How 20-Year-Olds are Redefining “Meet-Cutes”
(This was a feature for my magazine journalism class)
Movies tell us that the most romantic beginnings start with nervous eye contact, butterflies in the stomach, a charming opening line and the eventual exchange of phone numbers. For some, this straight-out-of-the-movies scene is something that actually happens in real life.
Jed, 21, met his current girlfriend during his freshman year of college. He was in his economics class, when a girl sitting in the back of the classroom, talking to her group of friends, caught his eye. “She was a mystery and a challenge,” he recalls. “It made me gravitate towards her.” Three years later, Jed and the girl from his freshman economics class officially became a solid couple. They’ve been together for over a year.
But for many, this dream “meet-cute” scenario, where boy meets girl in their economics class, is just something told time after time in the books we read or the movies we watch. For millennials and Generation Z especially, balancing the busyness of work, family, school and other commitments can make meeting new people difficult.
Which then turns people to the apps. According to Business of Apps, there are 57 billion Tinder users around the world, with over 20 billion matches having been made since the app was launched. Statistica reported that Match Group, the company that owns a range of popular dating apps, including Tinder and Hinge, earned $541.5 million in revenue, by its third quarter of 2019. These numbers aren’t at all surprising. It’s a result of the digital age, where everyone expects instantaneous action at the touch of their fingertips. When we need a ride, an Uber can pick us up within ten minutes. When we need groceries, they can be ordered through InstaCart and hand-delivered to our doorstep in less than an hour. Apps like these were designed to make our lives easier and allow us to receive what we “need” almost as soon as we want it. So for many, the idea of sitting around and waiting for fate or chance to drop a desirable person in front of them, sounds ridiculously unproductive. Which is why in 2019, more and more couples are redefining the definition of a typical “meet-cute,” by taking matters into their own hands and proving a digital connection can be just as romantic and genuine as meeting in person.
“Meet-cutes” are defined by Merriam-Webster as “a cute, charming or amusing first encounter between romantic partners.” Many movies have that perfectly staged meet-cute scene that jump starts the romantic aspect of the film. Whether it’s a witty pickup line at the bar, spilling coffee on each other in a cafe or an accidental hand touch in a bookstore, we’re taught that this is romance.
And so as a society, we romanticize it. We sit on park benches hopelessly praying a cute stranger will ask us what book we’re reading, or we go to parties and daydream about someone locking eyes with us from across the room. We idealize characters in books and films, squealing and praying that we too will experience the meet-cutes of our dreams.
The film, 500 Days of Summer is the perfect representation of a romanticized meet-cute. The elevator scene where protagonist Tom meets Summer over a quick, awkward exchange of their shared interest in the band The Smiths, immediately leads Tom to believe she is the woman of his dreams, thereby moving the movie forward into a romantic direction and perpetuating his unhealthy infatuation for Summer. Which many viewers see as cute, causing them to fantasize about experiencing something similar to this scene in their own lives.
In today’s world, it is obvious we hold natural meeting, done without the help of digital algorithms, on a pedestal above couples who meet online. This contributes to the very obvious dating app stigma that still currently exists in our modern society.
Rarely are people quick to share that they met their significant other on dating apps like Bumble or Tinder, or even through an Instagram direct message (DM), despite the commonness of it. Often times, they reveal this information with a shy smile or a moment of hesitation.
Carla, 21, describes her experience of meeting her current partner via Tinder as “romantic.” “I was in the right place at the right time,” she explains.
However, she bends the truth when she tells people how they actually met.
“There’s a stigma around dating apps, so I tell my family and friends that (we) met through a mutual friend,” Carla says.
Due to the nature of the apps and its ability to provide quick and instant access to a pool of available singles, many believe dating apps are only useful for people looking to “hook-up”. While hook-up culture is prevalent on the apps, there are still real, genuine people searching for something serious. According to a survey conducted by SimpleTexting, 44% of participants said they sign up for dating apps with hopes of securing a long-term relationship. Others voted for new friends, free drinks, a boost in self-esteem and casual relationships.
This idea that most dating app users are just online looking for casual flings and one-night stands can be a big turn-off for many, leading lucky couples who sparked an actual genuine connection through a swipe, to feel hesitant to tell others that they met online.
