The Happy Trail

Apps, Situationships, and Unspoken Codes of Conduct: Examining Puget Sound Dating Culture 

By Sophie Goble

  Diving into the world of college romance can be challenging. Most people are seeking a relationship in some capacity, whether it be passion, connection, romance, or just a fling. Dating is always hard; however, in college, one must navigate hook-up culture, situationships, dating apps, and other general relationship struggles. I was tasked with uncovering the reality of dating at Puget Sound and the challenges (or triumphs) frequently occurring in the campus dating scene.

  Roommates Hannah Fickus (‘27) and Brenna Burak (‘27), described dating culture at Puget Sound as “complicated,” and “incestual,” largely due to the small student population. “It’s hard at a small school because you can’t just flirt with people at parties and then have that be just that. You will see them around campus,” Fickus said. Tyler Hinton (‘27) explained the challenges with the size of the student body, saying “there is a lot of potential for overlapping in terms of dating situations and romantic interests. It’s a lot more common here than at a bigger school.” 

  The complexity that stems from such a small campus leads to drama between friend groups easily. When someone starts dating it’s highly likely that the person has had a thing with somebody else,” Burak shared. Fickus explained the importance of following “girl code,” a set of rules that pertains to dating and friendship between women in particular. “For example, don’t date your friends’ exes, or if your friend has a crush on somebody don’t go after their crush,” she said. Burak said it’s “almost impossible to follow” because of how few options (AKA people) there are on campus. If you are interested in someone, chances are they have been associated with someone else already. 

 When navigating the college dating scene, Fickus said that it’s important to have an open line of communication, especially when encountering a situation where someone has been involved with someone you potentially like. “Most people are pretty chill about that sort of thing,” they said. Having an honest conversation is the best thing to do. Ficus said, “you definitely need to talk about it.” Burak says that in terms of dating, “you just gotta go for it” because if you like someone, “they’ll get swept up fast.” 

  Gossip runs rampant, as Puget Sound students generally have the scoop on blossoming relationships. “Once you’ve established that you’re in a romantic relationship or situation with someone, people on campus can recognize it really quickly. You then become easily associated,” Hinton said. Nonsensical opinions seem to be a large issue, especially with new relationships. Fickus talked about how a person may come up and share their own experience about someone in order to give a fuller picture about that person, or to deter you from dating them. Hinton explained, “There’s a lot more opportunities for things to get messy here than in other places.” 

  Hinton drew an example from the UPSmissedconnections Instagram page, saying that the amount of freely given information “can be used as a weapon for people who have negative feelings about others’ relationships on campus.” He explained that there have been cases where people reference certain individuals in a negative light, which potentially causes harm. Hinton said, “I just feel like some people on this campus have too much power to prevent opportunities for others, or to insert themselves into other people’s relationships.” He also noted the difference going to a larger school would make. “With the nature of us having such a small school, it hinders us from being able to eliminate those challenges of not being able to express freely of who you want romantically.” 

  In conversing about the established – or semi-established – relationships on campus, both Fickus and Burak agreed that generally, relationships start off as friends and it takes a while to turn to something defined. Burak said that in her opinion, there is an abundance of situationships on campus. 

  Situationships are defined on as “a romantic or sexual relationship that is undefined and noncommittal. People in a situationship are more than friends but less than committed romantic partners.” Burak explained how they play out saying, “it’s like when you get a little physical, and it’s a bit unspoken. You can also just definitely like each other and then it just goes on, but without committing to anything.” Hinton has heard of many situationships on campus and explained, “it’s easier for people to not have the fear of committing to someone, and that being displayed on campus publicly. People can be associated with others and use situationships as a way to avoid that.” 

  When asked what the ideal college dating scene would look like, besides the small population, Burak says she would want “people minding their own business a little more.” Fickus agreed. Dating has proven to not be worth the effort for some, so people generally resort to other means to meet new people. Fickus said they generally just resort to off-campus dating since the options are so limited. These people are generally found through friends who attend other Washington-area colleges, or through dating apps. 

  Commenting on the dating app experience, Fickus said that “it’s fine,” and that she “sees a lot of Puget Sound people.” Burak made a point to follow her dating app rules, “never ever swipe on people on Tinder who go here. Don’t do it unless you’re serious about it.” She explained that the uncertainty that can come from seeing people on campus you’ve seen on dating apps, especially when there hasn’t been any effort, makes for an awkward situation. 

  Hinton makes the final point to “not sell yourself short. Take advantage of opportunities to meet new people because even though it is a small school, you don’t know everyone.” So, with that, go forth and connect, dear Loggers.