Central New York

Swipe Right for Hookup Culture — The Changing Face of Dating

College student using Tinder as a way to keep busy during the day. © 2018 Morgan Trau

Audio Transcript: Swipe Right

By Morgan Trau SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Swipe left? Swipe right? If you understand what any of this means, odds are you are a young adult, caught up in today’s dating scene. It’s a dating scene focused mostly around brief encounters. This culture of casual relationships is largely a result of modern technology.

Zach Parnes is a typical 22-year-old college senior looking to have some fun during his last semester at school.

“I mean not even two minutes into the app I already have a match so, and I think she’s a pretty cute looking girl – I think I will send her the first message,” he said.

Zach uses an app called Tinder that helps people find a date quickly. He just swiped right on a woman’s profile – his way of telling someone he was very interested in getting together with her.

Dating apps like Tinder allow a “hookup” culture to thrive on college campuses. Zach is one of more than 60 million people using dating apps to – well—hookup.

“There is no doubt in my mind that when college students use dating apps it is strictly looking for a quick hookup,” said Parnes. “Does hook up culture exist on college campuses? Is the Pope catholic? And so when you come here and you have so many more people than the 300 or so that you graduated with from high school, and half of them happen to be pretty and of the opposite sex, or the same-sex if you swing that way, people are more willing to try and experiment and push the boundaries of what it traditional and try something else.”

Hookup culture describes a dating environment based on casual sexual relations, and college sophomore Isabella Grella believes it’s all driven by technology.

“Maybe because of social media, hookup culture is more prevalent and also the way we communicate with people is so fast. No one ever wants to just like slow down with anything. And also it’s just super easy to see so many people on social media that you can never keep your attention towards one person – which is kind of sad,” she said.

Is technology making people afraid to approach one-another? Some people think it is “inorganic” to meet romantic interests online.

“I just can’t meet someone through a technological device – that’s just not me,” said senior Marcus Robinson. “People do not know how to interact anymore, it is hard to meet new people because no one looks up from their phones.”

Syracuse University Professor Rebecca Ortiz specializes in health communication and she says increasing rates of sexually transmitted disease may be because dating apps like Tinder cause people to be more laid-back in their preferences.

“Apps like Tinder sort of set up the expectation that this is just a casual sex relationship that you then engage in more casual behaviors in those circumstances,” said Ortiz.

But are dating apps all that bad? Student Erin Riley thinks having an app to talk to people helps those who may be shy. But if someone swipes left on your profile in Tinder, that means a potential hookup has turned you down. And Riley says that may actually be easier to take, when it happens online.

“In person it definitely hurts more. But on Tinder, you’re just saying yes or no to a picture,” said Riley.

Junior Justin Bachman says dating apps may actually make it easier to approach someone new.

“I think it takes out a lot of the social fear of having to be confident when you walk up to someone – that you can type a message out, delete it, write it again eight times over before you send something, that it takes out all the self-doubt you have,” he said.

Whether you love the apps like Zach, or hate them like senior Marcus Robinson, students all agree that apps are helping to make monogamy a thing of the past. And this has some experts like Professor Ortiz worried what it all may mean as Tinder users get older and people start looking for more serious relationships.

“So, it may make them feel that ‘for me, to get attention or for me to be able to have a sexual relationship or any sort of relationship, I have to engage in a casual sex relationship’ because that has become the standard and that is sort of how Tinder is set up – it is very, sort of fleeting.”

But for now, most students just live for the moment like Zach Parnes. How is he doing on Tinder today?

“So already she responded here to me, let’s see what she said. And she asked what I’m doing tonight here, well I guess I’m going to try to see Nicole at some point, wish me luck!” Parnes said.

Maybe she will be the one for Zach, but chances are she’ll just be the one for tonight.


Zach Parnes' profile picture for his Tinder profile © Courtesy of Zach Parnes 2018

Female college student looks over her current Tinder matches © Morgan Trau 2018

Professor Ortiz's office shows her background in health communication and sexual safety. © Morgan Trau 2018