By Abigail Whitam, Northwestern State University New Media student
This article was written for a magazine class
Dating Sites. There is a huge variety of apps to choose from that focus on different individuals and their interests. As I was sitting in my dorm room during my freshman year of college at Northwestern State University, I remember downloading Tinder for the first time. The app with a gradient orange and pink logo featuring a flame. The lack of knowledge of what the app was about and the excitement of not knowing what would come out of utilizing this platform drew me in. Many individuals have positive outcomes with using these sites, many experience online harassment, sexual assault, and more. But I’ve discovered that when using online dating sites, it is important to know of the dangers that can be evident when using these and to recognize them when they show themselves.
Two of the first well-known dating sites to exist were eHarmony and Match.com. These sites are geared toward adults who are looking for a serious relationship. Dating sites have been around since 1995 beginning with Match.com while another popular site, eHarmony, was launched in 2000. While these were the original sites that introduced the world to online dating, the growth over the years has been phenomenal with an estimate of over 8,000 more sites that have shed their light. As found in a survey conducted by PewResearch.org, “Three-in-ten U.S. adults say they have ever used a dating site or app, identical to the share who said this in 2019. That includes 9% who report doing so in the past year, according to the Center’s survey of 6,034 adults conducted July 5-17, 2022.” Included in this article is real-life interviews with real people who have used some of these sites recently and what their experiences were like.
According to DatingAdvice.com’s article titled, “The Dangers of Online Dating: 7 Stats and 5 Ways to Stay Safe,” about 10% of sex offenders use dating sites and on free sites, 1 of 10 users are scammers.
Sgt. Charles Cassels, with the NSU Campus Police states, “specific crimes that NSU police have encountered is that of online sexual harassment and stalking. Last August of 2022, there were at least 4 instances of online stalking which led to the police getting involved.” Cassels stated that these types of harassment usually evolve from online dating sites where an individual will become “obsessed” with the other party.
Another tricky situation that the NSU police have encountered is that of telephone harassment, which leads back to online dating as well. It is safe to say that an individual should only give out their telephone number to individuals whom they know and trust. A telephone number can lead to several things such as unwanted phone calls and unacceptable behavior from the individual.
An example of an upsetting situation with dating sites includes BJN, a senior at NSU who studies Music Theory.
“I was a sophomore here and decided to download Grindr, a gay dating site, one evening just because I was bored,” BJN stated.
Grindr’s website says that it is “The world’s largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people.” The logo of the app favors the colors of a bumble bee, with its black and yellow coloring.
“I matched with a guy, and we started texting. Before I knew it the whole situation had gotten out of hand. We met for the first time in person at my house. Looking back, this was the stupidest thing I could have done. He began to randomly show up at my doorstep without warning. I was being stalked.” Situations like BJN happen more often than not. Finding love with a stranger who lives behind a screen can be quite intimidating. After all, we never truly know someone whom we have never met.
Another student, LB, an Alumna of NSU has had a similar experience as Johnson.
It was a chilly, fall evening in November of 2021. LB was on her way to meet a guy that she met on the dating site, Hinge. Hinge claims on its site to be “the only dating app that emphasizes long-term connections between users. It is aimed towards a younger demographic than Match.com and eHarmony. e app was fully owned by Match Group as of February 2019.”
LB says at first glance, the guy seemed just like he presented himself online, however, he soon began to show his true colors.
“I had a guy get literally obsessed with me and talk about marriage after a first date. We met up for the first time at an Italian restaurant. I ended up having to block him on everything. He just kept making new profiles so that he would pop back up on my Hinge feed.”
Another dating app scenario that has ended up in disaster was that of CK, a senior at NSU studying business. CK was utilizing the app Bumble. Bumble is an online dating app where profiles of potential matches are displayed to users, who can “swipe left” to reject a candidate or “swipe right” to indicate interest.
CK had swiped right on a female on the app and the two soon began to form an online relationship. The day came when the two decided it was time to meet in person. CK invited the individual over to watch a movie and eat dinner together at his home. Because CK had work early the next morning, he let the girl know that she needed to leave so that he could get some rest.
This conversation soon got heated and ended up in an argument because she incinerated that he was only using her for a one-night stand.
“I guess she took it the wrong way because she got super pissed and threw a tantrum and stormed out of my apartment and then a month later, she showed up to my old job, which I thankfully did not work at anymore. She gave my old coworker her number and told him to give it to me to contact her.”
After this encounter, the girl contacted CK and told him that she was pregnant and that the baby was his. CK was in utter shock because he knew there was no way that the kid could be his.
“Thankfully, I got the situation handled by myself. I was going to get a restraining order if she did not leave me alone. I felt like I was being harassed.”
At the end of the day, CK learned that the girl was never pregnant. She just wanted attention because of her attachment issues.
All the individuals that I interviewed and had a chance to speak with never returned to dating sites. CK stated, “At this point, I feel like it is all around safer and more intimate to meet someone in person.”
I believe that all three individuals were just scarred from their not-so-pleasant experience that they were frightened to return to them. LB states that she does not have any regrets because it taught her a life lesson to never trust a stranger you meet behind a screen.
Personally, I have never had a bad experience while using a dating site. I was very interested in covering this topic because of curiosity per se. After writing this article, I feel more knowledgeable about this subject as well as safer about how to go about using them. My goal in writing this article is not to negatively impact the idea of online dating but solely to inform individuals to be safe while doing so and be able to recognize the danger signs. Despite the negative aspects, Cloudwards.net states that 14% of online dating site users get married to someone that they met online.
While online-dating using some of the sites included can end happily, it is always smarter to play on the safe side when doing so. At the end of the day, there are many red flags that you can look for when speaking to someone behind a screen. Suspicious behaviors include requesting financial assistance, claiming to be widowed with children, claiming to be studying abroad/ out of the country, telling over- the-top stories consistently, etc. These behaviors are important to watch to ensure your safety.
As listed on the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network’s website, a few tips and tricks to
safely date online include:
-Use different photos for your dating profile
-Avoid connecting with suspicious profiles
-Check out your potential date on social media
-Block and report suspicious users
If you are a NSU student and ever in need of assistance from the Campus Police, their website can be found at https://www.nsula.edu/universityaffairs/police/ or reached by phone at 318- 357-5431.