by Lianna Johnstone
Going into my senior year, many of my friends at the Claremont Colleges had never been in relationships on campus beyond hookups. We always believed that by senior year we would experience more of a dating culture on campus. When I discuss the dating and hookup culture with my mom, she never seems to understand why people seem to mostly just hookup on college campuses. Many of my friends that attend other colleges are in long-term relationships with their significant others. This made me wonder about the nature of the dating culture at the Claremont Colleges.
Last year, I did a sociological field study and conducted interviews on the environmental factors that influenced hookup culture here at the Claremont Colleges. I found that the “small town” residential feel of Claremont, allowing people to feel safe leaving campus parties and events to “hook up” with people they do not know, heightens hookup culture. This is because there is generally a heightened sense of trust among students because most students live on campus or within a mile radius of campus. I did not see as many people leaving together when I went and observed a club in Pomona or even a bar in Claremont where more people go. Most people in those places would exchange numbers and leave separately. The less surprising findings were that the darker the environment was and louder the music was, the more students I observed leaving. I also, unsurprisingly, found that the more drunk students were, the more likely they were to hook up. In the party scene at the Claremont Colleges, the hookup scene is visible. The storytelling of hookups after a wild night to other peers can heighten the sense of hookup culture on campus.
My study on hookup culture only provided me with a glimpse into the environment here at the Claremont Colleges. I often wonder about the impact the hookup culture has on people’s well being. My friends often talk about feeling insecure about hookups and the hope that a hookup will eventually end up in a relationship. Often times, the hookup ends up being a one-time event, and they are left feeling unsatisfied after. The lack of satisfaction usually comes from having the relationship be purely physical and sloppy from being intoxicated, without making a deeper connection. While this works for some students, others are looking for something with more substance. Some students who are fed up with the on-campus hookup culture have started looking outside the Claremont College campus for their next hookup or relationship.
Recently, a few of them have turned to social media tools such as Tinder to find people to hang out with and date. For many of my friends, Tinder has allowed them to meet their significant other. The success rate of Tinder and other social media still maintains some stigma, although it has become way less stigmatized in the past few years. Some people who met online feel enormous pressure to justify or hide their use of the online app or site because it is still viewed as outside the norm. According to a Pew Research Center study on online dating conducted in 2005 and then again in 2013, the percentage of people who view online dating as a “good way to meet people” jumped from 44% to 59%. Also, in early 2013, 10% of people surveyed ages 18-24 had used an online dating service. This number is probably higher in 2014, with the emergence of the popularity of apps such as Tinder, which is targeted at younger people. These statistics show the growing acceptance of the use of online dating apps.
Dating apps allow individuals to meet people they may not normally run into in their everyday life. The success of social media apps has to do with the law of large numbers, they draw from a huge pools of single people generally increasing a person’s chance of meeting someone they “click” with. Also, dating apps that are more comprehensive than Tinder such as OkCupid or Plenty of Fish allow for people to “prescreen” the people they meet based on a narrowed down search by race, religion, likes, education etc. The ability to “prescreen” lowers the risk that people take when going on dates because it heightens the likelihood of there being compatibility between the two people. Another benefit of using social media applications is that it allows a person to summarize their whole being in a few pictures and words. This aids in the ability of others to sort through profiles faster and more systematically to find what they are looking for.
While the benefits of social media dating are huge, there are some downsides. More and more, people can hide behind their screens and pretend to be someone they are not. A year ago, I met a person from Tinder who was visiting his brother at Harvey Mudd. He turned out to be a complete catfish. He looked nothing like his picture and was extremely socially awkward which hadn’t come through in our conversation on Tinder. It definitely caught me off guard and it was hard for me to look past the superficial expectation of what I thought he would be like based on his online profile. A more negative side of social media dating apps is that it allows people to feel more comfortable saying things they may not normally say in person. I get messages that say things like, “Will you marry me?” or “Can I eat Nutella off of you?” While I know that the person who wrote these is joking, and even I don’t take the app seriously, it is still weird to get these messages. I know that most people would not say this to my face upon first meeting me, so why do they feel the need to say it to me online?
I refuse to think that dating at the Claremont Colleges is a thing of the past. The dating culture is just evolving with the help of social media technology. While some people meet the person they end up dating in the Claremont College Party scene, it may not be the best environment to look in to find someone to date. Dating apps like Tinder have helped to de-stigmatize other more serious dating apps like OkCupid, and Plenty of Fish. Dating apps allow people to be more efficient in their search process of a large pool of people. Why should people who strategically meet each other online be any more stigmatized than a couple that met drunkenly through a one-night-stand? Also, why does it matter how two people meet, if they’re happy with their relationship?