Is Oberlin a Dating App Desert?
ANNA POLACEK // OCTOBER 12, 2018
In an effort to definitively determine the best dating app on campus, this week The Grape sent veteran reporter Anna Polacek into the field (read: the App Store), to give her take on a variety of dating and hookup platforms.
Dating app usage at Oberlin seems to rely on one app and one app only. Tinder has influenced our college dating and hookup scene to such an extent that I seriously wonder how people interacted before it made its way onto this campus. It’s the app everyone complains about, deletes, and re-downloads two weeks later. It can be seen in use on the first floor of Mudd, in class, and pretty much anywhere people use their phones. Is it even worth a review? We all have our own feelings about Tinder. But just for the newbies out there, here’s a brief rundown of its functions: upon downloading and opening the app, you must create a profile comprised of a series of photos of yourself (some people like to get quirky and throw some memes in there) and a short bio. You can also add your anthem/favorite song (“Sweetener” by Ariana Grande is my personal preference, and also an amazing song). The profile requirements are so few that it creates a sizeable amount of pressure to ensure you’ve chosen the perfect photos and formulated the most clever bio. Many Obies rebel against this pressure, trying to make it look as though they don’t give a single F about their image; we might call this a power move. Once your profile is all set up you may begin swiping left (not interested) or right (interested) on other profiles in your area. If both profiles have swiped right on each other, a “match” is made, and you can message your suitor.
But enough about Tinder. I’m sick of Tinder. Aren’t we all? It’s time for bigger and better things. It’s time... for a new dating app. Since there are so many options, I have taken it upon myself to find you the best one. Over the past week, I downloaded, built profiles for, and messaged people on Bumble, Hinge, Her, and Happn. In the following sections I will lay out the functionality of each app and my personal review. Full disclosure: as a queer individual, my research was done under the guise of using dating apps as a queer individual. All names used in this article have been changed. Onward.
The first Tinder alternative that came to mind was Bumble. I have no prior experience with the app, but I had an idea of it as the metropolitan version of Tinder for adult people who are actually interested in making moves. That is certainly not me, but for the sake of The Grape, I thought I’d give it a try.
The profile questions were pretty basic but a bit more demanding than Tinder’s. Onlookers of my profile can inquire that I’m looking for something casual, exercise almost never, am a Leo, and tower over most people at a healthy 5’ 9”.
After that easy set up, I was prompted to a new screen that looked a heck of a lot like Tinder: the same swiping mechanism with a slightly different layout. Once I matched with a potential suitor, the app displayed the message: “Women MUST start the chat within 24 hours or the match expires forever. Men can’t send the first message even if they want to.” Which like… how in the hell does that apply to me if neither parties happen to be men. Luckily, someone who we will call Carmen informed me through the messaging feature that, for queer users, “it’s honestly the same as other apps in that regard because either [person] can message first.”
The “women message first” feature rubbed me the wrong way. It indicates the app was designed for hetero use only and leaves no room for the recognition of more than two genders. So pretty much, queer Bumble is just a less trafficked Tinder. Maybe Bumble can serve its purpose in higher populated areas, but in terms of its usage in Oberlin, queer users of the app seemed to all feel the same way: boring!
The Hinge layout made me feel like I was 15 again and setting up my first VSCO profile. Or like it was this past summer and I was re-downloading the app for that expensive frozen yogurt place just so I could look at the flavors. Anyway, a message pops up that reads: “Welcome to a more thoughtful way to date.” OK, I think I’m getting it now. It’s like the innovative, start-up version of a dating app with a minimalist layout.
The profile set-up was a whole different ball park. Instead of basic questions about your towering height and superior astrological sign, it prompts you to choose and answer three quirky questions. Just to get an idea, here’s mine:
My personal brand is: Australian boy singer Cody Simpson with a hefty amount of Pier 1 Imports
On a Saturday at 2 am you can find me: Tf asleep
I geek out on: Ariana Grande but NOT Pete Davidson
Hinge also differs in its matching mechanism. Rather than swiping right or left, you can pick something on someone’s profile to “like.” For example, if you thought I looked charming as hell in that photo with the cowboy hat you could like that, or if you also just don’t get all the god damn hype about Pete Davidson, you could like that.
So my review of the layout, profile set up, and matching mechanism on Hinge is 10/10. But it can’t go any further than that because I only got one match, which after further inquiry, I discovered attends a local Jr/Sr high school. Yikes.
Her markets itself as a dating app for LGBTQ+ people. Everything about this app is so gay: it’s high maintenance, the design is tacky, and there’s this random feature with a bunch of “communities” you can join. The community function works as a platform for users to post and share events. All of the posts from communities you subscribe to come together in your feed, which works a lot like a Facebook feed. Some of the options for communities include: 40+, Queer Womxn of Color, Trans Womxn, Trans Men, They/Them, Recipes and Foodies, Mindfulness and Wellbeing.
It’s really just the gayest thing I’ve ever seen. The communities I subscribe to are: HIT ME UP!, Strong and Single, and Ask HER Anything. Based on these subscription choices, my feed was hopping with many aggressive queers. Just 1 minute ago, Someone who we will call Shane posted that they always seem to be attracted to older women. Another user, Alice, feels as though this app is nothing but “catfishes” and “dry-ass” people. And there’s a lot of inquiry about an event called “UHAUL Vacation!” happening in Mexico next month. Goddamnit I love this app. Sadly though, the majority of Her users tend to live far out of town. No Obies in sight.
This app isn’t even worth a review because literally no one uses it, but the concept is that it notifies you when you cross paths with someone else who uses the app. I just think that’s crazy. And potentially so, so dangerous.
So pretty much, we’re back to where we started. As you can see, there are plenty of promising apps out there, but not enough users to make them worth our while. So maybe this is a call to action: download these apps people! Maybe we can change the dating and hook-up scene if we don’t all rely on an app that functions as a lookbook dependent on arbitrarily judging someone on four photos and a Spotify anthem. Plus, it was refreshing to see so many non-Oberlin queer people out there (shout out to Her). At the very least, can we all download Happn for like a day? Because I just really want to try it.