Looking for love? There's an app for that

Online dating has been around since before the turn of the 21st century, but a lot has changed since Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks first used the Internet to find love in You’ve Got Mail. In recent years, mobile apps have become one of the most popular ways to meet a potential partner. Today, in our increasingly digital world, many of the target demographics for these apps are men and women between the ages of 18 and 35. And across the country, college campuses are being inundated with new mobile dating trends.

“I can’t speak for other colleges, but I feel like [dating apps] are pretty popular at Geneseo,” freshman Meredith Hansalik said. “I think they’re more widely used on Northside than Southside, but they’re kind of big all over campus.”

While the demographics of users vary, Hansalik said that, because “freshmen have programs and are already coming out and talking to each other,” she doesn’t see as much of a dependence on apps, but for upperclassmen, these sites may offer people more of an opportunity to “see what’s going on, without even having to go out."

And ideally, that’s what the sites are meant to do: bring people together who wouldn’t otherwise meet. Therefore, it’s no surprise that a technology-facilitated hookup culture is booming.

“I think with bigger universities there’s less of a need to rely on technology or going online to meet people,” sophomore Zoraida Dooley said. “But you definitely see it a lot more now than maybe 10 years ago.”

Some sites are more popular than most, and whether you’re looking for a romantic connection or just a sexual encounter can often influence where you should be looking.

Tinder, for example, an app that has recently spiked in popularity, is famous for taking the awkwardness out of technology-based dating. Advertised as being better than real life, the app matches people based on interests, networks and location linked with your Facebook profile.

Not all devices are just based on interests, however, and some have been collecting criticism for becoming more gendered. Grindr, a popular location-based app designed specifically for guys interested in guys, has garnered unwanted attention for being overtly sexual in nature.

Additionally, review apps like Lulu, which allows women to anonymously review men they’ve dated, have raised controversy for being inherently discriminatory. Nicknamed the “Sex in the City” of dating apps, this app was created for use with Facebook and basically lets girls see pictures of male Facebook friends and rank and comment on their qualities based on their experiences with the guy.

Recently, apps like these have been criticized for being generally geared toward casual sexual encounters rather than actual potential relationships, but, at least for college students, this level of hook-up culture isn’t new – it’s just changing.

“It’s not something you have to hide anymore, and you see the advertisements all the time,” Hansalik said. “Especially with our generation’s dependency on technology, sure it’s a lot different than a couple years ago, but it’s here to stay.”

If you’re tempted to test your luck in online love this Valentine’s Day, jump into the dating pool cautiously. Don’t send anyone money, don’t meet up with strangers unless in public spaces and don’t wind up on “Catfish.”