Glasgow students warn why using dating apps aren’t always the answer this Valentine’s Day

‘Weirdest experience of my life’

Content warning: discussion of sexual assault and sexual harassment

News is Valentine’s Day is 2023’s unceremonial ceremony to mark the end of cuffing season. With us now having approached the romantic holiday, the unlucky and uncuffed students out there might be tempted to turn to dating apps to make sure they’re not spending V day alone. Apps like Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and Grindr seem to dominate Y2K dating culture.

And despite their popularity, horror stories circulate of painfully awkward conversations, matching with lecturers, questionable outfit choices and fall-flat attempts at flirtation. Unfortunately, funny stories in the pub often turn into more sinister tales of catfishing, stalking and harassment. It seems Glasgow students are no strangers to the dangers of cyberdating.

Does Tinder really help ignite that spark? Does Hinge actually open the doors to dating? Are students buzzing about Bumble? Or perhaps these apps are just bad news altogether.

I spoke to a handful of students at the University of Glasgow about their experiences of internet dating at GU, trying to get to the bottom of whether you should expect to star in a When Harry Met Sally scenario or whether some of these dating apps are prompting some more Dangerous Liaisons.

We all ghost the occasional person, unmatch when conversation dries up, sleep with them once and decide that maybe once was enough… But the dark side of dating apps at GU is a little scarier. Fuck boys are nothing new, but recent talk of predatory behaviour seems to be something much more sinister than simply people who can’t handle rejection…But don’t take it from me, take it from the students themselves.

The first person I spoke to was a third year queer man. Having only come out in first year, he said he was scared of “wilder” dating apps. He feared they had a heavy focus on casual sex, rather than relationships which “just seemed a lot scarier”. Instead, he used a dating app he felt comfortable could lead towards finding a partner. After a few weeks of scrolling through matches and pretty stagnant flirtation, he matched with another male student from GU.

He chose his favourite local as the location for their date, thinking the familiarity of the pub would settle his nerves. When his date arrived, he said he was good looking, polite, even exceeded expectations. Everything seemed to be going well, but not for long.

“I noticed he was drinking a lot faster than me. After like an hour, he was slapping his hand off the bar and singing. He seemed really distracted.”

He recounts the date, describing how his date went from very polite, to very touchy-feely.

As the pub got more lively, so did his date.

“I wasn’t ready – or drunk enough – for how he was flirting with me. I wanted to take it slower, even though I did like him.”

He had never intended to go home with the boy, stating, “I was looking for something more serious, so I knew that I didn’t want a first-date-sex situation, because that usually leads to nowhere”.

His dates drunken behaviour quickly became an ick, and the candidate writes of trying to work out how to go home ASAP.

“In the end, I didn’t have to reject him. Another man who was also drunk in that gay bar came over and they just started kissing. I sat there and watched them kiss, until I eventually just got my stuff and left. I never messaged him again, and he never messaged me.”

What a nightmare.

Another student, a female first year at Glasgow Uni told us about her experience using dating apps. She had matched with a male student and after meeting him on their first date, decided to call things quit. She described how she subtly tried to make it clear that she wasn’t interested, but he would not take no for an answer. Eventually, she blocked him altogether and shrugged it off as yet another creepy dating app encounter.

“A few days after I had made this decision, the doorbell rang in the morning. My flatmate opened the door and it was him. She let him in, assuming I’d invited him over.”

The male student entered her room, whilst she was in a towel, out of the shower. He proceeded to confess his feelings for her, whilst she engaged in the bizarre conversation, as she “didn’t want the awkwardness of asking him to leave”. Finally, using an excuse of a lecture, she persuaded him to leave. Afterwards, she unblocked him and sent him a long-winded rejection letter, making her intentions as clear as she could. The creepiest thing was he’d never been to her house before.

Another female student talked of a truly terrible first date. Having met on a dating app, they headed to a bar together. She details that the date quickly went sour as her male date quickly got drunk. He then started taking drugs in the toilet and offering her some, to which she declined. The disappointing date came to a welcome end, but like a gentleman he insisted on walking her home, not realising that he was in fact one of the “dangerous men” he was trying to protect her from.

What happens next sounds terrifying. After leaving, she describes how he “keeps trying to kiss me. I don’t want to so I ask him to stop, he doesn’t. He then asks to wait in my flat for a taxi. I say yes to get rid of him”. Unfortunately his behaviour did not end there.

She continued: “I go to the toilet, come back and he’s undressed in my bed to which I obviously go nuts”. What was meant to be a harmless date had quickly turned into something extremely sinister, and by getting naked in her room without her consent, he had committed assault. Using huge strength, she manages to get rid of him.

Though the writer speaks of her experience freely, I’m sure the experience was both upsetting and traumatising. Reading her story, I was hoping she would find some retribution against her assaulter.

She ends up seeing him again. She finishes: “Two weeks later see him while watching rugby and every time he passes me he shouts at me or literally like hits me in the head or flicks me like a weird toddler. Very strange. Weirdest experience of my life.”

Finally I put it to the people on why these alarming incidences seem to be a pattern amongst GU dating app users. Here are some of the opinions and explanations offered:

“There is a lack of emotion to seeing words on the screen on both sides – you can’t see how the other person is responding emotionally and so you have no emotional accountability for what you are typing.”

“I think because there is a certain amount of mystery and bravado that comes with online dating – you can be whoever you present yourself as (to a certain degree) and that makes people more impulsive and less respectful with their actions.”

“Because of the culture of pursuing women which ultimately comes from entrenched gender inequality.”

If you have been a victim of harassment or assault please take a look at the resources below to seek out support:

University of Glasgow support for sexual violence:

Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis: Tips on how to stay safe whilst online dating:

National cyber security centre’s tips for staying secure online: Tips for gay men who want to use dating apps safely:

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Featured image credit via Tim Mossholder on Unsplash