In an age where everything can be ordered at our fingertips – whether it be food, COVID-19 tests, or dates – are we realizing a more efficient and effective reality when it comes to dating? Is the ease in which we can swipe through options of local singles hindering the quality of finding what we are looking for? Both of these questions become more complicated when seen through the lens of sexuality.
Ari, a third-year student whose name has been changed for anonymity due to them not being out to their family, offered insight into their experience of being queer on various dating apps, including Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, and Grindr.
Ari said that there is an inherent community associated with being queer on dating apps – a distinction that is absent when you are straight and using dating apps.
“That can be a really affirming thing to see a community and see the people that are in it, but that can also be very terrifying because it casts a spotlight on you,” Ari said. “[Given] my identity as a person of color, and also [being] queer, I am very very aware of other queer people around me.”
Dating apps have consistently received criticism for their perpetuation of hookup culture, a phenomenon that encourages college-aged students to abandon the concept of long-term relationships and pursue multiple sex-based encounters.
An element to utilizing these apps while queer is the ability to explore more variety in potential relationships. Matches aren’t bound to the traditional dating or hooking-up circuit that often occurs on dating apps. This could manifest itself in open relationships or even platonic relationships through the apps.
“Pursuing relationships with people is the way I prefer to look at [dating apps] because I think that can manifest in very different ways, whether that be intimate or not,” Ari said.
“We commodify and market ourselves for this digestible brand that we can put on an app, so it’s like, what are you choosing to market for yourself and why did you choose that?” Ari said. “In viewing ourselves as a brand or something to sell, it can be really difficult to find something authentic in that because it’s so capitalistic.”
Another anonymous queer student argued that the large quantity of people appearing on these apps improves the experience of dating. Yet, despite the seemingly endless stream of faces, people still feel that there is a lack of choices.
“On Tinder, more interactions happen with men for me, and I feel like Tinder is more oriented towards men and hook-up culture specifically,” the student said. gay hookup bars Knoxville “In my experience, if I am trying to talk to a girl, no one wants to make the first move . It feels less predatory, maybe.”
Hinge, a dating app that allows users to input a variety of information – including built-in sections for their physical characteristics, interests, substance preferences, and prompts – takes a different approach compared to apps like Tinder that stick to a purely swiping approach.
“With Hinge, it is easier to engage with a queer relationship because there’s more information you’re looking for and looking at,” the student said. “In general, [dating apps] are more conducive to a straight situation [for] hookups.”
Political science and geography student Zoe Belland shared that she found her girlfriend through Tinder. As the pandemic limited the ability of most people to go out and form new relationships, Belland initially tried using Tinder to form casual relationships. She found that it was difficult to find people who had figured out their sexuality and knew what they wanted.
“It was hard to find someone that wasn’t overly romanticizing or completely removing the sexuality from it,” Belland said. “I think part of that is the age range … A lot of people don’t have queer experiences or come out until college.”
In Belland’s experience, hookup culture on dating apps doesn’t seem as ever-present for gay women. They argued that there just aren’t as many avenues to pursue casual relationships for queer women.
“I mean, all dating apps are abysmal, but I met [my girlfriend], and so it was worth it,” Belland said. “I know a lot of people it has worked out for … Sometimes it feels bad that you’re judging people based on looks, but it helps you make connections with people that you already have an attraction to.”