Students discuss online dating dangers, successes
Have you ever struggled to make the choice between swiping right or swiping left? You’re not alone.
In fact, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, usage of online dating apps, like Tinder, has tripled among young adults since 2013 — something students here at UCF have mixed feelings about.
The survey of 2,001 U.S. adults conducted last summer found that overall, 15 percent have used online dating websites or mobile dating apps, up from the 11 percent who did so in 2013.
Some of the most significant growth in usage has been among young adults, those aged between 18 and 24. The survey found that 27 percent of individuals in this demographic report using online dating, which is up from just 10 percent three years ago.
The survey also found that, although 80 percent of Americans who have used online dating agree that it is a good way to meet people, 45 percent of online dating users agreed that it is more dangerous than other ways of meeting people.
Here at UCF, students are equally as divided over the risks and benefits of online dating.
Mirra Lampkin, a graphic design major currently taking a break from school, said she had a terrifyingly negative experience with the website OkCupid.
“I was 18 and dumb and just wanting to experience life,” Lampkin said. “Using OkCupid, I met an older man who sexually assaulted and abused me for a year and it caused me to fail my classes and drop out of school and I had to get a restraining order against him.”
Despite her experiences, she said she still feels that as long as people are smart about online dating, “good things can come from it.”
Shyloh Gongwer has seen those good things firsthand. Her best friend met a guy on Omegle, a website and app that pairs people up to chat anonymously. Although he was from California and they couldn’t meet in-person, the two hit it off, despite Gongwer’s initial reservations.
“I didn’t think it would last very long at all,” she said. “Normally things like this die off after a while, but they were pretty serious about each other.”
The two began dating back in 2013.
“Even then, no one thought it would last much longer. He lived on the other side of the country,” she said. “Well, lo and behold, spring break 2014, we found ourselves at the airport waiting for his flight to land. They had their ‘running really fast across the terminal into a dramatic first hug’ moment and it was actually really adorable. I kind of cried.”
The couple is still together, and Gongwer said the boyfriend moved to Florida so the couple could be closer together, something she never would have thought would happen at the start of the process.
“They’ve lasted longer than a lot of couples have that met in school or at a bar,” she said. “He didn’t turn out to be a murderous or catfishing creep, though that’s certainly a fear for a lot of people.”
Although she’s seen online dating work first hand, Gongwer said she still thinks there are difficulties that come with using it, especially for people who feel awkward using what she called the “looking for love” pretense.
“Personally, I think online dating isn’t inherently good or bad. It’s how you use it,” she said. “Both parties know right off the bat that the other is single and they’re interested in hooking up or a relationship, which can sometimes make things awkward. Meeting someone in person or through a non-dating website, you have the ability of becoming friends first.”
Michael Anderson, a sophomore political science major, said he’s had a lot of success building relationships through dating apps. In fact, after using the dating app Grindr, he has a fiancé to show for it.
“I’ve had an overall positive experience using the app, although everything has its pros and cons,” Anderson said. “For me, however, being able to meet the person I plan to marry isn’t too shabby of an accomplishment.”
He added that, overall, he thinks dating apps can lead to healthy, and even better, relationships than meeting someone through conventional methods.
“I think these apps are definitely the future, for better or worse, and my life is a testimony to show that healthy relationships can be found from online dating apps,” he said. “Being able to sort of give potential partners a LITMUS test before even meeting them is a very handy tool, and I think it lends itself to an overall better dating experience for most people.”
Deanna Ferrante is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter @deannaferrante or email her at DeannaF@centralfloridafuture.com.