals both swipe right for each other, a match is made and they are able to start chatting possibly leading to a potential date.
It can be a great way to meet new people, with even the possibility of truly finding someone to be in a future relationship with. However in student culture it is much less viewed as a tool for forming meaningful relationships but instead – more often than not - as a tool to find short-term ‘hook-ups’. Both parties involved know the real reason why they’re on Tinder and what the other person is usually (although not all the time) looking for.
Dating at uni is definitely far from the Disney expectations we’ve grown up with and finding a ‘Prince/Princess Charming’ seems like the impossible task.
"Although at uni you do interact with many different people, sometimes you’re quite confined to groups in terms of who you live with, whose on your course, on your sports team etc. and forming relationships within these pools of people can often be messy and more friendship-based than anything elset"
When the joke becomes a reality:
For many the idea of Tinder can be somewhat of a joke, which in all honesty it’s hard not to be when faced with the array of cringy bios and attempts at chat-up lines, enough to make you roll your eyes so far in the back of your head that you lose faith in dating all together. I mean who hasn’t sat around with their friends laughing at profiles and matching them to people definitely not their type?! A hilarious pastime if you ask me.
Sophie, aged 20, who has been single since the start of Uni says...
“My Tinder profile got set up my by friends after they got fed up with me being depressingly single, it started off half as a joke and we used to spend evenings laughing at the awful although (got to give it to them) creative efforts from matches and swiping through the extensive list of available boys. However after all the joking around and claims that I would never use this thing seriously, the boredom of single life took over and I decided to give it a shot. I went in with literally *no* expectations and of course the majority of messages lived up to this, but once in a blue moon there was a glimmer of hope when a half-decent match popped up. Obviously on a student budget dates are never fancy or extravagant and usually involve heading to the local pub/bar for a few drinks but can still be a nice way to meet new people and build my confidence. I’m yet to find anything serious or long-lasting but it’s nice to know that, if I want, the option is there.”
Awkward bump-ins with old matches:
Of course the real problem of dating at uni and especially with using Tinder is then living in constant fear of bumping into old potential matches around campus, on the bus, in Sainsburys or on a night out. There really is no hiding from this level of awkwardness, especially if things didn’t work out or ended sour. Naturally this is a problem that could happen to anyone but being in such constant close proximity at university means that avoidance is a lot harder to achieve.
This was certainly the case for Callum, aged 22, who just couldn’t escape the ex...
“I started dating a girl on my course, which was fine until things were no longer working out… Life then consisted of walking awkwardly past her in lecture halls while she was with her group of friends doing that half-smile everyone does when they see someone they kind of know but kind of don’t know, the half-hearted smirk. The worst thing was that we were also put in the same group for a team project, having to work alongside each other outside of class and creating a piece of work together. Arguably one of the most awkward situations but I had to pretend as if I wasn’t bothered for the sake of the group and getting a decent grade. Word of advice – avoid dating someone you will have to see ALL the time even if things between you end.”
"The nature of dating has inevitably changed over time with different preferences, different norms and of course the rise of technology, and so it can be easy to get lost in how it all works and feel disheartened when some experiences don’t work out"
This dilemma isn’t restricted to university campus either, with a lot of student life revolved around going out, the chances of bumping into someone you used to date or talk to on a drunken night out is all the more likely.
Emily, aged 21, says: “The most awkward thing to happen to me is a boy coming up to me on a night out saying “HEY aren’t you so and so? We matched on Tinder but you ignored my message!” before proceeding to ask me out again face-to-face. I admire the confidence but it was so embarrassing and awkward to bring it up especially when I was with all my friends trying to enjoy myself.”
The Catfish Problem:
Often it is much easier to chat behind the protection of a screen but the lack of face-to-face interaction simply enables someone to create a different persona to the one they actually possess – i.e. becoming a personality catfish. Responses and replies can be calculated, tailored and delayed, which although can often ease conversation, also creates the slight problem of not being who you say you are.
“I once went on a date with a boy who seemed to have great chat on Tinder but as soon as we met up, I was sure I was with the wrong person. The whole thing was just very uncomfortable and often involved one too many awkward silences. I had to keep drinking to numb the pain, which he didn’t seem too impressed with by the time I was slurring an excuse to leave. It also didn’t help that he looked *nothing* like his pictures…I had been well and truly catfished. The only thing I gained from that experience was a lovely hangover the next day…” says Beth aged 21.
The ‘You up?’ culture:
A lot of the time at uni dating isn’t ‘dating’ as such and instead just a series of “You up?” texts late at night or in the early hours of the morning. This probably highlights the stereotypical nature of student dating and emphasises the lack of seriousness involved, as truthfully students a lot of the time are only interested in one thing…sex.
As long as both parties are mutually aware of and happy with the set-up, then this arrangement can actually work quite well. However if it becomes one-sided, there also becomes room for someone to get their feelings hurt. If you feel as if you are in this situation, discuss how you feel with the other person and remember that your self-worth should always be valued much more than a temporary fling.
Joe, aged 20, says...
“I started seeing this girl and at first things seemed to be going really well between us, we would text all the time and we would spend quite a few nights throughout the week together, which was pretty much how we spent most of our time, except the occasional dinner or drinks date. We never put a label on things but I just assumed we were on the same page – that things were progressing nicely and we were starting to get more serious feelings for each other. It was fun at first to just go with the flow and see what would come of it but after a while the uncertainty and doubt really started to play on my mind. Did she actually like me? Does she see this going anywhere? Are we just “friends with benefits”? It took a while to pluck up the courage to ask these sort of questions, mostly because I think deep down I already knew the answers, and sure enough it turned out I was right. It was difficult to hear but it just wasn’t meant to be and we ended up wanting different things, which is fine. Sometimes that happens but I’m glad I didn’t just let it carry on and let myself get hurt even more.”
"At Uni relationships are therefore seen as short-term flings and temporary escapes from the otherwise often lonely experience of uni life"
The nature of dating has inevitably changed over time with different preferences, different norms and of course the rise of technology, and so it can be easy to get lost in how it all works and feel disheartened when some experiences don’t work out. But this isn’t always the case and dating whilst at university can still be a positive experience - it’s not unheard of or impossible to still find a long-term partner throughout the 3 years.
Take Ellie for example, who did find and form a meaningful relationship whilst being a student:
“I had various relationships and flings throughout Uni and whilst I saw people all the time, I loved using online dating! I got to know people from different unis, people working in the city, people I actually wouldn’t bump into at Uni. I didn’t think I would have much luck and I’d started to get a bit bored by my second year. Then one day I matched with a guy who was doing his masters. I really didn’t want to go on the date as at that point, I was kind of giving up, but my best friend forced me to throw on some heels and go. It turned out that his department was just the floor below where I had a part-time job in the Uni and we could have bumped into each other numerous times, but by chance, we never had! I had the best time on the date and within the month he was my boyfriend and we were happily together for just over a year.”
So don’t lose faith! As the saying goes you may have to kiss a few frogs before finding the one…