The dangers of modern dating culture

Photo by Taya Thornton; design by Sasha White

What happened to dating? While dating used to be about falling in love and getting married, this no longer seems to be the case for younger generations. 

Hookup culture, catfishing, stalking, STDs and even sexual assault are all risks in modern dating. How did modern society corrupt the tenderness of romance? 

Most people have heard of some potential risks of online dating, but few have heard of romance fraud or sextortion. 

In simple terms, sextortion is blackmail. Sextortion occurs when an abuser threatens to expose sexual photographs or videos of the victim in exchange to get whatever the attacker wants.

The website writes that romance fraud happens when “a perpetrator deceives a victim into believing the perpetrator and the victim have a trust relationship, whether family, friendly or romantic. As a result of that belief, the victim is persuaded to send money, personal and financial information, or items of value to the perpetrator or to launder money on behalf of the perpetrator.” 

According to the research, 10% of sex offenders use dating apps. One in every 10 users on free dating apps have fraudulent identities, and sexual assaults linked to online dating platforms have increased by 600% in the last five years.

The data ranks almost every state from most dangerous to least dangerous in terms of the amount of romance frauds, cases of STDs and sexual assaults in the state.

Idaho ranks 35th out of 49 states, with a fairly low danger score of 0.26. 

Idaho is relatively safe, as it remains in the center of the rankings. However, it is always wise to utilize caution when meeting strangers in a romantic situation. The site advises having meeting dates in a public place during the day, avoiding drinking pre-ordered cocktails, reviewing their social media if available and listening to your gut instincts.

Dating lost its innocence not only due to physical dangers, but also due to psychological restrictions. 

Dating evolved from dating for marriage to dating someone just to sleep with them, and now society has reversed these steps by promoting casual sex or “hooking up” with someone and wondering when it is considered dating or a relationship. 

Hooking up or casual sex is not a negative thing as long as both parties consent and are entirely aware of the arrangement. However, some people nowadays anticipate greater romance while their partner is solely interested in physical activity. 

When partners aren’t open and honest with one another, it can cause a lot of problems in their relationships. 

[Tinder with illustrated storm clouds.]
Photo by Taya Thornton; design by Sasha White

Boise State Health Services counseling intern Sandra Collantes offered her insights and comments on the subject of hookup culture, addressing various reasons why, as a society, hookup culture became more appealing than genuine dating based on her experiences and observations. 

“We have so many options, and there’s so much out there that sometimes getting to know people becomes difficult and challenging,” Collantes said. “Even with COVID, getting to socialize and have more experiences relating to people and getting our needs met becomes more difficult. So it appears that hooking up has become the best option for some people.” 

Young adults can be more attracted to the “no strings attached” type of sexual relationships because of the difficulties they face making connections. 

“The simplicity of hooking up adds to the appeal,” Collantes said. “That disconnection and not having to put ourselves out there and show all vulnerable parts to connect makes it appealing and seem easier.” 

Fear of heartache may also be a factor in why hookup culture is so popular. Some may believe that casual sex can protect their feelings if they don’t allow themselves to create an emotional connection. 

According to Collantes, some people believe that their connection won’t be broken if they don’t show any signs of desiring it, and instead seem as if they’re fine being alone. 

In order to make up for the modern-day barriers of meeting new people and making personal connections, many people have turned to online dating apps or sites.

Everyone, regardless of age, gender or sexuality, is vulnerable to the risks associated with online dating. 

Nish Newton, the social change associate of communications with the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, shared their insight on the potential dangers of online dating.

The Idaho Coalition is an advocacy organization for survivors of sexual assault, stalking and other forms of gender violence. The Idaho Coalition works with domestic and sexual violence service organizations to improve services for survivors and assists in the capacity building of advocates who work directly with survivors. 

“When we think of the big scary internet, you never know who you’re talking to. Like we all saw the show Catfish, and there are people who may be exploiting the anonymity of the internet to their advantage,” Newton said.

There are a lot of people that use the mysterious nature of the internet to their advantage in acquiring what they want. 

Newton also discussed the misconceptions some people may have regarding these risks.

“If you act a certain type of way, then harm won’t happen. Or, if you’re alert and aware enough, then this harm won’t happen, which is obviously not true,” Newton said. 

Newton offered advice that could aid those who use online dating services.

“A lot of folks don’t necessarily know the settings that are set on their phones,” Newton said. “So for example, a lot of people have location services enabled. If somebody has Snapchat, people can track exactly where your location is. These tools that allow people to connect can be misused for stalking.” 

While internet dating has been a popular method of making connections, Newton discusses how dating online could be particularly risky for members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially in a rural state like Idaho where they face heightened dangers from prejudice and hostility.

“There are people who are really using their bigotry to cover their own insecurity or harm. There are people specifically trying to target queer and trans people,” Newton said. “In Idaho, it’s not super easy to go and ask someone for a date or if they can exchange numbers because that would lead to outing and it may create more harm.” 

When getting to know someone new, there are a few telltale signs that signal whether that person might act in a way that is harmful.

“Some red flags are people who are insisting, forcing, trying to use coercive tactics, blackmail, people who are trying to create ultimatums and people who are uncomfortable with boundaries that people are setting,” Newton said. 

Newton also provided a brochure about how to be safe with technology in relationships. 

Using privacy settings, not sharing locations, blocking and reporting harassers, avoiding sexting with people you do not trust or know well and having a safety plan in place are all recommended in the pamphlet. 

Online dating presents a number of risks. The risks discussed in this article are merely scratching the surface. Although both Idaho and online dating appear to be risk-free, it is advisable to still use caution. 

Online dating has led to a lot of happy endings, but there are also plenty of tragic ones. It’s smart to take precautions to ensure your safety.

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