Boulder in the age of online dating: pretentious or just passionate?
When searching “dating app” in an app store, dozens of results appear. The range of routes a person can take is endless. For instance, do you download the “Cougar Dating” app, or the “Cougar Dating for Mature Women” app? While most people agree they’d prefer to meet someone organically, i.e., in person or through mutual acquaintances, these days, everyone, from Generation Ys to Baby Boomers, and beyond, knows the internet can aid them in their search for a romantic partner, whether they decide to utilize it or not.
Full disclosure: I’ve been out of the dating game for four years. This means I’ve never personally been on a dating app or swiped left or right in search of a mate. I have, however, dated in Boulder in the past and watched many friends navigate the modern dating scene. And as an observer, I’ve found it most interesting to see how online dating today interacts with the Boulder lifestyle specifically. In a place where people are active, passionate about their hobbies, entrepreneurial and think those are all things their partner should be too, dating can seem daunting.
“I just want someone I can climb with AND sleep with,” I’ve heard before. Or, “if they don’t ski, I don’t see the point,” was another line that caught my attention.
“Boulder, and somewhat Colorado as a whole, can feel like it’s centered on athleticism,” says long-time Boulder local Jenny, who’s thirty-one and a user of the dating apps Tinder and Bumble. “Whether they really are rock climbers or avid runners or if they’re exaggerating, it’s common to come across profiles of people showing how fit or outdoorsy they are. It can be intimidating. And, it can feel like there’s a lack of diversity overall.”
It’s understood that online, people fudge their profiles. It is essentially a dating resume after all. But in Boulder, it’s actually not uncommon to encounter people who really are semi-professional athletes with great jobs and want to hike a fourteener on a first date. So, is Boulder a dating heaven for like-minded individuals, or a hell for people who consistently don’t feel like they can fit the bill?
“I’ve heard pilots get the most matches,” laughs Steven, a 27-year-old Colorado native who’s lived in Boulder for eight years and has his private pilot license. And he’s not wrong. According to a Fortune article from 2016, Tinder conducted a study to see which professions received the most right swipes, a.k.a. the most interest, and male pilots performed the best. Physical Therapists did the best amongst females.
“I don’t say I’m a pilot, I just maybe infer it a little with my photos,” says Steven. “A lot of women assume I’m not a pilot and that I’m just putting those photos in there.”
In his 2015 book, “Modern Romance,” Comedian Aziz Ansari (who came under fire for potential misconduct after this article was written) teamed up with various academics and sociologists to research modern dating and found some surprising and not-so-surprising trends about technology and dating.
“People don’t always know what they’re looking for in a soul mate,” writes Ansari. “While we may think we know what we want, we’re often wrong… the kind of partners people said they were looking for didn’t match up with the kind people they were actually interested in.”
He uses the example of his own dating profile set to seek a woman with dark hair, but when he met his current girlfriend in person, and she was blonde.
In a time when the internet has helped increase the level of superficiality in the dating space, Dan Wilf, the Vice President of Business Development at the new Denver-based dating app MeetMindful says they started their platform to emphasize “being your open and authentic self to create deeper connections with others.” In a similar (but different) way, apps like this one or Christian Mingle, or Farmers Only appeal to singles seeking like-minded partners. Which seems to be a phenomenon that existed before the internet and has endured after its conception. In Boulder, and beyond.