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Dating apps and hookup culture: MSU professors weigh in

February 17, 2020
<p>By Hope Ann Flores</p>

By Hope Ann Flores

Celebrating February as the month of love, we also recognize the power of one’s sexuality and how differently it is perceived. We’ve come a long way with addressing the idea of love and sex, be it two separate notions for some or a single unity for others. 

Yet, there are certain stereotypes surrounding dating apps and hookup culture that seem confusing to many. Professors at Michigan State University give their opinions on hookup culture and whether dating apps have truly killed romance, or altered it.

“I think that apps are incredibly useful for helping people to find each other,” said Tina Timm, associate professor for MSU School of Social Work. “But I think if the interaction is to be moved beyond the apps then you’re not able to connect in a way that transmutes to romance.”

Timm's interests lie in sexuality, sex therapy and LGBTQ issues.

Timm said hookup culture has become more prevalent and that people sometimes confuse romance with hookups. When they are looking for a real connection, they go about it through hookups. People not being clear with themselves or their partners about what they might potentially want results in significantly hurt feelings.

“I don’t have a problem with hooking up just to hook up but it’s not an avenue for a long term intimacy,” Timm said. “ ... Intimacy involves vulnerability and vulnerability needs to happen face to face.”

Assistant professor in the Integrative Studies in Social Science department Brandy Ellison said she has never used any online dating platform. According to her, dating apps might have changed the way people connect and allowed for new kinds of good or bad behaviors, but they haven’t killed the romance.

“What we call hookup culture has existed in a lot of ways for a while now,” Ellison said. “ ... As a society we tend to overstate the impact that things have had, we tend to see it as very different from the way it used to be.”

William Chopik from the MSU Department of Psychology shared his opinion that online dating apps are not destroying the dating world. Chopik has done research on dating apps including Tinder. He said one of the perspectives on dating apps is that they dehumanize relationships and it’s preventing people from forming long-term relationships.

“These apps are interesting for a lot of reasons,” Chopik said. “But at the very least they provide good opportunities to meet people. And then when you ask people why they use things like Tinder or Bumble, most of the time it's to find long-term relationship partners.”

According to Chopik, there is a stereotype that these are hookup apps and that hookups are kind of inherently fleeting and temporary. But in reality, a lot of those people when they meet will ultimately form relationships, get married and have children. Chopik mentioned his two friends who are getting married and they met on Tinder.

“There’s this assumption that Tinder is a hookup app used for short term relationships and that's not entirely true,” said Chopik. “I think it’s on these apps and then just in dating in general it’s important to communicate what you’re interested in.”

Chopik said he has research that shows having high quality friendships is associated with happiness, almost on par with being married and having good spousal and partner relationships.

So even if people are alone on Valentine’s Day,” Chopik said in conclusion. “There’s a sense that if they have positive relationships with other people … they’re just as happy as people in a relationship.”

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