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Small campus makes dating life and hookup culture visible

Carleton’s small campus creates a unique dating experience and hookup culture that I can’t imagine is found at larger colleges and universities. At Carleton, thanks to prying eyes, the “private” can easily become “public,” awkward encounters with an ex or ex-fling are inevitable, and Tinder only makes matters more convoluted. 

While there does seem to be a thriving dating and hookup culture on campus, almost no relationship is kept secret.

Thanks to a small student body, Carls’ love of gossip and Stalkernet, news travels fast and infiltrates numerous friend groups.

Walking around campus, I have run across multiple people with whom I have never interacted, yet I know intimate details of their life. For example, that they just broke up with their girlfriend or that they slept with so-and-so last weekend.

This creates a strange dynamic where relationship anonymity is difficult to achieve—especially long term relationships and not one-time hookups—and where pre-conceptions of individuals are formed solely off of their romantic past.

That being said, I am only aware of the relationships within my class year and am sure there are many to which I am not privy. 

Carleton’s tiny campus also makes avoiding past romantic partners practically impossible.

If you kiss someone at a party, you see them the next morning in line at Burton and if you just broke up with your partner, you cross paths walking to the gym.

Living in such a confined space, these awkward encounters are unavoidable and make ending relationships even more difficult and stressful. 

Furthermore, the campus’s small size significantly shrinks the dating pool, especially for students who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, leading to multiple relationships within friend groups and seeming to limit chances of finding love. 

Moreover, the myth that a disproportionately large number of Carls marry Carls creates the expectation and pressure to find love by the age of 22 before it’s “too late.”

Especially for students like myself, whose parents met at Carleton, there is an unrealistic and unhealthy assumption that one’s life partner is best found at college.

While there may have been a heyday of high marriage rates 30 years ago, in today’s society where people are getting married increasingly later in life, it seems as though fewer Carleton couples are making it past college. 

Our generation’s use of online dating apps adds another level of complexity to the equation.

Tinder is mainly used to facilitates hookups between Carls, Oles and the occasional, particularly eager student from the University of Minnesota or Macalester.

Having watched multiple friends create a false Tinder, the lack of honesty and authenticity involved with online dating gives me pause and it seems that the barrier of the computer screen only encourages unhealthy behavior.

Furthermore, the idea of selecting your hook-up online scrapes away the romanticism involved with running into your crush at Sayles or even meeting your one night stand at Porch.

Therefore, I have opted, at least for the time being, to stay away from online dating apps in favor of the more “organic” relationships of the past. 

With only 2,078 students, dating and hookup culture at Carleton has a unique tune.

However, the case can be made for the idea of “pre-selection”: we all chose Carleton, thereby limiting our dating pool to a smaller set of like-minded individuals while simultaneously eliminating the stress of too much choice.

Who knows, maybe my future match is sitting somewhere on campus right now, talking, sleeping, cramming in one last study session… Or maybe not, and either is fine with me. 

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