Although largely stigmatized by younger people in the past, some Duke students are increasingly turning to online dating to expand their opportunities for romance.
For those tired or frustrated by the Duke dating scene, online sites offer the ability to conveniently peruse profiles of an expanded pool of singles interested in dating or relationships. Several students said they have created profiles and have been in contact with others on the websites.
Online dating websites vary in format. Some such as OkCupid match people specifically to each other based on an extensive survey, while others place greater emphasis on broad search results.
Freshman Will,* a gay 18-year-old, said others have questioned the use of online dating at his age. But online dating is more conducive to finding other gay men, he noted.
“The playing field is so small, especially at a tiny school like Duke,” Will wrote in a Facebook message Saturday. “That’s why people here primarily turn to the Internet—they’ve just run out of options in the real world.”
Will first used online dating through Craigslist to experiment with his sexuality. He stopped using the website after being sexually assaulted. He has since used Tinder, Grindr and OkCupid, but is not wholly satisfied with his online dating experiences.
“I kept trying to have something good... but it was mediocre and I’ve noticed that guys from the Internet have no desire for anything substantial,” Will said. “They may claim to want to date on the surface, but really they’re just a bunch of flaky bastards who are in it for the sex.”
But junior Natalie Robles said online dating can expand one’s non-sexual, romantic horizons.
After several experiences with men not being clear about whether they were interested in having a relationship and a history of unfulfilling “hookups,” Robles said she created an account on OkCupid two weeks ago. She was initially nervous about advertising herself and that people would be interested in primarily sexual relationships.
“What I’ve found recently is it’s kind of an ego massage,” Robles said. “The guy is going to say things that you don’t hear much on campus and it feels great.”
On her profile, she specified that she was looking for someone older because she wants to date an individual who is mature and past the undergraduate stage. She is currently dating a student at Virginia Tech. He visited her last weekend and she drove up to see him Saturday, she said.
With students’ busy academic schedules, online dating can be a convenient alternative for working romance into one’s life, Robles added. Others can use online dating websites to find people completely removed from the university experience.
Senior Samantha Lachman, a Chronicle columnist, created a profile on JDate.com, a dating site for Jewish singles, and is currently dating a paratrooper from Vermont stationed at Fort Bragg. She intended to find someone unaffiliated with Duke as preparation for “the real world” next year.
“From my experience at Duke, people are either in very serious relationships or just randomly hooking up with each other,” she said. “Before graduating, I wanted to have one normal dating experience.”
Although she thinks dating is possible at Duke, she said she had exhausted her options.
“You get to a point as a senior where you feel like you kind of already know everyone and you’ve already dated them or they’re not interested or they’re already taken or they’re not the same sexuality,” she said.
But some students do not take online dating seriously.
Sophomore Zohair Zaidi opened a profile on Shaadi.com, an South Asian matrimonial website, as a joke with a friend, attempting to see who could get more hits on their profiles. The experience caused him to be more accepting of online dating.
Even so, he said that he would not seriously use a dating site because it feels like admitting a social incapability.
“At a younger age, in college, you have many resources to meet people through student organizations and other universities,” he said. “Once you’ve gone past undergraduate, graduate school, you’re in the real world, there isn’t anywhere to meet people besides maybe the club, the church, the masjid—you don’t have the same connections and there’s less of a chance of meeting someone.”
*Name has been changed for the source’s protection.