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The Dartmouth
May 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Community, Friendship and Love: How Students Use Dating Apps at Dartmouth

One writer explores how students use popular dating apps while at Dartmouth.

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In theory, Dartmouth should be the perfect place to find your soulmate. You’re surrounded by 4,000 other students of a similar age, and there are countless occasions to meet them. However, Dartmouth’s small size can make it seem like everybody knows everyone on campus, complicating the dating pool. To find connection and romance, some students turn to dating apps.

Elda Kahssay ’24 initially joined Tinder for fun: To swipe through profiles with her friends in high school. She did not use dating apps “seriously” until she entered college during the COVID-19 pandemic, when they became important avenues for making both romantic and platonic connections.

“I started college during the pandemic, so we couldn’t leave our dorms to go meet and socialize with people,” Kahssay said. “So I think that a lot of people in my year used dating apps more than you would normally at Dartmouth, just because we had no other way of finding people romantically because there were no social events going on.” 

Emily Hester ’23 joined Hinge and Bumble during her freshman year prior to the onset of the pandemic, but she noticed the apps were not as popular at this time.

“When I got back on campus after COVID, I noticed a lot more people were on the dating apps than before,” she said. “But I think people [at Dartmouth] still prefer to meet in person.” 

Though talking to someone in person may appeal to some Dartmouth students more than texting and some pictures on a screen, for her, online dating was an easier process.

“I find online easier because I’ve only really met one or two people the traditional way. With the dating apps, you get time to [figure] them out,” Hester said. 

While Hester continued to use dating apps after the pandemic restrictions relaxed and an in-person social scene returned, Kahssay stopped using dating platforms as frequently due to social stigmas surrounding the apps and their reputations.

“Once we were able to socialize again, I didn’t really find a need for [apps]. I think that there’s a little bit of stigma around using dating apps, or at least amongst me and my friends,” she said. “[My friends] have the assumption that you can meet people through other avenues.”

However, a member of the Class of 2024, who asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly about his experiences, emphasized the attractiveness of dating apps for people who do not wish to partake in Dartmouth’s traditional social scene, which largely revolves around Greek life. For him, despite their reputation as a way to find casual and temporary relations with others, dating apps simply serve as a way to meet people romantically in alternative ways. 

“[The apps are a] very nice way of meeting people who otherwise wouldn’t meet. You meet them in a way that’s outside the normal social scene,” he said.

A member of the Class of 2027, who asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly about his experiences, began using dating apps out of curiosity and in an effort to connect with other queer men nearby. He first joined Tinder in November of 2022 — a month after he turned 18 — and later joined Grindr over the summer of 2023. 

“I think especially as someone who’s gay, it can be really difficult to find other people who are [out],” he said. “So being able to just see a bunch of others on platforms like Tinder or Grindr was something I wanted to [experience].” 

According to the member of the Class of 2024, the small size of the LGBTQ+ community at Dartmouth can also feel isolating. Although dating apps could combat this by connecting queer people with other queer people, they can also further stress this feeling of loneliness, according to him.

“I think sometimes it is a little bit off-putting how few [LGBTQ+] people there are,” he said. “Dating apps can almost exacerbate that fact. I think sometimes I feel a little bit guilty being on dating apps … it’s not like real life, or it’s not really romantic in that sense.”

Although the member of the Class of 2024 has had both positive and negative experiences with dating apps, he stressed a need for dating apps in spaces mainly straight spaces, like Dartmouth.

“The Dartmouth social scene, especially the normal social scene of frats and sororities, is aimed at boy and girl dates … I think that often [instills] heteronormativity,” he said.

Dating apps can also help foster friendships, especially during COVID, when meeting in-person was not an option. When Kahssay did use Tinder, she met a lot of people who are now her friends on the platform.

“I actually went on a few dates through Tinder,” she said. “A lot of those were just coffee dates that were casual. And now interestingly enough, a lot of those people that I met through the app I ended up just being friends with through other social avenues like Greek life.” 

Whether it’s a dinner date or friendly meet-up, dating apps can sometimes connect people on deeper levels, as opposed to their reputation as solely sex-based platforms.

“I definitely had [positive experiences] on Tinder meeting people … I think especially as a gay guy [at] Dartmouth, I feel like there’s very few other people who are similar to you,” the member of the Class of 2027 said. 

However Dartmouth’s isolated location and close-knit community can also make dating apps uncomfortable. The occasional awkward run-in with a match gone wrong is much more likely in such a small environment.

“I did get confronted once,” Hester said. “That was weird because in a city when you use a dating app, it’s really low stakes. But at Dartmouth when you use a dating app, [matches] will see you because it’s such a small place.”

Hester sees the benefits of dating apps, but she has a conflicted opinion of them, as they “can worsen hookup culture really easily.” 

“It’s hard to find a genuine … relationship [from apps], at least at Dartmouth,” she said. 

But not all hope is lost for those hoping to make meaningful connections. Hester met her partner of two years on an app, and ultimately she does not regret using them.

“I think it was worth it because I met the person I’m with now. We’d been in classes together, but we never had the courage to reach out to each other in person. It took a dating app to connect us, so I'm really thankful for that,” Hester said.

Often, it feels as if society creates too much stigma around the use of dating apps and online dating platforms. While many people would prefer to find friendship and love in-person, dating apps can be alluring options for those feeling a little too confined by Dartmouth’s intimate setting.