The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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The interplay of culture and identity in online dating

Illustration by Maliahguiya Sourgose on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023.

I first started using dating apps as a freshman in college and have been advocating for them ever since. Yes, there are many reasons why some people may find them exhausting or discouraging, but I do believe everyone should give them a shot at least once.

The best aspect of online dating and the biggest reason why I recommend it is that it expands your dating pool to include people from a wide variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Our social circles tend to be composed of people who are more or less similar to us, whether that be shared cultural heritage, similar upbringing, or similar jobs/areas of study. This applies to our dating lives as well.

When you’re swiping through dating apps, your dating pool widens to include people you may not get a chance to meet in your day-to-day life. They may work in wildly different fields than yours, or they may have grown up in different countries, states, or parts of town, or they come from cultural backgrounds you’re not familiar with.

This is my absolute favorite part of online dating. As a Lebanese American girl who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, my community as a young adult was not diverse when it came to race or socioeconomic background. Creating a dating profile on apps like Hinge and Bumble added so much color and excitement to my dating life.

Suddenly, I was going out with men of all different backgrounds, and the cultural exchanges we’d have on dates were enlightening and fostered deep connections.

I met my second boyfriend on Hinge. He was from the Bay Area, but lived in Los Angeles. He also worked in the nonprofit sector, whereas most of my friends and I worked in the entertainment industry. Had we not sent each other likes on Hinge, it would’ve been very unlikely that we would ever run into each other in real life.

Our cross-cultural relationship would not have worked as well as it did had we not been good and open communicators. I had a lot to learn from him when it came to the struggles he faced as an East Asian American man, and I was able to educate him on the traditional dating expectations that are placed on me by my Lebanese family.

He also grew up without the same economic privileges I had, so I learned about acknowledging my privilege and how growing up in poverty can affect one’s mental health as an adult.

Although the relationship ended, some of the conversations I had with him have stuck with me five years later, and I’m grateful that a dating app was able to facilitate a beautiful relationship that I otherwise would’ve never found.

Cultural identity plays a big role in my relationships and affects many of my decisions when it comes to whom I choose to start a relationship with.

I’ve discovered that my deepest and most loving relationships come from Middle Eastern men. I did not grow up in a large Middle Eastern community at all, so it wasn’t until I joined the apps that I was finally able to explore what it would be like to date a man with a similar background as me.

When I first started dating Middle Eastern men, I was struck by how beautiful it was to have someone who understood key aspects of my upbringing without needing to explain. I loved how they knew exactly what it was like to come from a traditional family and the need to hide a relationship for fear of angering your older relatives or feeling pressured to get married before you’re ready. Even the simpler things, like speaking the same language or having grown up eating the same foods, made those relationships all the richer.

Overall, I’m a strong proponent of trying dating apps as a single person in the modern era. As daters, we tend to stick to our comfort zones. Swiping through dating apps exposes you to people who might not have attracted your attention in person, but who could be great matches for you if you are willing to give it a chance.

In my opinion, you need to go out with a variety of people to find out what you truly like. You could find that you get along best with people who you never would’ve considered your “type,” or you could come to the conclusion that your first instinct was right–that you prefer to stick to what you’re familiar with.

I find that my dating preferences change in waves. Sometimes I long to connect with someone from a similar cultural background and find myself exclusively dating Middle Eastern men, while other times I feel like widening my perspective and dating men from different cultural backgrounds. Both experiences can be incredibly positive. I find that as long as you’re putting in the work to communicate your feelings clearly, you can’t go wrong with going with your gut and choosing whoever makes you happy.

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