By: Lizzy Boudah, Staff Writer
trigger warning: sexual assault
It is no secret that everyone wants to love and be loved. As people start to grow up, this only becomes stronger as they learn and develop feelings and curiosities surrounding romantic or sexual interests. When students reach college, they are typically old enough to join dating apps, such as Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, etc. These apps can provide convenience, especially now in times of quarantine, but everyone who has used them or may want to use them should know about the potential danger that comes with them.
I’m sure there are some people who met their long term partners on a dating app and that is absolutely wonderful; it can happen to just about anyone! The main thing to keep in mind is the stigma around certain apps. If you want something real, perhaps Bumble would be better than Tinder, since Bumble allows its users to specify what they’re looking for, and allows them to only see people with the same mentality. Tinder, on the other hand, is often labeled as an app surrounded by “hookup culture”. This means that most (not all) users are looking there for one thing: “a good time, not a long time”. If you share this mentality, great! No shame in anything you decide, just do it safely. Sometimes these apps can be scarier than you think.
When we’re all little kids, our parents always said “Don’t talk to strangers”. The same can be applied to dating apps, but with a little lenience. Talk to whoever you like, but don’t give your private information away to them. Take the time to talk to them before potentially meeting up (maybe not at all during COVID, though, plan a virtual date instead!). If you see any red flags, un-match with them and save yourself the heartbreak.
I reached out to a few people who will remain anonymous (with created names) for the sake of the article, and they generously provided me with some stories from their time on dating sites. The three have very different stories, but all can teach equally important values.
Baxter: I met this girl on Tinder and thought she was really cute, and we had the same interests so we started talking. It’d been about a month and a half when I asked if we could hang out in person, but she kept avoiding it and dodging the questions. I started to wonder if I was being catfished. After that red flag went up, I saw a lot more. She never sent selfies on Snapchat, only on Instagram. So I decided to do a reverse Google search on one of her pics, and sure enough, she was someone entirely different than who I was talking to. It sucked, but some people just want to watch the world burn.
Jewel: I was looking for a rebound after getting out of a long term relationship. I wanted no strings attached, and I figured Tinder would be the best place. I matched with a guy that happened to go to school with me. He said he was in the same boat and we got along quite well for a while. We studied together in the library on occasion and I finally invited him back to my room after a couple days. I thought I would be okay. I decided about halfway through kissing him I didn’t want to have sex. He didn’t care. He forced me down anyways, despite me saying no. I’m still in counseling two years later and I ended up dropping out.
Manny: I’d been on dating apps for a couple of years, nothing ever really worked out. I was pretty much about to delete the apps when I matched with a girl, and she messaged me first, which was new. We had similar interests, same sense of humor, and I figured “hey if nothing else, she’d be a cool friend”. We talked over the phone and had video chats and we finally decided to meet up but only if she wanted to. So I took her on a date, and we’ve been seeing each other every week since. After three months we started officially dating, and it’ll be a year in January. I can only hope others have a similar experience.
For every positive, there may be negatives. The first two experiences show that if you decide to use a dating app, be very very sure you’d like to see them and be safe about it. Don’t meet up with just anyone, and if something were to happen as it did to Jewel, please reach out to someone who can help. Tell someone immediately, and remember it is not ever your fault. No means no means no.
There are several tips offered by rainn.org that are extremely helpful and beneficial to anyone looking to find someone on an app. These include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Video chat before meeting IRL
- Know who you’re meeting; know their face, know their voice.
- Provide your own transportation
- It gets you out of where you are on your own terms safely.
- Meet in public!
- Less likely for your date to try anything harmful if other people are nearby.
- Tell someone where you’re going
- Trust in a friend; send them the profile, let them know where you are, keep them updated in case anything goes wrong
- TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
- If you feel halfway through your date that they aren’t good for you, leave. Don’t feel bad for doing what you think is right.
College students are already in a place where they are fighting off certain stresses and perhaps other mental illnesses. Don’t let anyone else add onto that, instead surround yourself with people you know will ease some of the stress or tension. Please be safe. Whether you’re meeting someone for the first time, or continuously dating, be safe. Trust your heart. And always always ALWAYS practice safe sex should you be in that situation.
USM Health Services can provide more insight on safe sex and also act as a resource should anyone have a poor experience, or if there was a situation of assault. Please don’t be afraid to reach out to a trusted friend or adult if you need it. They are there to help you. You can find help at the following resources:
- Gorham Health and Counseling (Upton): 207-780-5411
- Portland Counseling: 207-780-4050
Disability Services Center: 207-780-4706