A fluid seven hours of conversation on a warm September day, aboard an old Danish ship in Copenhagen’s historic Nyhavn harbor – this was Jamie Yarmoff’s first date with Jakob, a 6-foot-4-inch Danish musician, with dirty blond hair and green-hazel eyes. Without a lull in the conversation, they talked of her singing and his bands, her classes and his work in his father’s music studio.
The two met on Tinder.
“I’m still surprised,” said Yarmoff, a junior in the School of Communication. “I was never going to be the girl who had a Tinder boyfriend – that was never going to happen.”
But it did. From August to December of 2014, while Yarmoff was studying abroad in Copenhagen, she said she used the app as “a funny way to interact with some actual Danes.” Now – five months later – the two are still dating. He recently visited her at Northwestern and is applying to a study abroad program in the U.S.
On the other side of the Atlantic, and about half a year earlier, Molly*, a sophomore in Weinberg, started dating John*, a student from a nearby university – someone she met on Tinder. In his picture, he was a marathon runner; in his profile, he was a computer science major.
“We’re both kind of nerdy, so we talked about math and physics,” said Molly, who is a math major. “He was really interested in what I was learning, and I was really interested in what he was learning, so we had a lot of intellectual conversations.”
The picture, as it turns out, is usually the first sign of legitimate interest and a jumping ground for shared experiences. For Molly and John it was math; for Yarmoff and Jakob it was music.
“It was the picture of him with the guitar,” said Yarmoff, who counts music as one of the most important parts of her life. “I was interested in what kind of music he liked, and we clicked.”
After messaging back and forth for a couple of days, they added each other on Facebook – a step that worried Yarmoff, at first. But after consulting a friend, Yarmoff decided to go ahead with it.
“If you add him, the worst case scenario is that he’s a freak and you block him,” her friend said. So she added him.
Soon, however, any reservations she may have had faded. Jakob sent her an amazing cover he made of “All of Me” by John Legend – and she was hooked. Then they went on their beautiful first date – seven hours in that candlelit boat – and she said, “When am I going to see him again?”
Molly also experienced the peak of her anxiety right before her first date with John: “I had only seen pictures [of him],” she said, “so you don’t really know if the spark is there until you actually meet.”
But it went well – really well. He picked her up from Elder and they talked for hours at Forever Yogurt in Evanston.
“It was probably less awkward than a normal first date because we had been talking for so long via text,” Molly said. “It was really fun.”
At the end of the date, there was no question about it: They both wanted a second one. Soon after, Molly and John decided to be exclusive, and they have been for over a year now.
But she still hasn’t told her family about the Tinder relationship.
“[My family is] pretty supportive, but they would wonder why I was using online dating,” she said. “It can be unsafe, so I wouldn’t want to concern my family in that way.”
She’s also worried about the stigma of online dating and its association with hook-up culture. At first, Yarmoff was also worried about her parents’ reaction.
“I didn’t tell my parents [about Jakob] until we had hung out a couple of times,” Yarmoff said.
Even afterward, her parents fretted about her safety until they visited her in Copenhagen while she was abroad. “They got to meet him and totally fell in love with him,” she said.
So it seems that the stigma around Internet dating is dissipating, for older generations and especially younger ones.
Personally, Molly views Tinder and other dating apps as a viable alternative to the traditional college social scene, particularly for people who are more reserved.
“When you meet someone online, you can really ask all the questions up-front, and it’s not awkward,” she said.* names changed to protect privacy