OPINION: College students need to avoid overusing dating apps
Over 300 million people across the world use dating apps, according to a May 2 article by Business of Apps.
Many people have reported negative effects on mental health as well as threats or physical violence. College-age adults are the most active on these apps, with 53% of college students saying they have used one, according to a Feb. 2 article by the Pew Research Center. Therefore, they are heavily impacted by these issues.
To protect their physical and mental health, college students should not rely solely on these apps for human connection and keep dating app use to a minimum.
Checking these apps for new matches can easily become compulsive, according to a 2019 study published in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. This compulsion to keep swiping and checking the apps can even disrupt other academic, work or social activities.
Dating apps also expose people to rejection at a much faster and more frequent pace than ever before, according to a 2021 article by the Therapy Group of NYC. Many users find this demoralizing and it often comes at the expense of their mental health.
There is a correlation between dating app use and social anxiety and depression, according to a 2021 study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
Those who spend more time on dating apps tend to have higher symptoms of these mental illnesses. The study also found that men with these symptoms were far less likely to reach out to the people they matched with.
Not only do dating apps negatively affect mental health, but they can also be dangerous, particularly for college students.
Nearly one out of every five women on a dating app has had someone threaten to physically harm them, according to a 2020 report by the Pew Research Center.
Dating apps also make it much easier for predators to target specific vulnerable victims. Out of nearly two thousand sexual assaults committed by acquaintances, 14% happened during a meetup arranged on a dating app, according to a 2022 study by BYU.
Over 22% of these assaults were against college students, more than any other age demographic.
These assaults were unique because an unusually high number of victims reported having a mental illness. They were also particularly violent. These attacks produced more injuries than any of the other assaults.
“In a dating app, people can shape themselves however they want to appeal to vulnerable victims. Those with mental illnesses like depression may be more susceptible to a predator who might, for example, flatter them profusely and persuade them to meet in person,” said Julie Valentine, one of the lead researchers for the study.
While some people have been successful on these apps, this does not take away from the significant risks that they pose to mental and physical health.
It is important for students to prioritize real human connection and avoid overusing these types of apps.