Is it time to embrace online dating?

Image credit: Thomas Leuthard

It is a truth universally acknowledged that finding, and keeping, love in Cambridge is difficult. Perhaps it is the eight-week structuring of terms that leave long gaps with distant communication, or the hectic atmosphere with oh-so-many contact hours, which leaves us with less free time than other universities. Plus, there is the inescapable, suffocating pressure of working and striving for achievement to keep up with everyone else.

With the romanticised ideals we find in novels set in Cambridge, such as ‘Brideshead Revisited’, and the charming, cinematic architecture we see every way we turn, it is no wonder that some of us develop expectations of meeting potential future spouses here. Surveys even show that Cambridge students are more concerned about love than money! Thus, the question arises: why the rarity for relationships? Many people do begin university in a long-term relationship, often simultaneously long-distance, and speaking from personal experience, a surprising number of people who started Freshers week with a long-term partner are still together almost two and a half years later. This is a product and a perk of the short terms we have here.

Yet after the mad rush of Freshers and the first-term, Lent Term arrives and poses the perfect opportunity for finding love, especially given the seasonal festivities surrounding Valentine’s Day. The RAG Blind Date, for example, has proven to be exceptionally popular.

Many find that friendship groups are already established by Lent Term, and often straying out of a group can prevent people from finding other friends or potential partners. Going up to someone for the first time is, for most, a daunting experience – especially without the excuse of its being Fresher’s week or first term. So, if we’re too terrified to step out and socialise in public, online dating appears like an increasingly appealing prospect. For those who are sceptical, there exists a society to help alleviate the fear: founded over a bottle of Glenfiddish at the Edinburgh Festival, the Cambridge Romance Society – RomCam – offers a special service to help with the match-making process. It prides itself on its ease-to-use, with the only step on your part being creating a profile online, and lack of registration fee. The service has experienced some success, with one user saying, “I met my boyfriend 7 months ago on this website. It's been great fun, and I'd really recommend using this website!" Another happy participant, Heather, writes, “I just wanted to let you know that thanks to Graduate Romance, I am now happily married! I reactivated my profile in December 2010 when I became single, and arranged several dates - all the while, chatting online to a very nice chap called Tall Matt who I didn't think was my type, and resisting all his suggestions that we should meet up. To cut a long story short, he eventually persuaded me, we fell very much in love on our first date in April 2011, got engaged the following March, and married on 17th September 2012. We are very happy together, and we would never have met without the website. Thank you very much!" 

Broadly speaking, there is still a taboo surrounding online dating within the university, with many people unwilling to admit that they use Tinder, for example. The embarrassment probably comes from its connotations of loneliness, or desperation, with seeking dates online often seen as a last resort.
Yet there are perks to it that perhaps we ought to recognise. For one thing, it is the perfect way to prevent face-to-face embarrassment, and to overcome shyness in initially seeking someone out, or to avoid anxiety around awkward public appearances. Plus, it is a practice that is quickly gaining popularity. We ought to recognise that technology is becoming more and more pervasive, and that it is becoming harder to meet people than before – with this in mind, perhaps it is time to abandon our prejudices against online dating.

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