As I near the end of my senior year, I find myself reflecting frequently on my favorite and least favorite parts of college, and my mind keeps circling back to hookup culture - which is a little bit of both. I can only speak from my experience at a small liberal arts school, but I do wish someone had told me what to look out for during my time at college. The least I can do is pay it forward, so I present: the lessons I’ve learned from hookup culture in college (that I should keep in mind for the rest of my life).
- Put yourself out there. College is portrayed through the media as a place in which romantic and sexual endeavors fall into your lap, and often. This is rarely the case. Like any relationship, you should have an open mind. I find myself still struggling with this, as I am often very quick to make a list of reasons as to why a person is not attractive enough (or too attractive) without even talking to them or seeing them in real life. Attraction is not just about looks. It’s about the vibes between two people. Social media allows us to portray ourselves in a very certain way, and these representations are not always accurate. I wouldn’t want someone to reject the idea of me before even getting to know me beyond my social media - give others the same level of grace. It really doesn’t hurt. This brings me to my second point.
- Take dating apps with a grain of salt. As I previously mentioned, social media is not an accurate representation of ourselves, and this most definitely includes dating apps. While it’s tempting to only go for people that look like a perfect match, I encourage you not to do that. Of course, we are amazing people and we should not settle for people who don’t make us feel good. But a person’s ability to affect how you feel comes from so much more than their online ‘aesthetic’. This includes things like interests - just because you like the same indie music does not mean you are a match made in heaven. It could be the case, but, again, take everything with a grain of salt. This also goes for the hook-ups that come out of dating apps; Just because someone expresses interest online does not always mean they are willing or ready to hook up with you. Apps are apps… and sometimes that’s it. They are not meant to mimic real life, and we should recognize that matching or not matching with someone is not always a clear representation of their level of interest or disinterest.
- Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. As I said before, College is represented in the media as a place where hooking up is constant. I find this is a very harmful representation because we are constantly comparing our own experiences to those represented in the media. The truth is, dating is hard. If it’s a priority, you should put effort into it, but you shouldn't beat yourself up when things don't go your way. Another thing that goes along with this is assessing your goals when you go out. Often, as a single person, I go out with the goal of meeting someone, and when I don’t, I am disappointed. Meeting someone can be a fun addition to your night, but don’t give it the power to make or break your evening - try setting appropriate goals before you go out, so that you have the right expectations.
- If you’re only interested when you’re under the influence, take a step back. This might sound like a very obvious thing to some, and a very shocking thing to others. Drinking is such a big part of hookup culture, and people are often tempted to drink or smoke before going on dates so as to calm their nerves. This totally makes sense, but it also has the potential to create a habit in which we are only interested in people when we are under the influence. Try getting to know people in contexts where alcohol is not involved. This will help solidify interest and it will also help you gain confidence in settings without substances.
At the end of the day, hooking up is not unique to college, and it shouldn’t make or break your experience, so stop putting such a high premium on it! Also, if you’re not ready for hooking up in college, don’t push yourself. College is about finding the things you are interested in, and making yourself comfortable in a new place. Do what makes you happy.