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Swipe left on virtual dating

Online+dating+has+become+far+too+common+among+teens.+Not+only+is+it+pointless%2C+but+it+is+extremely+dangerous+and+can+have+horrible+consequences.+

photo by Abigail Neal

Online dating has become far too common among teens. Not only is it pointless, but it is extremely dangerous and can have horrible consequences.

Staying up until 3 a.m. on FaceTime. Sending and receiving sweet Snapchats throughout the day. Shipping hand-crafted care packages across the country. Your boyfriend, whom you met on Yubo, is a dream come true. Your relationship is a fairytale. He must be the one, right?

Probably not. 

Through a simple follow and direct message, teenage social media users feel they have the ability to form meaningful romantic relationships, no matter the possible dangers. Many have become far too comfortable with these apps, and this comfort will inevitably bring rough consequences. 

One of the biggest concerns related to online dating is the power it has over one’s emotions. Normal relationships flourish when you get to know your partner on a deeper, more personal level. Those who struggle to open up may find it easy to confide in someone they do not know, but that does not mean it is a smart idea. The second someone hits the block button, emotional support can be lost, resulting in trust and abandonment issues. An internet mutual is not worth the potential pain and unrest their absence can cause. Becoming absorbed in a fantastical virtual relationship is unhealthy and a waste of time.

The helicopter-mom principle of  “do not believe everything you see on the internet” applies to people, too; do not believe that they are who they claim to be. The web is littered with predators and groomers, people who build relationships with children in order to exploit them. Grooming is one of those occurrences that people casually shrug off – “it would never happen to me” – but the reality is that more than 200,000 minors have been groomed on the internet, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. This number only accounts for those who were able to identify and report the abuse, but many grooming victims do not realize what is happening to them or do not report it. It happens far too often to be ignored, and amplifies the risks of virtual dating.

Seemingly harmless apps like Discord and Yubo have turned into a cesspool for virtual dating. Yubo’s catchphrase is “Meet new friends,” despite it being a carbon copy of Tinder, allowing users to swipe left and right, share their location and display multiple photos. Both of these apps recommend that its users be over the age of 17, but do nothing to enforce it, allowing kids to be exposed to strangers and explicit material. It is almost as if the entire social media world has watered down to a poorly developed online dating platform. While part of the problem does lay in the hands of users, the platforms themselves cannot be disregarded. 

Loving and trusting a mere profile picture is a risky game, as even the kindest people could have sour intentions. “They seem nice” or “they are normal, I swear” are terrible excuses that do not justify dating an internet creep. Stranger danger does not stop when someone is funny or attractive. Your “Discord kitten” is a 30-year-old furry. Move on. 

Not only could online dating lead to emotional grooming, but it could lead to an even darker instance: physical grooming. Though online relationships may be centered around a phone, that does not stop physicality. A number of these couples depend on apps like Snapchat to send nude photos and videos, which is not only extremely irresponsible, but dangerous. Thousands of nudes are leaked each year, and the consequences of one nude photo can last forever. The Journal of the American Medical Association found that one in seven teenagers admit to sexting. Again – it is not worth it. Risking a successful future to satisfy your virtual partner’s sexual needs is not only naive, but it is genuinely sad. Nobody should feel like they have to expose themselves to be accepted. Seeking validation from an internet stranger may reveal some deeper, more complex problems. Instead of exploiting yourself, spend time on self-care. Turn the camera off. You are beautiful, and you do not need @robloxboy123 to tell you so. 

To solve the obvious issues with online dating, social media users need to interact with others more responsibly, while platforms need to work harder to protect its young populations and maintain a degree of purity. There are no benefits to exposing yourself to someone you met on Instagram. There is no bright side to an underage Tinder. There are simply too many risks for teens to try online dating.

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