• February 2015

Welcome to the Age of Tech-Savvy Dating

By Eurah Lee
Millennials Radio Show

Millennial word of the day: Catfish: Someone who pretends to be someone they’re not by using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.Urban Dictionary

Doesn’t sound good, does it? Increasingly, though, Millennials are using their smart-phone applications to meet strangers interested in a potential relationship. And not everyone my age has the best intentions.

Nonetheless, apps and websites such as Grindr, Tinder, and OKCupid, are making it easy for us to seek out romantic partners. The key to using them, however, is to know whether you are looking for a casual “hook-up,” a long-term relationship, or just a way to make friends.

But let’s be clear: Even if you are using these apps to expand your social circle, others using them don’t always have the same motivation.

Here’s what I want to know:

  • What happened to finding romance by simply meeting someone while waiting in line at the grocery store?
  • What exactly are Millennials looking for when using these dating websites and apps?
  • Is it just about sex?
  • What safety precautions should we consider before having a face-to-face meeting with someone we meet online?

And here’s a primer to acquaint you with some of the dating apps that my friends are using:

  • Grindr — Its purpose is to connect male members of the gay community. This geo-powered social network app uses location-based technology; for example, when you walk into a bar, your phone will display photos of everyone there who is “Grinding.”
  • Tinder — Another location-based smart phone app for the heterosexual crowd. To “like” a profile, swipe right; swipe left to pass. If the other user also swiped right to like your profile, it’s a match!
  • OKCupid — This site is considered the Google of online dating. It is very popular — and not just with Millennials.

To get some perspective, I asked for guidance from a professor of gender sexuality at VCU. Then, I interviewed two Millennials about their personal experiences. Scroll down for their insights.

Dr. Liz Canfield, MFA, PhD, Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University

Eurah Lee: Based on your experience working with hundreds, if not thousands, of Millennials, what is your opinion of the online dating apps? Are they a better way to meet people than the traditional in-person connection that we might find in classes, at a party, or just by being on campus?

Dr. Canfield: “I really don’t see much of a difference between being on a site like OKCupid or Tinder and sitting on a stool in a bar. In either place, you still are not your authentic self. For instance, when you are in a bar, you are the self that you want the public to see. You want to appear attractive, and essentially, you want someone to like you. When we look at new technologies, we tend to say, ‘Oh, I don’t know, is this someone really for me?’ If you connect and it goes south, then you blame the technology. But if you met someone in a bar and went home with him or her, you’d be just as much at-risk. The important thing is to protect yourself, no matter where you meet someone. And the easiest way to do that is not to disclose your location until you are sure the person is someone you can trust.”

James Miller, iOS 8 Tech-Assistant

Eurah Lee: What do you look for when using Grindr, and what do you do when you find what you want?

James: “I know that for the gay community, Grindr is a great way to see who’s around. I use it for no-strings-attached fun. But before I meet with anyone, I make sure I get all their information: their name, phone number, relationship status, and whether they’ve been tested for HIV and other diseases. Then I ask for proof of that when I see them in person. On top of that, I always use protection.”

Clare Stimpson, photography student who found a boyfriend using OKCupid

Clare: “I signed up for OKCupid as a joke. I had never signed up for anything like that before, so I was curious — and cautious. When I received a message from somebody I thought was interesting, I realized the potential of this website. We clicked. And if I hadn’t gone for it, I never would have met this special person. But the reality is that it’s just easier to meet people using technology. Going out to parties or bars feels too superficial. And sometimes I find friends who are also using the app, which makes me realize that I’m not the only person on this website — and that it’s not really a weird thing to do.”

The Bottom Line:

Technology is evolving to meet our dating desires, so it’s only logical to try using it in the quest to meet that perfect person — or, if you prefer, that perfect one-night stand.

As for safety, the same rules apply when you meet strangers through technology as they do when you meet them elsewhere: Ask questions. Trust your instincts. Make sure your friends or roommate know where you are before you go out on a date. Then go for it! Throw out the bait, and be smart about fishy predators.

Put your two cents in. Drop me an email.