Students navigate dating in a digital world

Alexis Bennett braved the online dating world and came back victorious. Less than one week after joining Christian Mingle, she found “her person.”

Now approaching one year of a steady relationship, Bennett said she is embracing their virtual love story.

“God works through these different things to have you meet different people and develop different relationships,” Bennett said.

If your Calvin walk didn’t go as planned, you have another chance to discover your true love thanks to the dating apps that have characterized a romantic generation. 

Bennet’s decision to join the dating app was spontaneous, encouraged by a friend who also signed up for the app. Bennett said she deliberately chose a Christian app to avoid the hookup culture prevalent on secular apps. Christian Mingle, she had heard, offered a choice of people with similar mindsets and beliefs.

“I was like, ‘Okay, what the heck?’” Bennett said. 

Bennett said she had expected the process to be time-consuming and was pleasantly surprised at the “instant click” she shared with her current partner.

It wasn’t a flawless process, however. Prior to matching with her current beau, Bennett spent her time on the app discerning people’s intentions, legitimacy and ability to handle rejection. Bennett said during her short time on the app she also had to handle receiving unanticipated messages from much older men.

Although she was initially reluctant to disclose the way she and her boyfriend met to others, Bennett said she has since realized the need to embrace their experience. Part of that included telling her parents, who turned out to be quite supportive.

“They were more surprised that I had gone online than that I had met someone online,” Bennett said.

After using Tinder for some time, Sam Jackson decided to take a step back from the online dating world. Now he’s in a place of contentment.

Jackson joined the dating website during his freshman year; he was excited at the chance to explore a bigger dating market.

“I was in that mindset of wanting more dating opportunities as a gay guy,” Jackson said. 

Seeking someone with similar values and beliefs, Jackson was thorough and direct in creating his profile. However, Jackson said he soon discovered that most people were non-intentional and were more interested in hooking up than pursuing a long-term relationship.

He also found that most people were primarily interested in appearances.

“I think for straight people, it’s probably easier ’cause there’s a lot more options and a lot more people wanting to date, at least in a Christian way,” Jackson said.  “If you’re a Christian and you want someone with the same goals, probably get a Christian app.”

Fanny Johns recalls her time on Hinge last year as a “fun experience.”

According to Johns, diving into the online dating world was a “domino effect” of her phase of self-searching and self-realization after turning 21. Johns said it was her first time seeking companionship outside her immediate circle. She felt it was necessary, coming from a conservative religious and cultural background that left her feeling sheltered most of her life.

Johns said she was also curious to gauge the dating market. “Just to see … ’What are people looking for out there?’” she said.

Hinge was recommended to her as a safer platform where people were more intentional 

Johns said she approached the dating app experience with an open mind. While she wanted to reflect her personality and represent her religious affiliation, she was also willing to date people from different religious backgrounds.

Although an overall pleasant experience, Johns said she had her fair share of stories, from ghosting to sexually-inclined conversations. 

“I feel like if I wasn’t clear about my intentions, it could always quickly take a south turn,” Johns said. 

Johns said that while she wasn’t completely prepared mentally for the experience, she had close friends guiding her throughout the process.

Johns said she recommends the experience to most. “The uncertainty can be kind of scary,” she said. “But it does work for some people. You just have to know your own intentions and understand the intentions of others.”

While he had some fun dates, Jackson said he also faced some uncomfortable situations he felt he had to walk away from. He considered the entire experience ultimately disappointing and believes meeting in person remains more “personable” and “meaningful.”

Bennett said her advice to people considering using dating apps would be to approach it prayerfully and with awareness.

“I think it should always be leaving it up to God and trusting that if it’s his will, that something is gonna happen and that you’re either gonna get a relationship and have it be successful or you’re gonna learn from this experience and be able to take that knowledge into something else,” she said.