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UB students and professors discuss dating through Craigslist and Reddit

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Brian Jones* was browsing Reddit’s UB page looking for single girls to talk to. Once he found a cute girl, he tried to meet up with her in person.

Jones, a senior economics major, would try to set up dates in person, but every time he tried to meet her in person, she canceled last minute.

It wasn’t long before Jones realized he was being catfished.

Popular forums Reddit and Craigslist offer pages for UB and the greater Buffalo area to help people meet who are looking for long-term relationships or a quick one night stand.

What makes these forums so unusual is their original purpose – the exchange of services, goods or information. Craigslist is often used for buying and selling or job opportunities, whereas Reddit is a community discussion forum with a variety of subsections, from “Showerthoughts” to “Mildly Interesting.” Both Reddit and Craigslist primarily offer content that is not related to sex.

“I started talking with this girl and it came up in conversation that we both went to UB,” Jones said. “She told me her name and we had a mutual friend on Facebook, so I thought she was real.”

As the two talked more, red flags started to make Jones question the legitimacy of the girl he was talking to.

“She would say she was busy every time I tried to hang with her. Finally, I realized that the girl I thought I was talking to wasn’t actually the right person,” Jones said. “A close friend of the girl was using her Facebook photo and information to pretend she was someone else on Reddit.”

Getting “scammed” is just part of the game, Jones said. He acknowledged the fact that there’s always a risk of talking to someone who is using a fake profile.

“I guess that’s all just part of using these sites, sometimes it’s legit and other times it’s not,” Jones said. “I’ve gone on and talked to more people and I plan on continuing to. One bad experience isn’t going to deter me from doing it again.”

Craigslist and Reddit, unlike other dating apps, are also friendlier to users with specific interests such as roleplay, BDSM, sex with older partners or drug-induced sexual encounters.

For Craigslist, the user enters the type of partner he or she is looking for – such as “man for woman” or “woman for woman” – and the website instantly pulls hundreds of posts matching one’s search.

This differs from apps like Tinder or Bumble, which focus on appearances and interest is garnered through good photos and witty 100-character autobiographies.

Jayla Flowers, a junior business and administration major, said she would never use Reddit or Craigslist to try to find a partner, even if it were just a quick hookup.

“I feel like it’s a really unsafe environment. Who knows if these people are looking to hurt you or if they have STDs?” Flowers said.

Flowers said she understands why students would use these sites to date, but prefers face-to-face conversation rather than online chatting.

“UB’s a big place and it’s easy to feel lost or lonely here. I can see why people would talk online where it’s less stressful than meeting in person,” Flowers said. “I think that whatever gets people together is great, they should just be safe while doing it.”

Talking to strangers online is part of the ongoing technological revolution, changing how we interact with one another.

One advantage of Internet searching and these unusual forums is the ability to connect specifically with partners that meet exact interests and expectations.

Lance Rintamaki, an associate professor in the Department of Communication, uses the Buffalo Craigslist page in his sex communication class.

“It's creating a new means of connecting. It's exactly what happens when a new technology is introduced,” Rintamaki said. “People find a way to use it to connect, and in this case, hookup. Once the printing press was invented and newspapers hit the scene, personal ads were quick to follow. This is just a souped-up version of that.”

He said that while few, there could be dangers to using these types of platforms for online dating.

“Deception is always the biggest concern about any sort of on-line dating/hook-up system. That fear is grounded, in that the vast majority of people on these sites lie in some way, shape, or form.” Rintamaki said.

Usually these lies are relatively meaningless – someone exaggerates their height by an inch or two, or lies about their age. But Rintamaki said that these are harmless and most times larger scams are non-existent.

Rintamaki concluded with his thoughts on why our age group is so susceptible to using these online dating routines.

“These platforms aren’t making us less social, it’s just part of growing up in this generation,” Rintamaki said. “It’s all simple familiarity; although people in their 40s and up are growing more and more savvy with technology, you all grew up on the stuff. You aren't as intimidated by it and are more willing to dive right in.”

*Editor's note: Names have been changed to protect the privacy of students.

Max Kalnitz is the senior arts editor and can be reached at max.kalnitz@ubspectrum.com


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