The warmth of a heater engulfed me as I defrosted from a cold walk back from the library. It was a Friday night. All my roommates were sitting on the couch, on their phones. One that never stopped talking was quiet.
“Uh, hey guys,” I said. “What are you doing?”
“We all downloaded Mutual,” one of them said in a monotone voice as they swiped up and then swiped down in a rhythmic motion.
Suddenly, one of them cheered, “I got a match!” Then all of them came alive and congratulated him.
He never went on a date with her.
IBISworld.com predicted that $3 billion dollars would go into the dating service industry in 2018.
The dating service industry is basically any app, print media, website or matchmaking assistant. This includes Tinder, Bumble, Mutual; basically anything that’s matchmaking is included in these services.
And it makes sense why these apps are used. They’re a simple and convenient way to meet people and interact with them. Somebody told me they use it like “window shopping” — they go onto these apps to see a whole bunch of “things” (people) they’re interested in but just don’t have the resources (time) to “purchase” (date) them.
And it apparently works. In Tinder’s app description they said, “We’re called “the world’s hottest app for a reason: We spark more than 26 million matches per day.”
Now that’s an impressive number. But still, there are many reports of assault that come through dating apps. On Nov. 12, the campus sent out an official notice that said a female student was sexually assaulted by somebody she met “through an anonymous social media application.”
Now, whether that was Mutual, Tinder, Bumble, Facebook — it doesn’t matter — sexual assault is still sexual assault.
I’m not saying these apps are inherently bad. As byuido.org says, “Using these apps appropriately can help you meet people,” while not using these apps appropriately can waste of time.
Benjamin Pitman, a sophomore studying psychology, said people should use their time to do things other than look at photos of people.
“You should be yourself and go out into normal social situations that you feel comfortable in,” Pitman said. He said he tries to spend time with people instead of using an app.
So, using our time on them is key, but even managing our time on them does not mean an interaction with someone on those apps could turn south. Students at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), are working on creating a safe dating app called LUX.
Julie Berberian and Christin Badylak-Reals are both seniors studying mechanical engineering at UNH. They met each other their freshman year and have been friends ever since.
They are both enrolled in an intellectual asset management class, basically an entrepreneurship class, and they decided to tackle the issue of dating apps and how to make them safer.
“There’s so many issues with online dating right now and with dating in general,” Berberian said. “It’s a scary thing being a young female too, it can be a scary world out there.”
While Berberian said she’s had fairly positive experiences using dating apps, she knows friends that have had issues from them. Even her class partner, Badylak-Reals, is a survivor of sexual assault from a guy she met on a dating app.
The two asked the question: “How can we try to mitigate these negative dating app experiences?”
Their idea: Create a dating platform that works to mitigate dating sexual violence.
They talked to tons of students, teachers and even parents of students to get the feel on dating.
Instead of being an add-on to a dating app, LUX would be an app with all of the safety features in one place to promote safety before and during the date.
It will be the same basic concept as Tinder and Bumble; swipe right or left on people. However, there will be a safe video chat that does not involve having to use any of your personal contact information. There will be a “safe mode” feature that shares your location with trusted individuals while you’re on a date. But it doesn’t stop there.
They’re going to go James Bond style with “wearable technology like jewelry, such as earrings and rings and necklaces,” Berberian said. That way “if you’re in a sticky situation, you can press this piece of technology discreetly and it will contact your trusted contact within the app.”
This gets rid of the awkward and potentially dangerous moment of taking out your phone to text someone for help.
Berberian and Badylak-Reals and their team won the Social Venture Innovation Challenge and won $5,000 in reward money to move forward with their app.
While we may not all be able to create a new app, we can still choose to be safe on these apps. We can let our friends know where we’re going, who we’re going with and have somebody ready to come and rescue you if the moment comes on a date.
There are certainly good things that come from these dating apps. Berberian told me of a friend who met his girlfriend on Tinder, and they’ve been dating for over a year now. I know people that have healthy marriages that met on Mutual.
Berberian and Badylak-Reals are working to create a better and safer experience with matchmaking apps. We can support them in their efforts by being using these apps for their intended purposes; to meet people in an ever more fast-paced and socially difficult world.