Apps like Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel have tried to conquer the stigma that dating apps are just for meaningless flings by claiming to be platforms for singles seeking serious relationships. Unlike Tinder, these apps emphasize the importance of having its users create detailed profiles.
Hinge, which goes by the slogan, “the app designed to be deleted,” requires its users to include a minimum of six pictures, as well as provide information regarding their height, job title, highest level of education, religious views, vices and more. This differs from Tinder, which only requires users to provide their name, a minimum of one photo and their age. A bio is also completely optional on Tinder, allowing users to disclose as much or as little information as they please.
Coffee Meets Bagel takes a self-proclaimed “slow dating” approach to modern online dating. The app requires its users to set preferences and deal breakers about the type of person they’re looking for, in efforts to create meaningful matches. Coffee Meets Bagel’s algorithm curates a list of desirable suitors for each user, based on the preferences they have set, location, their listed interests, education level and more, and promises not to include profiles that fall under the users’ list of deal breakers, in their daily round-up of choices to swipe from. This widely differs from Tinder’s algorithm, which follows a more “free-for-all” approach, allowing all users to swipe through anyone within a certain mile radius from them. Coffee Meets Bagel also places a daily limit on how many yes swipes you may give, to discourage from mindless swiping.
Yash, 21 has tried dating apps, but still prefers to meet significant others in person. “It carries a bad rep,” Yash explains. “The idea of meeting online is still relatively new. It’s becoming less taboo, but people still typically don’t want to hear you met on Tinder.”
While this may ring true for many, if you think about it, swiping on a match that you are truly compatible with, still requires a bit of luck and fate, making it a romantic meet-cute story, in a very new-age, modernized way. A meet-cute, no matter the platform or place, is simply composed of a series of coincidences.
Pat, 22, first saw her girlfriend at a concert. But the couple has Twitter to thank for their actual meeting.
“I saw this girl at a King Princess concert but was too shy to talk to her,” Pat recalls. “Then I tweeted something mentioning King Princess and later that night, I saw someone follow me. Turns out it was the girl I saw at the concert! She was looking through mentions of King Princess hoping to find me. I followed her Instagram from her Twitter bio and she slid in my DM’s. There’s not a day we haven’t talked since.”
A plus side of online dating is that it comes with a protective shield. In comparison to initiating conversations in person, where the person has the ability to physically react, meeting someone online is just through text, so users may feel more confident to speak to whomever with less fear of judgment or of it being totally awkward.
FJ, 25, also thanks the internet for its hand in her current relationship. After writing a research paper about online dating and impression management for a class assignment, she was tempted to download Bumble, the second most popular mobile dating app after Tinder.
“I was thinking about online dating a lot (and) I’ve heard success stories,” she explains. “I wasn’t going in (to the apps) looking for a boyfriend, because that would probably leave me with a broken heart. I was (just) on there to meet people!”
However, it did lead her to meet her future boyfriend.
FJ spoke with one of her matches online for 3 weeks, before deciding to officially meet offline. “On our first date, it felt like we were already friends. He was definitely funny and had a sense of humor, (and) would ask about my day. I guess he showed interest and wanted to get to know me,” FJ says. “He’s now my boyfriend!”
The biggest argument around meeting on a dating app, is that the love stemmed from a digital connection may not be as genuine as something that started in person.
But, it’s important to note that heartbreak isn’t strictly reserved for online dating. At the end of the day, your heart can get broken regardless of how or where you met. Despite the negative stigma around dating apps, the heartbreakers and players of the dating world don’t only exist on the internet.
“Everything happens for a reason. The people you meet, regardless if you met them on a dating app or not, have the ability to influence your life one way or another,” FJ says. “People who meet in person are 100 percent capable of lying, ghosting, cheating, and breaking anyone’s heart [too].”
Years from now, by the time your future grandkids hear the story of how you met, it’s guaranteed a Tinder love story won’t be so taboo.
If it’s meant to be, time and fate will make it happen. At the end of the day, there’s fate in the fact that the two users were both active on the app at the same time, matched and were actually compatible, and were even inclined to make dating app profiles in the first place. Any meeting can be deemed a meet-cute despite whether it started offline or online.
If you’re single and patiently waiting for that perfect meet-cute, don’t let the stigma discourage you from downloading that dating app you’ve been thinking about. Who knows, maybe your future soulmate is just a swipe away.
“Romance isn’t dead in the cyber world,” FJ says.