Unhinged on Hinge: UD students’ take on dating apps


Neeva Patel, Staff Writer

“I met up to get coffee with a person I met on a dating app,” Juniper* (12) said, who is anonymous because her parents don’t know she uses the app. “We went on a walk in Central Park and ended up talking for two hours.”

Since Tinder’s release in 2012, online dating apps have found an audience with 30% of US adults, most of whom are between 18 and 29 years old, according to The Atlantic. With 957,000 monthly downloads, Tinder is the most popular dating app in the US, followed by Bumble, Hinge, Paired, and then Plenty of Fish. Apps that cater to specific demographics, such as JSwipe for Jewish people, Muzz for Muslims, and Grindr for gay men, are also popular. Users can get advice from a halal dating coach on Muzz, scroll through the “most liked” users on JSwipe, and see which users are at locations near them at any given time on Grindr. 

In an anonymous Record poll to upperclassmen, only two out of 81 respondents have a profile on a dating app, although interviews suggest the real number is higher. Because users must be 18 to make a profile, underage students falsify their age in order to use the apps. The two students in the Upper Division (UD) reported downloading dating apps “for fun” and because they “wanted to find people to meet up with.” Motivations to use online dating apps differ based on the individual — while some students download these apps as a joke, others are legitimately looking for potential partners.

Colette* (11), who is anonymous because she is underage, first downloaded Hinge as a joke with her friends, she said. She was curious to see what profiles other people on the app created for themselves since the profiles she saw on TikTok were funny. “I was with a group of people over the summer, and we wanted to see what it would be like to have a profile, but it was never anything serious.”

On the other hand, Juniper put a lot of thought into presenting the most authentic version of herself on her dating profile, she said. “I feel no need to appear a certain way for people since I want to have genuine conversations, so I included what best encompasses my personality,” she said. She included a long and detailed description of herself and her hobbies, what she is looking for in a partner, and some photos of herself. 

Dante* made a profile for his friend on Wizz with his real name and photo, though the description was made up and exaggerated because his friend had no intention of actually finding a partner. Because Wizz is open to users aged 13 and up, Dante did not have to lie about his friend’s age.

They used Wizz because it is a lesser-known dating app and they wanted to avoid people they knew in real life. He does not know of anyone in his grade who is on an app, though upperclassmen might be, he said. “We technically didn’t download a dating app, but the fact that my friend had a profile on Wizz could mean that nobody he knew wanted to date him, which is pretty pathetic,” he said. 

Juniper observes that apps like Bumble, which are curated for a younger audience, are more popular amongst teenagers in comparison to apps like Tinder or Hinge. Although she tried Tinder in the past, it felt too mainstream, whereas apps like Bumble allowed her to chat with high school or college students, she said. 

Juniper first downloaded Bumble a week after she turned 18. Although she considered downloading the app for several months leading up to her birthday, Juniper wanted to wait so she wouldn’t have to lie about her age. She considers downloading dating apps and looking for people to chat with as long as students are 18 or older. “Since I’m 18 now, I feel more liberty and autonomy in getting to know people in public situations,” she said. 

Although she was 16 when she downloaded the app, Colette entered her age as 18 due to the app’s age restriction. On her profile, she included her real name and three photos of herself — close-ups where her face was clearly pictured and mirror selfies. “I didn’t include any description or anything personal because I wasn’t actually trying to match with people, it was just to see what having the app is like,” Colette said.

Colette matched with several people on Hinge, from teenagers to people in their thirties, she said. She never clicked on any of their profiles because she was not interested in dating anyone she met on an app. 

The apps’ age restrictions are in place because falsifying one’s age creates major risks, UD Director of Counseling and Guidance Dr. Daniel Rothstein said. Most teenagers are nervous when it comes to entering the dating world, so I can understand the allure of curating a profile and to see how others might respond, but it is important to wait until students are the appropriate age,” he said. 

Psychologist Ian Pervil compared students putting themselves on dating apps to learning how to drive. Just because someone is eligible to take their driving test doesn’t mean they know all the rules of the road, he said. “All relationships and connections rely on trust, and it takes a certain leap of trust when you put yourself on a date which could potentially be dangerous,” Pervil said. “There’s a lot more to this than merely meeting the criteria for being a participant and I would caution people to be very thoughtful and reflective about all of the responsibility and risks that ensue.”

Pretending to be at the age of legal consent is illegal and should not be encouraged, Mavis* (12), who is anonymous because she doesn’t want to be associated with dating apps, even though she does not use one, said. It also violates the online conduct rules in the student handbook. While Mavis understands making a dating profile can be entertaining, she does not think that it is worth it to release personal information unless someone actually wants to have a relationship. “You risk exposure of your digital footprint and people at the school could find your account,” she said. “A potential risk could be that random adults are hiding behind fake profiles and preying on gullible teenagers.” 

Rothstein worries students will get catfished and manipulated by a person behind a fake profile, he said. “There have been many cases of teenagers being convinced to send explicit pictures and then blackmailed, or feeling traumatized by intimate conversations or exchanges that were from someone completely different from the posted profile,” he said. The two students from the Record poll who are on dating apps reported they have interacted with over five other users. 

“Even though I used to get notifications when people liked me on the app, their profiles aren’t revealed unless you click the ‘x’ or ‘heart,’” Colette said. She received around 50 likes on her profile overall, but those numbers mean nothing to her because they are only based on her appearance, since that is all she included in her profile, she said. Eventually, she made her profile private because another student at the school found it, and she didn’t want people at the school to make fun of her. 

In contrast, Juniper downloaded Bumble to meet new people and get a sense of the dating pool — not because she had limited options in person, but rather because she had no interest in dating the people she knew already, she said. 

Juniper has also tested out dating apps meant specifically for the queer community, such as HER and LEX, she said. Adults who identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ community are twice as likely to download a dating app than straight individuals, according to Pew Research Center. As a queer person, Juniper finds dating apps meant for the LGBTQ+ individuals especially useful because instead of speculating about a person’s sexual orientation, she can see a person’s profile and immediately know.

Although she enjoyed meeting and speaking with one person, Juniper is not looking for anything serious and feels that that is something that will happen in college. “This was honestly just something I wanted to do to see what kind of conversations I could have with people, and it’s been pretty successful so far,” she said.

Ultimately, Pervil recognizes advantages and disadvantages of online dating platforms, he said. While certain features of these apps can provide comfort and connections, they can cause feelings of isolation, Pervil said. “I could never have imagined a phenomenon that does a better job of both bringing people together and keeping us apart.”