With February upon us, stores everywhere have stocked up on heart-shaped chocolate boxes, mushy greeting cards and red everything. Campus is no exception, as students either anxiously await or dread the arrival of Valentine’s Day, the Hallmark holiday.

Leah Potkin

While the comfort of old relationships encourages some students to take advantage of sharing romantic evenings with their significant other, many other students celebrate the day by going out on the town with the excitement of searching for and kindling new relationships. Still, other students turn to a more novel way of meeting new people and finding love — the Internet.

The world of online dating is nothing new, but its recent appearance on college campuses with websites like Datemyschool.com, a site founded by two MBA students at Columbia University, have left college students’ hearts pounding in an untraditional way. While in the past college students have taken advantage of their surroundings to meet potential love interests — at bars, in class or through other school-related activities — dating websites geared specifically toward college students have added a whole new level to the playing field, for better or for worse.

At first blush, the idea of a group-specific dating website targeting college students makes perfect sense in the same way religious dating sites such as JDate.com and ChristianMingle.com do. Upon further consideration, however, turning to the Internet to find love at such a young age poses more cons than pros.

While I accept that people searching for partners in isolated or familiar communities may need dating websites to broaden the pool of potential mates, University students have the unique advantage of thousands of other students at their dating disposal. At the University there are myriad opportunities to meet like-minded people face to face. Given this environment, I can’t help but question the need for dating websites on college campuses.

Generally speaking, as a generation we have already discarded the now old-fashioned forms of courtship such as phone calls and face-to-face interaction in favor of text messaging and Facebook. According to many of our elders, these new practices impede our ability to sustain personal relationships. So, before we give technology even greater control over the course of our relationships and hamper our already compromised ability to interact with others in person, I firmly believe students should shun these new dating websites and continue to give the old-fashioned way of meeting people a fair shot, at least while they’re still in college.

Furthermore, I truly question whether students’ interests are actually served by embracing online dating at a young age. Unlike older users on Internet dating sites who are often looking for more serious, lasting relationships but tend not to have time or opportunity to meet potential soul mates, college students often are more interested in “playing the field.” While dating website users looking for long term commitment could comprise a rare sector of young 20-somethings, it seems more plausible that users would only be looking for an easy fling.

Assuming the latter is true, and students feel no immediate rush to settle down, it seems that meet-and-greets could be done equally and many times more effectively out and around campus. And it almost goes without saying that meeting people in person also eliminates the surprises, disappointments, not to mention risks associated with online set ups.

This isn’t to say I’m anti-online dating as a whole. In fact, I’m actually quite for it. Dating websites undoubtedly have their benefits as mediums by which people with busy schedules and limited time can branch out and meet people they wouldn’t otherwise. However, keeping in mind that college presents a unique opportunity in a person’s life to meet all different types of people, I don’t think students necessarily need the help of a virtual Cupid’s arrow so early on.

So, if I find myself boyfriend-less a couple of years down the road and living with cats, I’d turn to the Internet in a heartbeat. As college students at such a large and diverse University, however, where new dating prospects constantly surround us, we shouldn’t be too quick to rely on computers to make all the effort.

Ultimately, in light of the February rush to find love before the approaching “holiday,” students should put down their computers to find that special someone, and they should save online dating for later down the road.

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