This Valentine's Day, many students explore new methods of building relationships
Editor’s note: This story has been changed to reflect the correct web address for allmsu.com.
A few weeks ago, Caitlin Berry saw the match.com commercials on TV and thought, “Why not?”
After creating her own profile and scouring through potential matches for three days, the criminal justice sophomore found a profile that caught her eye.
She contacted him, and they began talking and scheduled a first date.
“I usually eat a lot at restaurants, but this time I only ordered a salad — that’s how nervous I was,” she said.
Within days, Berry realized she had found a perfect match — an honest and caring country boy who she said reminds her of her father.
Berry is one of hundreds students at MSU who are using alternative forms of dating in hopes of finding a match. This Valentine’s Day, finding a date through non-traditional means has proved to be a common experience by some students.
Surfing the web
Nicole Ellison, an associate professor of telecommunication, information studies and media at MSU and an expert in online dating, said through matchmaking websites on the Internet, students are finding a lot more fish in the sea to choose from.
“Online dating has been steadily increasing and this has enlarged the pool of potential romantic partners that people have access to,” she said. “With these new technologies, you have the opportunity to share information with someone before meeting face to face.”
When filling out a profile last spring on allmsu.com — an MSU-specific classifieds and forum website — history sophomore Julia Krohn said she included her interest in college-ruled notebooks and her preference for men in thick-rimmed glasses hoping to convey her sense of humor. Then she uploaded a photo of herself and clicked submit.
“I was interested to see what kind of responses I would get,” she said. “Then I started getting these replies, and I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
Within days of creating her profile, Krohn said male users began sending her messages, introducing themselves and providing her with a way to contact them.
Ellison said one of the potential snags in online dating is users want to present their ideal self, which might stray a little from the truth.
“Individuals are able to present themselves more selectively on a computer mediate and emphasize the positive and downplay the negative (qualities),” she said. “This can be very gratifying, but if taken to the extreme, it can also be problematic — people can have false expectations.”
But Berry said when it comes to the pairing abilities of websites the key is staying sincere.
“As long as you’re honest, you’re going to get the results you want,” she said. “It really does work, but you do have to do some digging.”
Going the distance
For social relations and policy junior Phil Hanson, it’s all about making his long distance relationship work.
After meeting Sarah Bowman, a junior at Northwestern University, on a blind date arranged by mutual friends last winter, Hanson said the couple has been dating for more than a year. But the four-hour distance between them certainly doesn’t make it easy.
“Technology has defined the relationship,” he said. “We started out long distance, so it’s helped our relationship. When you start out long distance, it’s all you expect, and you know how to work with it.”
For Hanson and Bowman that includes texting throughout the day, Skyping when possible and a phone call to catch up on each other’s news every other night.
Ellison said overall, the wide variety of technology available to students of this generation has drastically changed the dating atmosphere.
“In general, I think these technologies are increasing possibilities,” she said.
Hanson said although seeing his girlfriend’s smile on his laptop screen brightens his day, sometimes Skype isn’t enough.
“At some points it really makes you feel alone in the sense you don’t have someone physically there to hold or be with,” he said. “You know she’s there and we both love each other, but she’s still not tangibly there.”
But Hanson said he’s thankful he can skip breaking out a pen and paper to contact Bowman and has the technology to help make the distance a little easier.
This Valentine’s Day, Hanson said he’ll have to settle for sending Bowman flowers and plans to redo the holiday with a nice dinner when he visits his sweetheart in Chicago in two weeks.
Speed it up
For some students, speed dating has been their answer in the search for a Valentine.
Last Saturday, the University Activities Board, or UAB, held a speed dating event with more than 160 students in attendance.
“A lot of students get wrapped up in work and studies, so (it was) something fun to get people out to meet other people,” said Rikki Jarvis, director of special events for UAB.
Residential College in the Arts and Humanities freshman Dan Finegan signed up for the event in hopes to meet a guy he could really talk to.
Finegan said for individuals who aren’t heterosexuals, he feels it is more difficult to meet potential dates and it took a bit of courage to bring him to the speed dating event.
Although the UAB provided a section for men seeking men, Finegan said he found himself sitting alone at an empty table.
“I feel like (alternative dating events) might have an essence of catering to heterosexuals,” he said. “When I mentioned this to some friends who are gay, they thought they might not even have men seeking men tables and they were afraid to go.”
After trying online dating websites such as datemyschool.com without much luck, Finegan said he’s still not turned off to the idea of alternative dating.
“I would love if the university had some more events that promoted alternative dating,” he said. “I would go to another speed dating event if they marketed it for alternative interests.”
As for Berry, she said she’s more than happy with her decision to try an online dating website.
“I was in a relationship a while back, and it ended really badly,” she said. “I didn’t think I would find anything better, but this has already surpassed it. It’s so new, fresh and scary, but it’s great.”
Today, Berry might be surprised with a visit from her new boyfriend, Finegan plans to watch movies and eat candy with a group of good friends and Hanson will celebrate with his sweetheart on Skype.
As for Krohn — she’s still looking for her knight in thick-rimmed glasses.