By Jason O’Day

Online dating is a multi-billion dollar industry, dominated by the Match Group corporation. Match Group owns Hinge, Tinder, OkCupid, PlentyOfFish, and of course Match.com. Some of the Match Group’s biggest competitors include Bumble, MeetMe, and most recently – Facebook Dating. Most of these websites track locations as permitted by users so they can see how close they are to one another.

“Those kind of location based or GPS based proximity functions can end up offering location information that might be more specific than what people feel comfortable with,” said Alison Oliver, a professor of human sexuality at the University of Iowa. “You can have people who are seeking out opportunities to meet someone without consenting first or negotiating that.”

Oliver said that users in sparsely populated rural areas are especially vulnerable in this regard because the process of elimination becomes simpler for stalkers when they can track their current distance from the person behind the profile. Some women post pictures of themselves on their porches or in their front yards, which makes them relatively easy targets for uninvited guests. 

The proliferation of online dating has had interesting ramifications for people interested in BDSM related sexual activities. BDSM stands for Bondage Discipline Sadism and Masochism. Oliver said that when someone expresses BDSM sexual preferences on a dating profile, that is interpreted as a willingness to do anything in bed or have sexual intercourse right after the first date. Such mismatched expectations can lead to uncomfortable scenarios. 

Oliver described BDSM activities as a skill-set, and said the internet allows those who engage in them to better vet each other. Given the risky nature of those activities, participants often like to establish clear guidelines of consent before getting out the whips and chains. These people constitute a small percentage of the online dating community, as most users are seeking relationships closer to what is generally considered mainstream.

Madeline Goetz is a student at the University of Iowa. She said Tinder is the only dating platform she has ever used, and only had negative experiences with the platform. One of those included a man showing at her apartment complex even though she had canceled their date. He sat in the parking for so long that she almost called security.

When asked if she felt better about normal dating than Tinder, Goetz laughed and replied, “I’ve had some pretty bad experiences outside of Tinder. So, just not good luck in general.”

Grace Lundy is also a UI student, and a friend of Goetz who was at her apartment when the disgruntled Tinder match showed up. Lundy said she’s never used an online dating service because she’s been in a committed relationship since high school.

Gus Zuccaro is an accounting major, and a senior at the University of Iowa. He has used Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge to find dates. Zuccaro said he liked the overall layout of Hinge the most, but found that it didn’t have very many users nearby in the Iowa City area. He appreciated that Hinge offered more than the pictures and short bios on Tinder, but got more use out of Tinder because there’s more people on it.

Zuccaro said he stopped using online dating platforms because it’s easier for him to meet women through mutual friends, in his classes, or at the bars in downtown Iowa City. He said the interactions generally felt forced, and that the people he met were different than who they portrayed in their profiles.

Like Tinder, Bumble users swipe to match with each other. Bumble allows a man to message a woman he matches with, only after the woman messages him first.

Sophia Van Dinter, a former student at the University of Iowa who now lives in Milwaukee, said she likes Bumble more than Tinder because Bumble encourages users to provide more information. Van Dinter said she felt like Tinder was all about physical attractiveness. She said she received lots of creepy messages on Tinder, but didn’t really have that problem on Bumble.

“I went on a few dates from Bumble, one that started out decently well, then ended up getting super weird and moving too fast on his end,” Van Dinter said in an email. “I wasn’t into it and ended it immediately.”

When asked what advice she had for men trying to meet women online, Van Dinter said honesty is paramount. She said some women log in searching for a serious relationship, while others are “just looking to get laid,” so men should be clear and transparent about what they want.