Note: Some names have been changed.
It’s a casual Friday morning. Pre-med junior Stephanie West draws complex carbon structures in her notebook. It’s uneventful — until she gets a notification on her phone.
“It’s a match!” West said.
West is one of 14.5 million people registered on Bumble, a popular dating app where women initiate the conversation. The popularity of dating apps on college campuses is not coincidental; Bumble began in Austin in 2014 and has focused its marketing strategies on college students, much like competitor Tinder, which was founded in 2012.
Bumble employs college students on roughly 60 different college campuses to increase their visibility to the 18–22 crowd. The students, called Bumble ambassadors or Honeys, can host events such as bar or coffee tabs, chalk sidewalks and make announcements at campus organizations to promote the app.
“Bumble know(s) college-age students are all about technology and communication,” said Allie Rathgeber, sports management senior and Bumble college ambassador. “It’s just how our generation works. We use social media every day of our lives, and this is another way to communicate.”
Rathgeber is right. Research done by Abodo found that the majority of college students on dating apps are there for entertainment or to boost their self-esteem. 91 percent of the 3,500 students surveyed said that they weren’t using dating apps to hook up at all.
A survey of UT students showed the majority used dating apps to increase their self-esteem, combat boredom, find a relationship and find friends, in that order. Using the apps for casual hook-ups was the least common purpose.
“I just wanted to switch things up for a confidence boost,” West said. “I was sick of the usual way of meeting guys and have a little bit of fun.”
Nursing junior Cheryl Smith said she agrees with West and began using dating apps like Tinder to boost her self-esteem.
“I needed to meet new people after breaking up with my boyfriend,” Smith said. “I went on one date to a bowling alley, but I probably won’t continue to date him. We still text from time to time.”
Online or virtual dating used to be taboo, but on college campuses of thousands, dating apps can become a new form of social media, said Rathgeber.
“A lot of my friends who I never would’ve guessed use Bumble as more of a social aspect than a weird dating app,” Rathgeber said. “People just aren’t as forward as they used to be. They get too nervous, and it’s so easy to be in the comfort of your own home swiping through people and seeing their interests.”
However, people’s “interests” on dating apps might not always be the clearest, said West.
“It definitely feeds into college hook up culture,” West said. “The thing is, you don’t know everyone’s intentions on there and you can’t tell intentions through a phone.”
West said she noticed a lot of her male friends were users of Bumble and other various dating apps.
“I love running into people I know on (Bumble), and I always swipe right on them,” West said.
However, this can lead to some miscommunication, said West. She recently matched with a male friend who has her phone number, but now he only messages her through the app and usually late at night.
Rathgeber said she likes the design of Bumble over other dating apps like Tinder, which she said tend to be creepy.
“Girls have to make the first move, so guys might like the idea of not making first move, and girls might feel empowered,” Rathgeber said. “It might not be as easy to go up to a guy in person. It’s about girls taking the initiative and messaging guys first, so that breaks some stigmas.”