There’s a stigma that online dating is directed toward older generations.
However, with the ever-constant use of social networking sites among young people, developing relationships online doesn’t seem that out of the question.
SF State senior Russell Salerno, 22, realized just that when he began using OkCupid two years ago.
OkCupid, a dating and social networking site, pairs people based on their personal interests by having each member create detailed profiles and answer personality questions.
Salerno found the site appealing because it helped him meet people outside of his social circle and it targeted people within his own age group.
“One appeal of OkCupid is that, yes we go to a commuter school, and the people who actually do live here are part of a very small and tight-knit group,” Salerno said. “If something happens with one person it kind of spiderwebs off into everyone else, so it’s kind of nice to stretch out.”
SF State lecturer of sexuality studies Ivy Chen believes that internet use among this generation is common and integral, especially for social interaction.
“You have to realize when you’re talking about the 19 and 20-year-olds we’re looking at a generation that’s grown up with the internet,” Chen said. “It’s a part of the norm of students who as kids grew up with the internet… in a way it’s a natural extension of what they’re familiar with and so I think that for them it makes a lot of sense for them to meet somebody through something like Facebook.”
Though Salerno has never seriously dated someone from OkCupid, he found that it is easier to establish a romantic relationship online than in person.
“I think there’s a lot of discomfort with approaching people you don’t know in a sexual way or a romantic way,” Salerno said. “The impersonal-ness of the internet makes it comfortable for people to say, ‘I’m looking for something romantic. Here I am.'”
Salerno successfully dated a girl he met only briefly by building a relationship through Facebook showing that websites built strictly for dating such as OkCupid aren’t the only way to grow closer to someone.
Former SF State student Rhys Samuel, 20, took a route similar to Salerno.
Samuel met and made friends with someone she met on the website Tumblr, a social networking site meant for people to create personal blogs.
Samuel began by “following” friends she knew personally. Through them she was able to become acquainted with people who shared her similar interests.
That is when Samuel met a man and began to talk regularly. Soon they were having phone conversations and sending letters to one another.
“Even though sometimes I feel like meeting people online is pathetic, it’s a really easy way to find people that are interested in the same stuff you are,” Samuel said. “It’s difficult to let your real self shine through the internet, but it’s a pretty cool place for people who aren’t the best at meeting people in person to do so.”
Though there’s always something off-putting about meeting a stranger for the first time, Samuel’s experience when she finally met the man was a positive one.
“When we met in real life, we pretty much talked about the same things we would always talk about, but face to face,” Samuel said. “I remember a random memory of showing each other all our tattoos one by one when we first met. Something about that made me officially think, ‘Wow, you’re actually real.’”
Though Samuel was able to have a successful relationship with this man, she understands that there will always be some disconnection when it comes to the internet.
“The internet is not real life at all. For a while I thought my ‘relationship’ with this person and how we met was great, but in reality it’s hard to see someone just on a screen all the time,” Samuel said. “Even though it is a little tougher meeting people in real life versus online, I still like meeting people in person better.”