It’s Friday night. You’re single and out with friends in your favorite bar, having a drink — or two, or three. You lock eyes with a cute guy or girl from across the room. You strike up a conversation, maybe dance and eventually exchange phone numbers.
It’s a scene that plays out frequently in East Lansing, but it’s not the only way to meet a one-night stand or even a significant other.
In today’s technological age, anyone with a computer, tablet or smartphone can make those connections anywhere, anytime. Dating applications, social media and various websites allow college students to meet new people with the click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger.
And that means a new way to begin both intimate romantic relationships or casual hookups.
In previous generations, “let’s hook up” used to mean “let’s get together” or “let’s hang out,” said assistant professor Stephanie Amada, who researches college hookup culture.
“Most commonly it (now) means sex, and usually with someone (with) whom it will likely happen only that one time, unless this person happens to be a ‘regular’ hookup,” Amada said.
More than sex
Smartphone dating applications such as Tinder, Lulu, Hot or Not and OkCupid can make it easier for students to hook up, because the search for someone the user might find attractive is expedited with ratings systems and profile pictures.
Different methods for interacting through social media are popping up constantly and with that, there are new dating apps being introduced every day, said professional writing sophomore Emily Dallaire, who has been researching social media’s impact on relationships for the past semester.
For example, Lulu is a dating app that enables women to anonymously rate men. The app was released in February 2013 and has already reached more than a million users. The app gives women a chance to write reviews of men they were previously involved with.
Women answer a series of multiple choice questions about a guy’s manners, commitment level and looks. They’re then asked to “hashtag” the given man with both positive and negative labels such as ”#mommasboy,” ”#mrperfect” and ”#cheaperthanabigmac.”
Finally, the man’s composite score is calculated for other women to view. What used to be private girl talk has gone viral.
“I’m not too excited about the idea,” said statistics junior Desmond Kearsley, who recently heard about the app. “It could all be lies.”
As the years go on, Dallaire said she sees social media and other dating apps becoming social norms. People will still meet the traditional way, she said, but times are changing.
And it’s not just about sex — a number of MSU students have dating apps to thank for meeting the boyfriends or girlfriends they’ll be with this Valentine’s Day.
A match in cyber space
Mathematics sophomore Sarah Kirsch decided to give OKCupid a try during a boring summer on campus.
OKCupid is a free dating and social networking website where users take quizzes and answer multiple-choice questions about themselves. The server will then match two people based on similarities.
Those quizzes include questions about where you’re from, what religion you practice, your thoughts about sex and the seven things you can’t do without — essentially everything under the sun, Kirsch said.
Kirsch was paired with her current boyfriend Jon Barker, who lives in Mount Pleasant, and the two began to message back and forth.
“We just messaged in the morning and he would ask how my day was going,” she said. “He asked me questions about my birthday and other things like that. We just kind of began to get to know each other.”
Within a week, the two decided to meet up. Without even talking on the phone, they made the trip to see each other.
Kirsch had to balance those feelings of trust with a healthy amount of caution — even though he seemed like a nice, genuine guy based on his profile and their conversations, she knew the risk of meeting with a stranger.
“There’s a lot of creeps on the website,” Kirsch said. “It’s not a bad website, but there are definitely creeps.”
After a month of continuous messaging, the two decided to take things to the next level and begin dating. It’s been seven months and the couple is still together.
A call for romance
For some students, making a profile on a dating site is just for laughs. But the joke was on nursing senior Laurel DiPucchio, whose classified ad turned into something more.
She posted on allMSU’s dating classifieds as a joke to see if anyone actually took the site seriously and within 24 hours, she’d received eight replies.
One of those replies wasfrom physics graduate student Josh Isaacson— her boyfriend of now two years.
“I saw his (ad) and he messaged me,” DiPucchio said. “He just seemed really nice, smart and outgoing so I just had to meet him.”
The two ended up meeting in person the next day for lunch at East Lansing’s Noodles & Company.
“Finding someone online who is really who they say they are and more — it just seemed too perfect,” she said. She said she never thought she’d be the person who met someone special online.
People have a stigma against meeting up with someone when you’ve never seen them in person, she said.
“I took the chance, and here we are now, two years later,” DiPucchio said.
Going the distance
Before starting college this fall, nursing freshman Nicholas Holcman wanted to talk to people who were also coming to MSU. He turned to Tumblr, a popular blogging website where he found Jenna.
She wound up attending Ohio University instead due to financial struggles. They fell out of touch for a few months before Jenna messaged Holcman on Tumblr in November. Since then, the two have been talking nonstop.
“We both had very similar tastes in music and ideals on life, and we decided we both wanted to meet each other in person,” Holcman said.
Two weeks ago Holcman bought a bus ticket to Ohio University and this week, he’ll finally meet her in person — just in time for for Valentine’s Day.
“I’m very, very excited, but very, very nervous,” he said before leaving. “We’ve connected so well on an emotional level, so I’m excited to see how things are when we’re face to face.”
This isn’t Holcman’s first time meeting someone through social media. He also met his previous girlfriend on Tumblr. She was from Maryland and at the time Holcman lived in Chicago. They went out for a year but eventually the distance got the best of the relationship.
“Either way, I kind of think meeting people like this gives you more of a chance to connect emotionally because the physical things don’t get in the way,” he said. “My long distance relationships have been such a deeper and closer connection than anything I’ve had with a close proximity relationship.”
When psychology sophomore Ariel Kelly-Gratopp first met her boyfriend on Hot or Not last summer, her guard was up. She’d been matched with a student from Northwestern University, and the two quickly hit it off.
Applications like Tinder and Hot or Not allow users to rate pictures of other users from a scale of one to 10. When two users each give each other a high ranking, both of those users get a notification, allowing them to further communicate through a chatroom. Both apps allow users to be anonymous until there is a match where the two are then notified.
“I was aware of that whole Catfish possibility, where the person you’ve been talking to could be fake,” Kelly-Gratopp said. The two bridged the gap by video chatting via Skype.
“When you meet someone long distance on a social network you kind of get to know the person on a deeper level,” she explained. “You get to know them on a deeper level without being clouded by the intimacy and physical factors, which makes it a whole lot more special when you get there.”
Before finally venturing out to Chicago for the meeting, Kelly-Gratopp said she made sure she let people know she was going .
“You have to take it with a grain of salt,” she said. “You have to kind of have a little more intuition and not let your heart just take over.”
Despite her fears and hesitations, it was love at first sight, she said, and recommends social media dating to others.
“It’s something to be cautious about because there are going to be those (bad) people,” Kelly-Gratopp said. “But if you’re smart about it, it’s a good way to meet someone special.”
In previous years people often settled for someone just because they see the same people everyday, Kelly-Gratopp said. Now dating apps broaden a single person’s horizon.
“This kind of allows our generation to branch out a little bit and learn exactly what we like and who we like,” she said. “You’re giving yourself more options so when you do find it, you know that’s what you want.”