With online dating more popular than ever, the queer population has been particularly piqued in interest by the allure of meeting digital strangers. In 2020, 55% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people surveyed reported using dating apps at some point in time: about twice the rate of straight populations, according to a study from the Pew Research Center.
Still, many members of the LGBTQ+ community on dating apps struggle to make meaningful connections online. One of the primary issues is the sheer difficulty in moving past small talk, according to Amethyst Gallegos, a student at the University of New Mexico.
Though Gallegos has met some people over dating apps, they do not consider digital dating a substitute for in-person connections and overall find the experience of online dating to be quite shallow. They find the experience of dating apps to be less effective when the conversations are kept online.
“They are good for meeting people because you’re literally being connected with strangers, and most of the time it’s in the area that’s you’re in … so I have had really good conversations with some people, but I think it’s not very effective for creating long-term relationships or long-term friendships or long-term anything really,” Gallegos said.
Building queer relationships with people socialized as women can be a challenge because of the social expectation that women should not make the first move when building romantic relationships, according to Blakely Hautzinger, another UNM student. When they first started online dating, they were still making romantic connections with men, but now that they exclusively date women, they have noticed a striking difference in the two dating scenes.
“Especially with heterosexual dating, you are thrown into the ‘guy asks the girl out,’ right? And that very much is a pattern that’s really easy to fall into, especially if you grew up in a more conservative area ... But now that I’m figuring out my own gender and my sexuality, and I’m dating women because that’s what I’m interested in and I’m nonbinary, I’m like, ‘Oh wait.’ I have to put in the introductory effort, and I don’t know how to do that,” Hautzinger said.
Gallegos also expressed difficulties in moving past feminine niceties and communication expectations onto romantic affairs.
“In my experience with women, it’s always hard to go past the small talk because a lot of my friends who are women, the way that we communicate in real life is like, ‘you’re so beautiful,’ you’re so gorgeous,’ ‘I love you,’ this, that and the other … So talking to a stranger and small talk online, it’s like, maybe they’ll give me a compliment or I’ll give them a compliment, but it doesn’t feel genuine because that’s how we talk anyways,” Gallegos said.
Even with all of the difficulties associated with online dating, one thing was agreed upon by Hautzinger and Gallegos: it’s fun. The same study from the Pew Research Center found that lesbian, gay and bisexual people were more likely to consider dating apps to be a safe environment for meeting people compared to straight people, even for those who have received harassment on dating apps.
Gallegos and Hautzinger both agreed that it is nice to be able to encounter a space where they can openly meet other queer people, even if the connections made are not very strong. For Hautzinger, it is comforting to build friendships with people who share in their queer identity and better understand it.
“As much as I feel like it’s so hard for me to create relationships with people that I meet online … I know my circle of queer people and that’s about it, but I have been able to meet a lot of queer people online, which is kind of cool because I don’t really have any other opportunity to do that other than online dating, and it also is refreshing,” Gallegos said.
Zara Roy is the copy chief at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org