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Sex and the University: Stigmas around online dating: earned or unearned?

By Imaani Cain
On April 2, 2013


Occasionally, you're at college and you're single (and perhaps a bit desperate), in an open relationship or maybe you can communicate better with people when you've gotten the opportunity to think over your words and write them out. Online dating is usually a thing that people turn to, although it seems to be slightly stigmatized among college students. The idea is that those who register on online dating websites are unattractively desperate, and that the relationships forged on the Internet are lesser in value because they don't often include face-to-face interaction. 

Certain dating sites (such as OkCupid and Plenty of Fish) ask the user to fill out a questionnaire so as to find a stronger match. You are able to see other people's responses to questions and determine if you'd like to meet them, or if there is even the slightest possibility of chemistry. Friends have told me the horrifying answers they've seen (the most bizarre of which seems to be the ever-popular response of "both are good" to the question "Which is worse, starving children or abused animals"), the skeevy, hypersexual messages they've received. Despite this, they have kept their accounts in hopes they will find a partner to suit their needs, be it casual, no-strings-attached sex or the prospect of a loving relationship. 

A female student that I asked responded "I try and be cautious with it, because I feel like people portray different parts of their personality to try and meet you. I think it can be sketchy, but I also think it can work out. Certain parts of it can be sus...I do think it's a little sus, you know?" 

Her statement encapsulates a fear that a lot of people have had (or currently have) towards online dating and/or flirting. There is a certain apprehension with the internet, that people cannot be trusted on it. The documentary (and TV show that spawned from it) "Catfish" has only increased a sense of paranoia. As the student said, it can be decidedly 'sus'; there are people who do lie about their identity and/or appearance on the internet, only to shy away once a chance for a physical meeting turns up. 

There is also a more earnest fervor for those doing online dating, an intense desire to be as charming as possible. It's possible that people feel the urge to compensate, as they can't step through the computer and woo you in a corporeal sense. Is such earnestness attractive, or undesirable?

In our technological era, it is more than commonplace to want to reach out to people through electronics. We exchange numbers for texting purposes and request each other's Facebook and Skype names. It's incredibly interesting that there is such a stigma against online dating, when we as a society have fully embraced all other aspects of technology-based communication and/or flirting. 

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