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What Are We? How College Students Navigate through the Dating World

by Sarah Kassa


September 19, 2018 | News


Boyfriends, girlfriends, exes, rebounds, friends with benefits, one-night-stands, fuckboys, catfishes, ghosters… it’s extremely common for college students to have these types of people in our lives. We have either met them in real life or online; but what are we actually looking for relationship-wise? Something serious or something casual? How much do our past experiences affect our current needs? How far are we willing to go to get what we want?

“I think I’ve been single for a year now and my previous relationship lasted four months,” said 21 year-old Paul. “I had met my ex at school and that’s where we’d spend the most time together before we started dating. Although, she did give me her number and we were texting on Snapchat and Messenger, we’d spend more time together after we started dating – I think it’s a personal preference I have.”  

Paul started using dating apps about three or four months after their breakup, “but that’s because he had had rebounds beforehand,” as he put it.

He had used Bumble for about two weeks but had felt like the market there was pickier. “The women there seemed to be a bit more selective and I didn’t have as many matches,” he explained. He started using Tinder after he saw how much success his friend had on this app.

Tinder’s biggest rival, Bumble, was founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd shortly after she left Tinder. It was released in December 2014 and is quite similar to its rival, except for the fact that women have to make the first move in heterosexual matches. They have 24 hours to text men first or they will lose the matches, while anyone can text first in same-sex matches.

The purpose of forcing women to text their matches first is to both empower them and prevent ghosting, which consists of not replying to a person’s text message. The latter option has been used as a breakup method for the past few years and is viewed as being much less awkward than officially ending things with someone.

“I feel like it was definitely easier to meet people a few decades ago because you could simply speak to the people you found attractive,” said Paul. “The invention of the Internet lead to us comparing people and trying to maximize our chances of matching with the hottest people we can find. We’re just constantly asking ourselves ‘what if I can do better?’”

Paul, like many of us, doesn’t exactly know what he’s looking for relationship-wise. “If someone is worth it then I’ll want to have something concrete with them,” he explained. But he needs that person to be “on the same level as him” in terms of ambition.

17 year-old Isabelle has never been in a relationship. “I might start looking for a fling after a serious relationship because I feel that you need to have a special connection with someone at least once in your life before being able to do more casual things with other people,” she explained. She isn’t using any dating apps but seriously considered being on Tinder after she saw that her friend wasn’t matching with that many fuckboys.

Isabelle would rather meet people in real life rather than online. “Guys who dm me on Instagram are almost never there for a meaningful relationship; they’ll just hit you up and ghost you, while dating apps are mainly used for hookups,” she explained. “I feel like people lose the connection they have as soon as there’s a technological device between them.”

She feels that couples who meet in real life are more likely to last longer than those who meet online because “once the phones are gone, you’ll be stuck with each other’s problems and you won’t be able to last long if you don’t know how to deal with them.”

“I’m afraid of people catfishing me and I just want to say that it’s one thing to look different in person than in your pictures and it’s another thing to lie about who you are and what you’re like as a person,” Isabelle added. “People don’t always have what they were bargaining for because connections just aren’t the same online compared to in person and it’s so easily for people to lie online.”

If she could give advice to anyone about dating and hooking up, she would tell them to do whatever they feel is right while being smart about what they want.

20 year-old Jesse has been dating his girlfriend for two and a half years. They met in class and started dating after their second semester studying together. Jesse has always been looking for a long-term relationship and feels that it was much easier to meet people a few years ago. “Social media interrupts proper conversations,” he deplored. “People spend less time going on dates since you can just talk to others from your house, by using your phone or computer. You don’t need to make efforts anymore.”

However, in 18 year-old Karim’s eyes, it’s easier to meet people on social media because there are so many ways to do it: sliding in the person’s dms, replying to their story, writing something in the comments section, etc.

“It’s easier to meet people online, while it’s easier to meet good people in real life,” Jesse stressed. “One face-to-face conversation is so much better than two months spent trying to see what a person is actually like.” Jesse believes that class is the perfect place to meet people, since it gives students a setting to see each other more. “You can’t really meet strangers in real life, since flirting with baristas and people working at customer service, for example, would be considered creepy.”

Karim has three pieces of advice to give when it comes to dating and hooking up: don’t be afraid of rejection, don’t lie about who you are to please others, and don’t try too hard to look for someone.

It would be wrong to assume that college students are all the same. Some of us are single; others are in a relationship. Some relationships will last longer than others. Some of us are actively looking for a significant other or one-night-stand; others are waiting for the right people to come along. Some of us rely on dating apps and social media to meet new people; others want to meet people in real life. But one thing is for sure: we should know what we want and not be afraid of letting others know what our true intentions are. Countless misunderstandings can be prevented that way.


Certain names have been changed for the sake of anonymity.

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