College can serve as a pathway to meeting new people. But for those who struggle with social anxiety, dating apps can provide a space to practice interacting with people for the first time. (Emerald Stock)

For many, college can serve as a way to get out of their comfort zone and meet new people; however, it can be intimidating to walk up to a perfect stranger and introduce yourself, especially if the person is someone you hope to pursue romantically. That is where dating apps come in. With the simple swipe of a finger, you can search through hundreds of profiles of nearby people, all looking for an opportunity to meet someone they would not otherwise talk to. That being said, dating apps are not always the safest or most efficient way to meet someone, and there are things to consider before you swipe.  

For those who struggle with social anxiety or just introductions in general, dating apps can provide a space to practice interacting with people for the first time. Because many dating apps, such as Tinder or Bumble, require you to match with someone before you can message them, the pressure of trying to figure out if the other person is into you or not is taken out of the equation. 

After you match with someone, there is also more time to think of an opening ice breaker than you would have regularly, as dating apps give you the opportunity to think of it without the other person staring as you struggle to find your words. Chris Boutte, a contributor to The Mighty who struggles with social anxiety, praised dating apps for the ability to think of ice breakers in a safe space.

“I have no control of a conversation when it’s happening in real time because my brain is moving way too fast and has irrational fears coming at me left and right,” wrote Boutte in a 2015 article. “When I have the time to structure my first impression message through a dating app, I can edit that thing like it’s my college thesis.”

While dating apps can be a safe space for people with social anxiety, some aspects of dating apps can be unsafe. A potential danger that dating apps pose is the digital security issues with the apps that can threaten the safety of your personal information. Dating apps can ask questions of you in order to build a profile, much of which you would not want exposed for the whole world to see. In February, Okcupid, Coffee Meets Bagel, and Jack’d all reported breaches in security that included hacked accounts, exposure of users’ private photos online and unauthorized access of users’ full names and email addresses.

“Depending on which dating app it is, they ask you a lot of personal questions,” said Amanda Powers, a UO student and dating app user.

Another risk of using dating apps is the question of personal safety when attempting to meet with someone you met through the app. This year, 53 crimes occurring in Denver ranging from robbery to assault were linked to the victims’ interactions with criminals on dating apps. In the U.K., 2,054 offenses originating from the use of dating apps were recorded between 2011 and 2016, averaging about 410 assaults per year. To avoid incidents like these when using a dating app, meeting in a public location, sharing locations with friends while on the date or sending screenshots of your date’s profile to friends may provide some element of safety.

“I’m a little scared to use [dating apps] because I’m scared of randomly getting somebody that’s kind of creepy or psycho or something,” said UO student Ally Tipton about why she is hesitant to use dating apps.

For whatever reason you choose to use dating apps, exercise caution when sharing your personal information and meeting with people you do not know. These apps can be a great opportunity to connect with people you would have otherwise never met before and can provide practice for interacting with new people in the future, just as long as you do so safely.

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