For more than 30 years, the Internet has increasingly found intimate ways to keep us connected with individuals across the world. Through our smartphones, tablets, and desktops we have the world at our fingertips ‘literally’. When it comes to the human search for love and sex, the instant connection with just ‘one click and one swipe’ has profoundly impacted the 21st century.
“I think that dating apps normalize things that are just unacceptable,” said Nancy Jo Sales in an interview with NPR about her HBO Documentary film, Swiped: Hooking Up in the Digital Age. On September 10, 2018, HBO premiered its latest documentary film, Swiped: Hooking Up in the Digital Age. Writer and director of the film, Nancy Jo Sales scrutinized the online dating industry by interviewing Millennials from different locations (New York, California, Texas, and Illinois) to understand how apps like Tinder, Grindr, Bumble, and many others are impacting gender and racial issues, and changing how we view relationships.
Another takeaway from this film is the discussion of online dating and sexual violence amongst women. The #MeToo movement allows women to speak up on sexual harassment and sexual assault. Online dating is supposed to be an experience of building connections, finding true love, and most importantly having fun. However, users of the online dating industry must understand the ways of being respectful and equal amongst the other millions of users on dating sites.
Online Dating and Racism
Who would have thought that it could be possible to experience racism through online dating? As crazy as it sounds, your race can have a huge effect when encountering romantic connections on dating apps. According to OkCupid, “White users were discovered to be less likely to reply or match with users of a different race to themselves.” Many users who tend to have strong racist views amongst a minority would take that frustration behind the screen.
The two main races who faced the worst racial bias on dating apps are African American women and Asian men. According to VT, “Non-white users are often subject to messages that often fetishize them for their skin color.” In Swiped, an African American woman named Bianca explained how most white men on dating sites would approach black women. She says, “Most white users would say ‘You’re so exotic because you’re black. I never f***** a black girl before.’” It is also common to see profiles with descriptions saying, “No blacks. No Asians” or “No rice, no spice”.
Sadly, online dating has become segregated between African Americans and white users. This has forced African American women to only date within their race to prevent racial discrimination. Although racism is quietly happening on dating apps, it is not being tolerated on OkCupid and Bumble. These two apps have taken severe actions to remove the racist trolls off their sites and banning those users for life. As a result, racism and online dating is not something anyone should have to experience in their romantic lives. We all have our reasoning to date someone and we all deserve equal, true love.
What makes people ‘Swipe Right’?
It’s a Friday night and you have absolutely no plans to hang out with your friends. You pull out your smartphone, open the Tinder app and start swiping. After swiping left for 30 consecutive minutes, someone’s profile comes up that you become interested in. Your finger hangs over the screen as you become indecisive. As your fingers begin to swipe left, all of a sudden you swipe right at the last minute.
So, what makes people ‘Swipe Right’ on dating apps?
Any dating app you use has the same, “Swipe Right,” mechanism. Once you ‘Swipe Right’, it indicates that you are interested in that person and it will match you up with them. Apps have made online dating more accessible; from 2013 to 2015, the number of American adults has used a dating app has tripled. And as Americans try new ways to connect, the norms of dating are evolving. It was mentioned in the documentary, Swiped, that appearance is the most important aspect of making a person swiping right. The profile picture is the first thing a guy or girl looks at before reading their bio. Most of the time, that is what makes people decide to swipe left or right. For some people, physical attractiveness is very important to them than their personality. On the other hand, there are others who think personality has more importance than their physical attractiveness.
With the belief of making appearance important in a relationship, distracts the part of actually building a relationship. A lot of people are so focused on what they see in front of them, rather than actually realizing that there is so much more to a person than their appearance. This usually leads to men and women having low-self esteem because they may feel as though their looks aren’t good enough. In all reality, issues like these usually lead to a relationship ending so quickly and on bad terms. Therefore, before swiping left because they’re ‘unattractive’, take a look at their profile and read through their descriptions.
Situationships: A New Type of ‘Dating’
What do you say when someone asks you, “You and Chris have been talking for like 8 months now. Are you guys together?”
You respond, “I mean we’re together, but were not together either. It’s kind of like a ‘situationship’ right now.”
“Situationships”, a new term coined by millennials that have made relationships even more confusing. According to Urban Dictionary, a situationship is defined as “a relationship that has no label on it… like a friendship but more than a friendship but not quite a relationship”. Similarly, it’s like being friends with benefits, however, there are limitations and conditions. Situationships may consist of couples still doing the typical boyfriend/girlfriend activities, like going to the movies and/or dinner dates, along with sex. The only difference between a relationship and a situationship is simply one is an actual relationship, and the other isn’t.
Situationships mostly occurs when meeting someone off an online dating service. This has become the norm not only in the new world of online dating but in traditional dating as well. When it comes to online dating, situationships has redefined relationships because no one really knows if they’re even in a relationship or not. The question, “What are we?”, is a frequent question that constantly gets avoided by individuals who are in situationships. For this reason, people use the excuse that they are scared of taking on the pressure and responsibility when it comes to establishing an official relationship. The conflict comes in where no one takes initiative to speak up on figuring out if they want to be in a relationship or not.
Is it bad to be in a situationship? No, there’s nothing wrong with it at all. There’s nothing to really panic or stress about. Not everyone is going to know what they want when it comes to relationships. The best way to go about situationships is to always make sure that both parties are on the same page. It’s all about communicating together and deciding what direction the relationship or friendship is coming down to.
Sexual Violence on Mobile Dating Apps
Dating apps have made searching for love and sex easier than ever, however, there are some risks that come with online dating. When the #MeToo Movement began in November of 2017, it became a platform for women to speaking up about their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault. According to ABC News, “Young women, ages 18 to 24, experience certain severe types of harassment by disproportionately high levels; 26% say they have been stalked, and 25% say they have been sexually harassed online.”
The types of harassment that may occur online is revenge porn and sexting. Revenge porn is a type of abuse that involves posting nude or sexually explicit photos and/or videos of a person without their consent. These images or videos are usually used to blackmail or ‘retaliate’ against a former partner. Sexting is simply sending explicit messages via smartphone to a boyfriend or girlfriend. As an example, CNN published an article back in April that a man was ordered by the federal district in California to pay $6.4 million in damages after being accused of exploiting his ex-girlfriend’s naked pictures and videos online. CNN states that “It’s believed to be the second-largest payout for a victim of revenge porn who was not a celebrity, according to woman’s lawyers.”
When it comes to online dating, it’s important to understand the guideline on how to be safe on dating apps. Here are a few steps to stay safe online:
- Meet in a public place: It’s vital that you meet your date in an open environment like a coffee shop, park, restaurant, or a bar. Doing this can give you time to get to know your date’s personality traits, along with identifying red flags that can give you second thoughts about meeting in a more private location.
- Tell your friends or family what you’re doing: Make sure that at least two friends or family members know all the details about meeting your online dating. They should know who he/she is, what they look like, where and when you both are meeting up. That way, your friend or family member can keep an eye on your date in case a situation may occur
- Trust your instincts: If you feel as though the date isn’t feeling right or you start to become suspicious, leave. Don’t feel as if you are obligated to continue on with the date if you start to feel uncomfortable. Leave the location and get home as soon as possible.